It was my pleasure to meet with Linda Grant and hear her talk in Fowey backalong ( as us sez down y'ere) and I am very grateful that Linda has taken some time off from her next novel to do dovegrey reader asks...
As you will see Linda said something that really resonated with me during her Fowey talk and which has opened up new and even more vivid understandings for me about her latest novel We Had it So Good. One of those books that is really good value, a great read that has stayed, shifted my focus and has added to my thinking at every level.
Linda, very simply...why this book, why now?
I don't begin with an idea for a novel, but there are certain thoughts which have often been in my mind for several years which come together, coalesce as plausibly something which might become a novel. It;'s usually a flash-bang while I'm filling the kettle. That's a novel! I'd been quite preoccupied in a more political sense since the day after 9/11, when I was fifty, with the thought that here we were, a generation which in Britain at least, had enjoyed unparalleled prosperity and peace, free from being clouted round the head by the forces of history, as our parents had been. I felt certain, that day, that London would be next. I expected a major bombing within the next month or two. In fact it took another six years and was far smaller in scale than the attack on America. Yet still I kept thinking about my charmed generation, our great good fortune and when it would come to an end.
So these thoughts which had been playing around in my mind for years turned one day into 'I could write a novel about that.'
Linda, during your talk at Fowey you made a very interesting comment about there being only one generation who had changed the world, I wonder if you could elaborate and explain a little more about that?
One of the ugliest characteristics of my generation was our tendency to dismiss our parents - they way they dressed, their conservatism, their allegiance to materialism and comfort. Believing as many of us did, that we wwre the generation put on earth to be young forever and to change the world, we regarded our parents as the obstacles in the ay of progress: 'Oh mothers and fathers throughout the land/Don't criticise what you can't understand/Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command/The old ways are rapidly changing/Please get out of way if you can't lend a hand/Because the times they are a changing.'
Can you tell us band of nosey parkers about your writing day/life and your process, how you knuckle down to it, pen/computer etc, does the place need to be immaculate, easily distracted etc and please expand on your life as a writer if you wish to.
I have an office which is lined with books, a desk with a desktop computer on it, shelves with tax files and floor covered in mess. I very rarely go in there. Instead, for about ten years now, I have written on a laptop on the dining table in the living room. This is because it's a nicer room and is not a mess. I feel those book-lined walls pressing in one me, issuing taunts and curses. I start writing as soon as possible after I get up, because, I'm quite convinced, that is the time we are closest to our unconscious, to the dream state. I am not superstitious but I do have a sequence of routine which I don't like to be disturbed: get up, have a cup of tea, shower, get dressed, have breakfast, read the newspaper online. Finally I make my one-a-day cappuccino using the fancy machine in the kitchen, and this is the signal to start.