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Posts from the ‘Authors’ Category

Maggie in May

When I was little, my sister and I had one of those bedside lights in the shape of a globe. It had a vast expanse of pale blue sea, the countries marked in pink, yellow and green, and we’d spin it and spin it on its stand, see where it stopped and look at all the places we might go one day. Reading Maggie O’Farrell’s new novel, This Must Be The Place, is a little like that – dizzying but exhilarating. Even the beautiful artwork and endpapers remind me of that old globe.

This Must Be The Place, which is O’Farrell’s seventh novel, has all the hallmarks of her earlier ones (you can open any page of any of her books and instantly know it’s by her, I think) but also marks a departure in terms of style and structure.When I saw her speak at the Rooftop Book Club recently (@rooftopbookclub) to a packed audience who hung on her every word and hilarious anecdote (she can tell a really good anecdote) she said she had wanted to do something a bit more experimental, to ‘rip up the rule book’. After the confines of Instructions for a Heatwave where the events took place over 4 days with 4 narrators, she let loose. If the globe is spinning, she is in total control.

The novel starts with the story of Irish American Daniel O’Sullivan, a linguist, setting off from his remote farmhouse in Donegal. It’s so remote when a stranger comes, his wife, Claudette, comes out brandishing a shot gun, to see them off. Why is she so reclusive? On the radio in the car, he hears a voice from the past that will catapult him back twenty years and sets off a whole chain of events. From there on in, we zip around in time, crossing continents, time zones, going from San Francisco to China to New York and back, zooming into the heads of multifarious narrators young and old, male and female.

O’Farrell plays with every convention, telling us what is going to happen to characters before it does, using first person, third person narration, past, present, future. Some of this literary pyrotechnics can be at risk of removing the reader – but here, the emotional power is still very much there. I remember a reader’s review of The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (still my favourite one of hers ever) where the person complained they couldn’t follow it because she didn’t use speechmarks and was confused by the timeshifts but that was easy compared to this. It’s true you do need to concentrate, but what you get is layers upon layers; I found if I stopped worrying about who was who and what impact, if any, they were going to have on the story, and just listen to them, I could sit back and enjoy the journey. I could read a whole book on some of the periphery characters who come, say their piece, and vanish again.

The only reservation I had with the novel as a whole was the section of photographs – a vintage scarf, a hospital ID band, an ashtray in the shape of a star. Whilst fascinating in themselves I’m not sure they served the story but rather interrupted it. I loved Leanne Shapton’s Important Artifacts… where the entire book is done like this to illustrate the breakdown of a relationship, but here I can’t see what they add – but O’Farrell reportedly fought to keep them in. I don’t know – I’m open to persuasion.

When Maggie O’Farrell’s first book, After You’d Gone, came out 16 years ago, I remember being a bit sniffy about it to my eternal shame. I picked it up a few times in the book shop but there was something about those icy blue covers or something that put me off. And then on a Greek holiday someone had kindly left behind her next one My Lover’s Lover, a sort of modern Gothic psychological thriller with shades of Rebecca, and I devoured it. Then went back and read the first and I was hooked. And have been a fan ever since.

Her similes are always unusual, visually arresting, but spot on. There is a scene in My Lover’s Lover where a character cleans a floor with a mop and then watches the floor dry – and it is so beautifully described. She can write really good sex scenes, which is a rare skill. She can create characters that live and breathe so you go on to think about them long after the book has finished. The stories she creates always wield real emotional power, with endlessly fascinating sibling and family dynamics. At the heart of This Must Be The Place there is a marriage in freefall – will it survive? Where do we call home and what choices have led us there?

The news of a new Maggie O’Farrell novel starts with a whisper; the hint of a title, the tantalising glimpse of a cover, the release of a chapter, an extract. Through it all, the writer herself remains elusive – she famously doesn’t do social media and there is just the occasional sporadic update on her author Facebook page. It’s a strange dichotomy – I actually like the fact she remains elusive, fiercely guarding her family’s privacy and appearing to do a flurry of interviews and appearances on nationwide book tours then back to her real life. And at the same time I want to read everything, want to know everything, want to hear more and more and then have to wait. Until the next one.

This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell is out now published by Tinder Press. Thanks to them for my coveted review copy.



Rachel Joyce at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival

There are some authors who can, in the space of few seconds, make you cry hot tears and then make you roar with laughter. Rachel Joyce does this in her books and after seeing her for the first time in person, she can also do it in real life. As she walked into the room (which was packed) at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival, you could feel the warmth radiating towards her. Patrick Gale, the author, was asking the questions and they made a great double act full of laughter and wit, riffing brilliantly off each other.

queenie hennessey rachel joyce

Although Joyce is on a book tour for The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, you can’t really talk about that book without first talking about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (a huge international bestseller and shortlisted for the Man Booker prize) It’s the story of a recently retired man – an ordinary man – who goes out one morning to post a letter to a woman he once knew (Queenie) who is in a hospice in Berwick Upon Tweed. He then decides, on impulse, to walk the hundreds and hundreds of miles to see her. It struck a chord with so many people, at all stages of their lives, and we took him to our hearts.

Joyce was writing something else when she kept thinking about Queenie. She felt she had to give her her story, to give her her life – so she stopped what she was working on and began to write about her instead. The book is a companion piece to Harold Fry – not, she stressed, a sequel. She laughed that if she had thought about it more first, she perhaps wouldn’t have done it like that – as she had hemmed herself in by knowing it had to be set in a hospice, that Queenie can’t talk (the cancer has taken her voice) and that the timeframe was going to have to mirror exactly that set out in Harold Fry. And it does – it dovetails beautifully.

I didn’t know that the story for The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry had originally grown out of a radio play she wrote; Joyce has written many radio plays and also had a successful career as an actress before becoming a novelist. The actor Anton Rogers ( who I used to watch on TV in May to December as a child with my Dad) was Harold with Anna Massey and Niamh Cusack. She told some great stories about Rogers and his comic timing, how the noise of Harold walking through grass is made by swishing through brown tape, how he had phoned her up and said he was unable to do the naked swim. But it’s for radio! A film is still being talked about although the whole crowd roared when she said they had suggested John Travolta to be Harold. Jim Broadbent would be her choice although if it goes on much longer, she joked, she and her husband (also an actor) will be old enough to play the parts themselves.

She spoke about how to create tension punctured by comedy and how she was interested in putting ordinary people in situations they don’t know how to deal with, who then don’t say what needs to be said but will instead talk about, for instance, jam. She spoke movingly of her own father who was undergoing horrendous treatment for a tumour but would still, when she visited, be wearing a tie. He hated the water, was frightened of the water and couldn’t swim. but still wore yachting shoes. That set me off, the death of my own father so fresh and I could hear several people stifling sobs. A reading from the book which talked about telling your mother you love her before she dies had more people crying. But then she had everyone laughing again at an Amazon reviewer who had given the book 3* and she had been crushed, but had also, she found out, given 5* to a double bladed potato masher.

Everyone wanted to know when we could expect something new -and she spoke tantaslingly of a collection of short stories which are all set around Christmas leading up to New Year’s Eve – the first one featuring a mother on Christmas Eve not being able to cope with all the preparations (the sound of wry laughter from a lot of women) and then a minor character who was barely mentioned in that one takes centre stage in the next story- she loves the idea of passing the baton. Then there is a new novel which she is writing now.

I could have listened to her for hours – she is one of those people who are so engaging, self deprecating with great comic timing and a huge store of great anecdotes. She already has many loyal fans who can’t wait for her next book and will definitely have made a few more that day.

The Snow Garden is out November 5th

a snow garden

A Q&A with Laura Barnett – Author of The Versions of Us

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Laura Barnett is a journalist and theatre critic. Perhaps you read her touching piece in last weekend’s The Guardian about people finding love in their later years. You may not have noticed the byline. But now her debut novel –The Versions of Us – is garnering rave reviews. The book is one of those novels with universal appeal because it taps into your feelings about your life no matter at what stage you are. Everyone at some point wonders what might have been, if they had done things differently, taken another path. said yes instead of no or vice versa. It might not necessarily relate to a love affair, it might have been a quirk of fate that made you miss something or put you somewhere at a certain point in time.

In this novel, it is a random thing that sets everything off: Eva, a student in Cambridge, is cycling on her way to a tutorial, when a rusty nail in the road causes her to swerve. The story splits off into three different versions – does she meet Jim who stops to help or not, does she leave her actor boyfriend David for Jim or not? We travel from 1950s Cambridge up to almost the present day, taking in New York, Greece, Suffolk, Cornwall, and London along the way. None of the three stories pan out in the way you would have expected or maybe they do, because your view of how things work out for them is coloured by your own views of love, happiness, marriage, compromise, ambition, adultery to name a few.

I am delighted that Laura answered some of my questions

I understand that you wrote the book chronologically – plaiting the three parts together rather than attempting to ‘lift’ each timeline out. I think this very much shows as no narrative strand is dominant and I was equally invested in all three versions. Did you ever try it another way or did you always know this was the way to go?

You’re absolutely right – I did write the book chronologically, plaiting the three parts together as I went. This approach just seemed natural to me from the start. It never even occurred to me to, say, write the whole of version one before tackling versions two and three. I was aware from the beginning of the need to pace the novel carefully – of, to borrow a filmic term, the need to jump-cut from one version to the next, while at the same time holding the whole narrative in view. Throughout, I was trying to conceive of the novel as an organic whole, rather as the sum of three disparate parts.

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I love the fact it is a completely random quirk of fate that – a rusty nail in the road that punctures a bicycle tyre forcing Eva to swerve to avoid the dog and meet Jim. Do you have your own ‘what if’ moment that you can share?

I’m so glad you related to that. It was important to me from the start that we got the sense of how the course of our lives can turn on a dime; of how easily, even randomly, we find ourselves choosing one path over another. As for my own “what if” moment – well, my mum often jokes about the fact that, aged 21, she very nearly married a biochemist and moved to New Mexico, so I could very easily never have been born…

I really enjoyed reading some of your short stories (read them here) particularly ‘You’. What were the specific challenges you found when moving away from the short story format to the novel?

Thank you – I’m so happy to hear that. I do love writing short stories – it’s a chance to conjure a whole world in miniature – but I was actually drawn to the novel first. As a child, I’d get my mum to sew pieces of paper into little books, and I’d write the title of my next magnum opus on the cover – usually, as I recall, a highly derivative sequel to Narnia or the Famous Five. I rarely got past the first few chapters, but I seem to have always had the novel in mind as a format. Later, as an adult, I began writing novels as well as short stories, so my interest in both really evolved in tandem.

My favourite kind of fiction is also the kind that, as you say, “takes the world we know, and our own familiar, everyday lives and renders them rich and strange.’ citing Anne Tyler and Tessa Hadley as great examples. Is there one novel that you constantly go back to or wish you’d written?

Ah, there are many! I do adore both Anne Tyler and Tessa Hadley, among others, but a book that had a particular impact on me at a young age, and which is often in my thoughts, is Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood. I studied it for GCSE English. It was my first encounter with Atwood’s luminous prose, and it opened my mind to the wonderful imaginative possibilities contained within lives that, on the surface, could seem humdrum, even dull. I remember a particularly wonderful image about memory being not linear, but a deep and multi-layered thing, like a pool of water into which we can dive to retrieve the elements of our past. That has stayed with me ever since.

Thanks very much to Laura. The Versions of Us is out now, published by Orion. The clever marketing campaign is asking readers to share their ‘what if’ moment.. Tweet or Instagram your moment using the hashtag #what if.

A very modern mystery: Q&A with the author of What She Left

what she left coverWhat She Left by T R Richmond is, in many ways, a classic mystery.A young woman, 25 year old trainee journalist Alice Salmon, is found dead in a river. Did she slip in and drown after a drunken night out with friends? Did she kill herself? Or was she murdered? However, the way the story is told feels new and brilliantly executed. An elderly academic becomes obsessed with the case and compiles his own evidence – but what are his reasons for doing so? Using a mixture of blog posts, police transcripts, tweets, forum message board and diary entries, the reader has to piece together the clues. If you’ve ever spent any time reading the comments below the line after someone has disappeared or been murdered (never advisable) Richmond has managed to capture the tone perfectly, complete with those well meant but oh so casual RIP’s. With no linear structure, I did sometimes find it hard to see how everything was going to add up but it does mimic the way these cases unfold in real life: things are messy, everyone interprets things differently.

It was in fact a tweet that sparked the idea for the book. Someone was talking about what song they would like played at their funeral – an oddly intimate thing to share. Richmond began to wonder what else you could piece together about someone purely from their online life. We all, whether we like it or not, leave our own ‘digital footprints’. With this in mind, I set about to see what I could find out about him. Within a few minutes I discovered that he has been a journalist for over twenty years, and had read some of his award winning features online. I found out that he has had two other novels published under a different name. Delving a bit deeper, I found out the name of his wife, saw pictures of his cats, that he once set fire to a bin, and that he owns a set of Blue Denby pottery.

Being much in demand, I was pleased when he agreed to answer some questions.

I read that you got up every day at 5am to write for two hours before going to your day job as a journalist. I imagine things have changed dramatically since publication a few short weeks ago or perhaps not. What’s been the best thing so far about having a book on your hands that everyone is talking about?

Everything’s changed but actually nothing’s changed. I still have my day-job. I still get up early. I still like writing at that time of day (I’m working on a new novel). The whole experience has been amazing and there have been so many unforgettable moments but ultimately for me the buzz is the writing itself and that’s like an itch you can’t scratch. One of the best aspects of having a book published is suddenly being part of a team, For years it felt like I was working in a vacuum without any real guidance or support. Now I’ve got an agent and an editor who are a constant source of ideas, encouragement and, when it’s needed (as it often is!), constructive criticism. Knowing that you’ve got talented people looking out for you and fighting your corner is the best feeling in the world.

The onslaught of 24 hour rolling news sometimes feels that the news will eat itself. With the explosion of social media, it seems everyone is a journalist but with none of the legal training. Suspects are being named on social media despite warnings from the police and the press are often playing catch up. You’ve written about this here and as a journalist myself it worries me too. How do you think it will continue?

I’ve heard it said that the internet and social media will sound the death knell for journalists, because they no longer have a monopoly on providing information. Actually, the opposite is true. There’s so much information out there that the need for accurate, timely news that can be trusted is greater now than ever. There’s still a lot of brilliant journalism happening – the problem is that there is so much space to fill, whether it’s on the internet or on 24-hour rolling broadcast news, that a lot of what is served up is, frankly, tosh. It’s recycled, speculation, gossip and padding.

In terms of the public, I think we’re in an interim phase where people are going to realise they have a responsibility in terms of the information they share. If you have, for example, a well-read blog, you might not consider yourself to be a journalist, but you are in a position of responsibility and are governed by the same laws regarding defamation and contempt of court as those working in the media.

What do you think of the apps that will tweet for you after your death or the services that will keep your Facebook page going for your loved ones? Have you thought about what will happen to your online legacy?

Writing What She Left has made me think more carefully about my online presence. On a practical level, it’s made me aware of the dangers of, for example, tweeting holiday photos because it’s an invitation to burglars to target your home. In terns of how I’m perceived after you die, I’m not desperately concerned about that. I’ll de dead, after all.

The marketing campaign for What She Left is very clever as it really serves to enhance the book. There is a Facebook page for Alice (which I actually found desperately sad) and a tumblr page ‘written’ by the Professor. Can you tell us more about how these evolved?

We wanted the story to be as realistic as possible and it just felt inconceivable that Alice, as a contemporary 25 year old, wouldn’t have a Facebook page. Similarly, as Professor Cooke took shape, it became clear that he would inevitably want to continue gathering information about Alice even after the point at which the novel finishes. Hopefully the Facebook and tumblr pages are true to the spirit of the book – it’s partly about the online environment so it feels natural that it also has a digital incarnation. Hopefully they give the book a life beyond the page and allows readers to engage with the characters in additional ways.

The cover is very strong – it reminds me of Twin Peaks. Who designed it and did it go through many stages?

I’m delighted with the cover – the image and the title work together to make it really impactful. Sadly, I can’t take any credit for it as I have no artistic sense whatsoever so resisted putting in my two penneth. I’m a great believer in letting people get on with doing what they do best and Penguin’s designers know far more about book covers than I ever will.

I love the fact the audio version (available here) was narrated by Emilia Clarke and Charles Dance (amongst others) – a real Game of Thrones reunion. Did you go to the recording sessions and what was it like hearing your words come to life?

I went to one with Charles Dance. It’s a strange experience to hear someone else speak the words you’ve written but I loved it. It brought a freshness to the story and made me feel as if I was hearing it for the first time. I tried to play it cool but as a huge Game of Thrones fan, I was massively excited to meet him and probably totally star struck.

Many thanks to T R Richmond. What She Left is out now, published by Penguin.

Black Lake by Johanna Lane review

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Last year I visited a country house in Somerset owned by the National Trust. As the guide showed us round the hushed rooms, swaddled in brocade and watched over by imposing oil paintings, she whispered that the last descendant still had small quarters in the house and, if we were lucky, we might see her wandering the grounds.

I was fascinated not so much by the oak lined library and the Chinoiserie and the other spoils from a Grand Tour, but by the juxtaposition of the everyday objects alongside. A Jamie Oliver cookbook mingled in with the green leather tomes, a copy of a recent Radio Times left open in a drawing room fenced off by red velvet ropes. What a peculiar trade off to have visitors traipsing round your ancestral home – and you can only come down when they have all gone for the day. To me, the whole house had an air of melancholy, and when I read further about the history of the family it became clear why – the house was mired in grief.

I was reminded of all this when reading Black Lake by Johanna Lane which tells the story of a family, the Campbells, who for generations have lived in a rambling estate called Dulough on the windswept Irish coast. They can no longer afford the upkeep of the house and grounds which needs constant repairs and so they have to move out to a small, dank and depressing cottage in the grounds, and let the tourists come.

The novel opens with the wife Marianne holed up in the ballroom, with her twelve year old daughter, Katherine, with the housekeeper leaving hot water outside and plates of food for her outside the door. Katherine thinks they are playing a game and it is only when they have been locked in there for a month and she hears her father smashing the crockery and sobbing outside the door, that she realises they are not. The mother refuses to answer the door and it is clear that something terrible has happened.

The narrative then reverses to the events of the previous Spring when the son, eight year old, Philip is rudely woken up by the removal men taking his bed. I loved the chapters seen through Philip’s eyes the most. Lane is very good at capturing the preoccupations and sensitivities of a child, who doesn’t really understand what is going on in the adult world. The narrative jumps around with each of the characters telling their part of the story until it is gradually revealed what has happened to cause his mother’s breakdown and the fracturing of the family.

The prose and the pace is languorous, sometimes perhaps just a little too languorous, but it is one of those beautifully haunting books focusing on the interior life of the characters. It is about all the things left unsaid, the hurts and misunderstandings and lack of communication. The landscape is beautifully drawn too – conveying both its oppressive nature and raw beauty. If, like me, you like books steeped in atmosphere and slow reveals, then you will love Black Lake. The cover is also exquisite – Tinder Press always seem to have the best covers.

Black Lake by Johanna Lane is published by Tinder Press

This book was kindly sent to me as part of the Bookbridgr scheme.

The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh – Book review


Jenn and Greg, a married couple in their forties, holiday every summer on the Mediterranean coast, renting a villa on the island of Deia, nestled in amongst rocky coves and sheer drops. Jenn is enjoying the languid, sultry heat and spends days lying by the pool, eating out with her husband at tapas bars at night.

 Although everything seems idyllic at first, tensions are simmering under the surface. She buys a white embroderie anglaise dress in a street market in an attempt to feel young and desired again in a marriage that may be comfortable and familiar but mundane. As she lies on the beach, she envies the young lithe, unblemished bodies around her, trying to catch her husband looking. The dialogue is full of thinly disguised irritations and prickliness, acutely observing the tensions within a long running relationship.

It is the arrival of Emma, Greg’s teenage daughter from a previous relationship, (whom Jenn has raised as her own daughter since the death of the mother) and her seventeen year old boyfriend Nathan, that brings these tensions to the fore.

Angered at the way Greg seems to favour and cave in to Emma over her, and acutely aware of Emma’s burgeoning sexuality compared with her own, it is this fateful combination which propels her into an intense, driven affair with the flirty and responsive Nathan.

Jenn is swept up by desire until she is risking everything. Her relationship with Emma, her marriage, and reputation are at stake. The pace drags you along with her until you too, as the reader, are swept up in it, your moral compass spinning, and have to step back, breathless.

The Lemon Grove is published by Tinder Press.

Guest Author Post and Signed Copy giveaway- Peggy Riley – Amity & Sorrow

amity and sorrow cover

I’m delighted to welcome author Peggy Riley today who is on a whistlestop blog tour to mark the publication of her debut novel Amity & Sorrow, published this week in the US by Little Brown (and already out in the UK published by Tinder Press).

Amity and Sorrow tells the story of a mother, Amaranth, and her two daughters, who are fleeing for their lives during the chaos of a raging, apocalyptic fire at the fundamentalist, polygamous cult led by her husband. Amity and Sorrow, the daughters of the title, know nothing of the outside world. Amaranth is terrified her tyrannical husband is coming after them. Amity slowly blossoms and sees that there are other ways of living, but Sorrow will stop at nothing to get back to the only thing she knows as home. What happened to the other wives and children they left behind?

Peggy graciously answered some questions I put to her:

I read that you saw two unconnected photographs of a house on fire and two women in prairie dresses which acted as the trigger for the idea of the book. Did the characters emerge fully formed? How did it take shape from that initial idea?

 The two girls did emerge fully formed, yes, for which I am very grateful.  I had their voices quite quickly and I knew, from the first moment, that they would begin tied together.  I knew that their story would be about their push and pull, away and back towards one another.  The character of Amaranth took much longer to emerge as a whole person.  For a long time I could only see her filtered through her daughters’ perceptions and it was many drafts before I felt as secure with her as with Amity and Sorrow.  I had to do a lot of writing from her point of view to get under her skin, but I knew I needed her voice in the book.  It would be a very different story if we only saw things from Amity’s point of view.    

What really struck me was the sense of place – the novel is ripe with details of nature, the changing seasons, the plants and flowers particular to rural Oklahoma. How did you go about researching this?

I know absolutely nothing about farming, but I do love to read about it.  I love books that are yoked to the land.  ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ is an exploration of Oklahoma, and I was familiar with the terrain of the southwest from my LA childhood and years spent in the desert.  But really, my education came from The Oklahoma Farm News Report, which blogs and tweets issues of interest to Oklahoma farmers.  I followed it for years until I finally began to feel a part of it, until their weather and drought and insurance worries felt familiar to me.  I would make a rotten farmer, but I’ll probably never forget when the winter wheat needs to be drilled.

I read on your blog that during your pre-sale book tour in the States, there was little love shown for the character of Sorrow, and yet I think she was perhaps the most damaged of all through no fault of her own. Widening out from Amity & Sorrow in particular, do you think a character has to be likeable for the reader to identify with them?

I don’t think a character has to be likeable, but I am surprised at how unlikeable Sorrow is perceived to be.  She has been terribly damaged, but she receives little sympathy, due to her lack of compassion or awareness for others.  I really like unpleasant characters, ones who are prickly and selfish and distracted.    Sorrow is vain and spoiled and stuck.  She has huge desire and a thirst for autonomy that women are not allowed in her faith.  I like her a lot, though her methods are ugly.  She has no self-control.  I don’t think anyone will especially identify with Sorrow, but I hope readers can come to understand her point of view, how her world has made her into who and what she is. 

You have a led a fascinating and varied life as a festival producer and a writer in residence at a young offender’s prison to name but two strands to your career. Did you always harbour a desire to write a novel? What made you decide to in the end?

I had no idea I would ever write a novel, though I have been a writer for as long as I can remember.  I did handwrite and staple little books together in kindergarten and can remember being reprimanded for what I had written.  I trained as a playwright and expected to go on writing plays, but when I moved from London to Kent, I found my writing changed.  My sense of self changed.  I had the story of Amity & Sorrow in my head and I couldn’t find a way to put it on stage, to set what I saw in my head.  So, the story made me change how I wrote, to tell it.  Stories are often much smarter than their writers! 

What did you find most challenging in making the departure from writing prose to fiction?

Two things.  First, the simple logistics.  How did you get a character in and out of a chapter?  Scenes in a play can be lightning fast – it’s lights up, begin speaking.  In fiction, readers only get confused.  My brilliant agent was instrumental in reminding me to “place things” before I began, to give readers time to get their bearings.  Maybe this is because we pick up and put down books, in a way that you don’t as an audience, captive in a theatre.  The second was an intense fear of wallpaper.  In plays, you describe as little as possible.  Scene directions are only cues to directors and clues for designers, but they are usually ignored.  In a play, you want to describe characters as little as possible, so that every actor can find herself there.  I vacillated between describing nothing and moving round each room in centimeters, looking at every speck and stain.  Ultimately, I had to find my own way in and out of chapters, as well as what to describe and how and when. 

What is the last book you read that you wish you’d written yourself?

Anything by Louise Erdrich.  Her writing is so rich and deft.  I admire how her books build on each other, drawing from and creating a history of generations of Ojibwe and German families, how their fates are intertwined, on and off the reservations of North Dakota, book after book.  Her language is lyrical – phrases can stop you dead in your tracks – but she also has a wicked sense of humour.  She can handle that balance of dark and light in a story and a character better than anyone.  I always find inspiration in her writing, but really, I’m just happy to read them.  I’m more than happy to let her keep writing them!       

If you would like to win a signed hardback copy of this wonderful book (and a god sex farming badge!) just leave a comment below. The draw is open to international readers. amity_roundal (2)

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