The Forgotten Waltz is about the damage wreaked by infidelity and the tricky relationship between a young girl, Evie, her father, Sean, and her father's lover, Gina. Some scenes between Evie and Gina can make for uncomfortable reading. Were you worried about this?
I thought I was going a bit hard on the whole scenario but then I looked up "smoms.org". It was full of American stepmothers of unknown provenance complaining about their stepchildren, and I realised I wasn't being too harsh at all.
Comparisons have been drawn with classics such as Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina. Did you consciously decide to write along these lines?
I think when you take any theme, you do look at precedents, and both Bovary and Anna are precedents of stories of women being unfaithful. Yes, you look at the tradition, and you realise that women who deviate from the traditional course end up dead – until about 1975 maybe. I was looking for a more interesting punishment than death, and I thought that love is a great punishment for desire.
In all of your books, you weave through the serious issues – infidelity, abuse, alcoholism, violence – with threads of humour. It's a delicate balance. Do you have to work at it?
I work at the sentences. Many of the things people find distinctive about my writing, I think of as natural. In fact, you'd have to point a finger and say, "Why has that writer not got a sense of humour?" Why are we not amazed by these humourless books? What are they trying to do by eliminating the natural sap that rises, the natural pleasure that we get, particularly if we're dealing with words?"
What is the funniest book you've read?
I remember being on a beach in Crete, laughing so loud at JG Farrell'sTroubles, sitting there in my suntan lotion, with all these German families looking at me.
One of your teachers on your creative writing MA course at the University of East Anglia was Angela Carter. What was she like?
Wonderfully vague and terribly impressive. She was very friendly but she had nothing, really, to say about my work.
You won the Booker in 2007 for The Gathering. Did you find that level of acclaim exposing?
I don't know what I felt. I still don't know what I feel. I feel a bit bored being asked about it all the time but that's not your fault. The Booker is more interesting from the outside than the inside. The idea of success is just that – an idea.
Read more >>>