Tell us about yourself in two sentences.
Every time I get asked this, I immediately think of Meredith Brooks singing I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I’m a child, I’m a mother…Which I think does tell you something about myself! So, to use, Brooks’ format, I’m a writer, I’m a wife, I’m a Londoner and New Yorker (who just so happens to be living in LA), I’m a sober woman, I’m a friend, I’m a daughter, I’m a sister, I’m a disco lover…I’m a little bit of everything, all rolled into one :)
Can you share a little about your writing process to us?
I don’t have a writing schedule at all, which often surprises people. It’s very loose, sometimes I write a lot and sometimes not at all. I tend to get most of my writing done in three-hour chunks with my Wifi turned off, generally late morning after I’ve dealt with my emails and done some exercise. I’m a big believer in giving the unconscious time to mull things over, so a part of my writing process is not writing at all but walking around listening to music, just thinking, and imagining.
Writing a short story or an essay can be like a mad love affair where I’m totally consumed for a brief, passionate period, but a novel is a lot more like a marriage. There are periods where it’s very intense, and others where it’s more in the background. Like a marriage, a novel is built on the accrual of ordinary, almost inconsequential, acts of daily devotion.
What influences your writing and when do you know you’re onto a good thing?
What I read, what I watch, what I’m chatting about with my friends, my mum, my husband, my therapist…I’ve found chatting is really the breeding ground for writing. I know I’m onto something when I can’t start feeling the characters inside me, their thoughts and feelings running alongside my own. It’s a hard feeling to explain, but it’s like I’m the house and there’s this new electricity shooting through the walls. Parts of me that were previously dark just start to light up.
Cleopatra and Frankenstein has only continued to soar in popularity since the release almost a year ago. Tell us how your life has changed for you (or not) since the release of Cleopatra and Frankenstein?
The biggest change has just been having readers who I don’t know. I love it! It’s such a joy hearing from people all over the world who have connected with these characters. It really never gets old for me.
Cleopatra and Frankenstein portrays the intertwining of multiple complex character lives. Tell us how you juggled working on each character while making sure none of their stories got lost.
In the first drafts, I didn’t! It was really from re-writing that I started to weave the characters together. For a long time, they lived quite separately to each other in both my mind and the book. When I was creating each one, they had my full attention, and I’d sort of have to forget about the rest so I could give everything to one. Around draft three I went through each chapter and looked at how each of their stories effected the others’, then braided their narratives together so there was more cause and effect between each storyline.
We can only imagine that trying to choose a favourite character is akin to asking parents if they have a favourite child, but here we go… Do you have a favourite character, and why?
You’re right that it’s impossible to pick a favourite! I love each of them for different reasons. Eleanor for her humour, Cleo for her sensitivity, Frank for his creativity, Quentin for his wit, Anders for his insouciance, Santiago for his kindness, Zoe for her exuberance. Every single one of them has a part of me in them.
We are beyond excited about the news that your second book, Blue Sisters, is set to be released in 2024. Can you tell us a bit about what we can expect from your upcoming novel?
I imagined Blue Sisters as sort of Royal Tenenbaums meets Little Women. It’s the story of three really different sisters—Avery’s a lawyer, Bonnie’s a boxer and Lucky is a model—who are navigating life in their respective cities of London, Paris and LA in the year after their fourth sister’s death. One by one they each end up imploding their lives and returning the apartment they were raised in in New York, where the re-find each other and, ultimately, the hope to keep on living even after unbearable loss.
Describe your writing spot for us.
In New York, it’s the eighth floor of the NYU library, which has a great view of the Empire State Building all lit up at night. In Paris, it’s the art history research room at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France because my friend Albert writes there and gives me snacks. In Los Angeles, it’s my study, which is very bright and lined with bookshelves. I've never had a study of my own before and it still feels like the pinnacle of adulthood to me!
What books have you recently read and loved?
Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead it is truly sensational.
What book do you always recommend to others?
Rebecca Lee’s short story collection Bobcat.
Tell us what reading means to you…
I don’t know how I would live without reading, to be honest. I love being able to disappear inside a character whenever I want. It’s simultaneously an escape from self and a return to self. When I read, I get to know myself more deeply. Frequently I don't know how I'm feeling or what I'm really thinking about until I sit down to read or write. I think of reading as a form of travel and writing is the return home.
Not a question, I just want to tell you how much I loved reading Eleanor’s chapters in Cleopatra and Frankenstein. She was a fun, relatable, hot mess and her sense of humour could not be challenged. Thank you for sharing her with us.