Evie Wyld runs Review, a small independent bookshop London. Her first novel, After the Fire, A Still Small Voice, won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and a Betty Trask Award. In 2011 she was listed as one of the Culture Show's Best New British Novelists. She was also shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her second novel All the Birds, Singing, is our Book of the Week.
We are delighted that Evie was able to join us today to discuss her latest novel.
You won a raft of awards for your first novel, After the Fire, A Still Small Voice, and earlier this year you were selected for Granta’s list of best British novelists under the age of 40. Was it hard to follow up such a sensational debut?
Ha! Kind of you to say. It was hard, but not so much because of the success of the first one - it’s more that it’s always hard. When I set out to write something, I have in my head a far superior version and it can be very difficult to see when it’s finished. Left to my own devices I could have worked another year on the second book.
How does your Australian upbringing influence your storytelling?
There’s something in homesickness that I find very useful as a starting point. When I’m in the UK I tend to daydream about Australia, and vice versa. I also think that childhood memories are somehow the most vivid - maybe because your brain soaks things up more readily - things like the names and shapes of birds.
Why did you decide on such a complex narrative structure?
I started writing this book thinking it would run very simply from the start to the finish, but after about 50,000 words I realised that the best way of telling the story would be to fold it over on itself. I have never set out to write complex narrative structures - I only use them when I think it makes the story better. I have a perhaps optimistic hope that the next book will have a simple narrative, but it will depend on what happens in the writing of it.
Jake, your female protagonist, is an unusual character. What inspired her?
I wanted a person as a protagonist, rather than a romantic lead, or a woman who was ‘not traditionally pretty’ ie had long black hair and green eyes as opposed to long blond hair and blue eyes. I didn’t want to write about someone who appeared ‘dangerously thin, but with an ample rack’. I’m interested in people, and often find it hard to get away from female characters who must all the time be aesthetically pleasing. You don’t get the same treatment with male characters in my experience - it gets in the way.
Male violence towards women is vividly explored in your book? Why?
Because it is part and parcel of every woman’s life. Even if not directly experienced, the threat is there constantly.
You leave questions unanswered. Is this your preferred style of writing?
I’ve never wanted to answer questions in the stories I tell - I don’t have any answers. Life is a complicated thing, and I feel like a novel should reflect that - I’m more interested in finishing the story with a vague and strange feeling than with something exact.
What is next for you?
I’m working on a graphic memoir about growing up between London and Australia with a shark phobia. It’s called Rodney Fox, I Love You.
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