Can you tell us a little about what we can expect from your new novel ‘Sweet Caress’?
Well, it’s a long novel and quite rare in that it’s an entire “life” — from cradle to grave. This isn’t done very often! But what it gives you, the reader, is a fully fleshed-out portrait of an individual. I hope that readers will feel they know Amory Clay as well as they do a close friend or a member of the family.
Where did the inspiration for the character of Amory Clay come from?
She’s an odd amalgam of people I’ve known or people I’ve read about. At the end of the novel, as a kind of acknowledgement, I have a long list of names of women – a lot of these women went in to Amory. And she’s a photographer. Curiously, women photographers seem to have particularly long and rackety lives!
Tell us about the research you did for this novel and the characters in it.
I had to do a tremendous amount of research because Amory’s life spans a huge chunk of the 20th century. I’m quite used to this, however. The key thing is authenticity and idiosyncrasy. You want exactly the right detail – about a person or a time – but not one you’ve read about 100 times before. So it’s a process of sifting – reading, reading, reading, looking for that one refulgent detail.
The book is interspersed with photographs. How did you find and match the photographs to the book? Was it a fun process?
It was completely fascinating. I had to match the photos to the story I had written and it was a compulsive and long and arduous search. In a way it was a parallel creative process to the writing. To my astonishment finding the right photograph seemed to enhance the “reality” of the fiction. I found the photos in junk shops and antique sales – and also on line. It took many weeks, if not months, of searching.
Are working on any other projects at the moment?
Yes. My second play, The Argument, is coming on in London at the Hampstead Theatre at the beginning of March next year. The director and I are beginning to cast it.