Sunday, 31 March 2013

Claire King

SOME people are attracted to extreme sports. They sky-dive, bungee jump, bob-sleigh or tombstone (would any sane person do something called Tombstoning? Of course not. Clues in the name isn't it?). And in the same way some novelists are attracted to the idea of a child narrator. It's a similar kind of high risk endeavour. If you can pull it off then it's exhilarating, but it's tightrope walking, escapology. If it goes wrong you can look foolish. Or dead.

Most readers are wary of spending all that time with a child's voice. Let's be honest, most parents are wary to spend too much time with a kid's voice anywhere nearby. The problem is adulteration in its most literal sense. If you get it wrong - if even a trace element of the adult writer's perspective survives in your kid's voice - then the whole novel is corrupted. It's like that film The Fly, you can end up with something that becomes quite grotesque, something that can't survive in this big unfriendly world that books have to fly out into.

Successful examples? Well, there are a few. ROOM by Emma Donoghue of course. WHAT I DID by Christopher Wakling. and now THE NIGHT RAINBOW by Claire King. King's protagonist Pea is described as 'a heroine you won't forget.' by Maggie O Farrell no less. And Joanne Harris describes the book in glowing terms as 'quirky, elegant and sweet.' Which actually describes very well  Claire's answers to my questions below.

Can I have you autobiography in EXACTLY 50 words (not 51, not 49)?

The problem is that I never had any sense of my own limitations. Aged three, I attempted to jump off the battlements of Conisborough castle, thinking, presumably, that I would either fly or bounce. Aged 41 I still haven’t learned better. Perhaps I have wings, or am made of rubber.

Why should people read The Night Rainbow?
To remind themselves what they have forgotten : That when, as a child, they thought they knew best, and that adults were all strange, they were largely correct.

What is your most pressing concern right this minute?
Finishing my second book. It shouldn’t be, because we have a leaky roof, an uncertain work situation and rubbish pensions. But it is chewing me up and I will be much less insufferable when it is ready and sent to my agent.

How is being a woman who writes different from being a man who writes?
In the actual writing, getting an agent and getting published, not much. At least not so much that you can generalise. There is, however, still a great difference in terms of the amount of critical reviews given to women writers, and possibly a general perception issue. But it’s not as simple as that. Throw into the mix race, class, celebrity, establishment…it’s not a level playing field is it ? It’s complicated.

Who - in life or writing - do you most admire?
I admire people who follow their dreams and help others follow theirs. Those who know their place in the universe. Those who are kind and charitable. Those who get up when life knocks them down. And anyone who has ever pushed a person out of their fanny.

Why do we need the Women's Prize for Literature?
Because we are feminists, which means we believe in equal opportunities for men and women.

Would you eat a mucky fat sandwich? 
It wouldn’t be on my top ten, but yes, in the right circumstances. My parents & grandparents ate it. When I lived in Ukraine, as a guest you were often offered bread and salo, which is effectively the same thing. The French call it saindoux and you get it in fancy restaurants. Go figure.

What will the next book be about? 
It’s an existential love story about a man who lives on a houseboat on the Canal de Midi. The working title is Candice, but it might change.

If you could be anywhere right now, it would be....?
At my mum’s house on Arran, where she’s had no power for a week.
Tell me something I don't know
The name of Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg is Algonquin for “I fish on my side, you fish on your side, and nobody fishes in the middle.” 

The Night Rainbow is published by Bloomsbury. Available in all the best places. You know what to do...

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