Anne Tyler: An Interview on A Spool of Blue Thread

Anne Tyler: An Interview on A Spool of Blue Thread

A Spool of Blue Thread follows the Whitshank family through several generations, did you find when writing it that you had a favourite generation or time period?

I enjoyed writing about the period in the middle section—1959, when Abby was falling in love with Red. The Fifties always seem so calm and sunny and innocent, at least from this distance.

The significance of the title only becomes apparent towards the end of the novel. At what point in the writing process did you know this would become your title?

This was one book whose title I knew from the outset. The incident that the phrase refers to was such a brief, unremarkable one that I worried readers would miss it completely, and yet to me what it said about forgiveness was important. So I thought if I made it the title, people would pay it more attention.

Your new novel Vinegar Girl out next year is a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, what is it that appealed to you about this play?

It’s always struck me as such an outrageous plot—misogynistic, exaggerated, unconvincing—that I thought I’d like to invent a more reasonable version. Surely there must be some explanation for the crazy way these people were behaving!

How have you found writing a re-imagined drama, compared to writing your own, original fiction?

It was fun, because for once I didn’t have to rack my brain to come up with a story line. (Although occasionally I would rail against the whole project, and tell Shakespeare, “Oh, come on now, how will I ever make people believe this?”)

In interviews you’ve mentioned that during the writing process, the characters in your books have ended up doing things you didn’t expect – have Kate or any of the other characters surprised you while working on Vinegar Girl?

Poor Kate was so blunt and socially inept that often the tin-eared things she said startled me. I first noticed this when she was enduring a talking-to from her employer. She got every line wrong! I felt I was just standing by shaking my head in disbelief and half groaning, half laughing.