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LAURA WILSON Top Ten Q&A

Written by Peter Guttridge

 
Laura Wilson Laura Wilson was brought up in London and has degrees in English Literature from Somerville College, Oxford, and UCL, London. She has worked briefly and ingloriously as a teacher, and more successfully as an editor of non-fiction books. She has written history books for children and is interested in history, particularly of the recent past, painting and sculpture, uninhabited buildings, underground structures, cemeteries and time capsules. Her first three novels were critically acclaimed, and the first, A Little Death, was shortlisted for both the Crime Writers Association Historical Dagger and the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original. Hello Bunny Alice is out now in paperback whilst heer novel, The Lover, will be published by Orion in June 2004. She lives in London.
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1) How did you come to write Hello Bunny Alice? Where did it come from?Vicarious fulfilment of my first career ambition - to be a Bunny girl. Aged seven, I thought that the ears and the tail were the epitome of desirable sophistication. Sadly, by the time I was old enough, the Playboy Club had ceased to exist, so I went to Oxford instead. Comedians have always fascinated me, too, especially double acts, and I thought it would be interesting to chart the disintegration of a personality.

2) And in general terms do your novels start with an image, an idea, a character, a theme you want to explore? Any or all of those - My Best Friend, for example, was inspired by a radio programme about obsessive people, and an enforced three month sojourn in a holiday cottage where the only available reading was a complete collection of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series. There’s no logical reason why these two things should have come together in my mind to form the plot of a book, but, as with cooking, some ingredients combine simply because that is what they are meant to do.

3) Bunny Alice has a rich background in the Sixties. What drew you to it and that whole Bunny Club/showbiz/gangland thing? History, innit? I’m not old enough to remember it, but the way in which the 60s began as a sort of technicolour Xanadu where everything was possible and ended in the sleazy sordidity (if that’s a word) of the 70s, has always interested me. Mind you, looking back now, even the gangsters seem curiously innocent.

4) Much of Bunny Alice is about a woman under siege. Was it a difficult book to write, technically speaking (keeping the story moving, I mean)? Bunny Alice, Book Jacket Very difficult. I think it was Raymond Chandler who said that if you need to juice up the action, you should have a man come into a room with a gun. That’s all very well, but what are you supposed to do with him afterwards, I should like to know? The logical thing for him to do is shoot somebody, but if the only available shootee is your narrator, you’re in trouble… technically, I found Alice the most difficult book so far. There was a horrible bit in the middle when I thought, God, why did I start this, but then a glorious stretch towards the end when everything came together?and it pretty much wrote itself.

5) You've published a number of novels now - are there common themes in all of them? Definitely: love, loss, loneliness, dysfunctional families, how the past affects the present, and - I’d like to think - redemption. I never set out to be a writer of crime novels, but I’m glad I write in this genre because it provides a wonderful framework for exploring anything you like.

6) Your first novel took quite a number of years to write. As a full time novelist are you happy with the book-a-year treadmill - or does it feel an imposition? No, because I like the discipline of it. Changing the rituals around writing was a problem, though. When I worked in an office, I used to come home, listen to the Archers, pour myself a glass of wine and get down to it. Come to think of it, most of A

Little Death was written when I was in a state of mild inebriation, and all of it was written wearing a dressing gown. When I became a full-time writer, I found it very hard to write in the morning, and even harder to write when fully clothed. I’ve since discovered the solution to this problem: I take the dog for a walk first thing, and scribble in my notebook while he mooches around in the park. By the time I get back, I’m nicely primed to start writing. 7) You may well have answered this in your answer to the previous question but: are there loads of books you're eager to write or do you think of the next novel when you're coming to the end of the last one? I’ve usually got an idea about the next one before I’ve finished the current one. It might be vague, but it’s always there. I seem to have established a pattern of writing a book with three narrators, followed by one with a single narrator. I keep trying to write something in the third person, but I haven’t quite managed it yet. Perhaps it’s a question of practice.

8) Your next novel is a serial killer novel set in the Blitz. Details please. The Lover, Book Jacket The next one - out in mid-June - is called The Lover. It was inspired by a real serial killer, Gordon Cummins, who was known as the Blackout Ripper. A friend of mine saw a television programme about him and rang me up, raving that I had to write a book about it. Normally, this would be the kiss of death, but when he lent me the videotape, I realised that it was a wonderful subject. Cummins murdered his victims - all prostitutes - in 1942, but I decided to bring the action forward to the London Blitz of 1940. I’d written about the Blitz often as a children’s non-fiction author, so it was familiar territory, and I realised it would be a perfect background for a story of this type.

9) Are you influenced/inspired/in awe of specific other writers? Novelists I’m in awe of tend to come from the literary canon: Richardson, Fielding, Austen, Dickens, Greene, Waugh… Influences are Ruth Rendell (Barbara Vine) and Patricia Highsmith. Guilty pleasures are Jilly Cooper and the Harry Potter series.

10) All your novels have been standalones. Do you prefer that or would you like to do a series character? Hmm… Not sure I want to answer this. You’ll have to wait and see.

Laura & Freeway

Laura and Freeway

 

Peter Guttridge writes a satirical crime series featuring the love-lorn yoga-obsessive Nick Madrid. Reviewers have been generous although his favourite review is one he doesn't understand - is it good or is it bad? - “this is a funny novel masquerading as a very funny novel.” Peter is currently the crime critic for The Observer and the director of the Brighton Literature Festival.

 

7) You may well have answered this in your answer to the previous question but: are there loads of books you're eager to write or do you think of the next novel when you're coming to the end of the last one? I’ve usually got an idea about the next one before I’ve finished the current one. It might be vague, but it’s always there. I seem to have established a pattern of writing a book with three narrators, followed by one with a single narrator. I keep trying to write something in the third person, but I haven’t quite managed it yet. Perhaps it’s a question of practice. 8) Your next novel is a serial killer novel set in the Blitz. Details please. The next one - out in mid-June - is called . It was inspired by a real serial killer, Gordon Cummins, who was known as the Blackout Ripper. A friend of mine saw a television programme about him and rang me up, raving that I had to write a book about it. Normally, this would be the kiss of death, but when he lent me the videotape, I realised that it was a wonderful subject. Cummins murdered his victims - all prostitutes - in 1942, but I decided to bring the action forward to the London Blitz of 1940. I’d written about the Blitz often as a children’s non-fiction author, so it was familiar territory, and I realised it would be a perfect background for a story of this type. 9) Are you influenced/inspired/in awe of specific other writers? Novelists I’m in awe of tend to come from the literary canon: Richardson, Fielding, Austen, Dickens, Greene, Waugh… Influences are Ruth Rendell (Barbara Vine) and Patricia Highsmith. Guilty pleasures are Jilly Cooper and the Harry Potter series. 10) All your novels have been standalones. Do you prefer that or would you like to do a series character? Hmm… Not sure I want to answer this. You’ll have to wait and see.

 
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Laura Wilson



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