Q. Where did your inspiration for the book come from?
A. Rites was in one way a slow burner that had been a long time coming â€“ a sort of accumulated bundle of ideas and observations about love, friendship, belief, culpability and memory that I had been turning over in my mind for years. But in another respect it had a very quick and definite point of origin â€“ an anecdote that someone told me, the central event of which was that somebody lost their keys, and the keys had a name and address written on them, and there were consequences. There was something about that image that just sent a little bit of a jolt through my mind. I went away and kept thinking about the keys. It seemed like certain concepts were associated with them. Abandon. Accident. Discovery. A phone call. Recrimination. Confusion. Things spiralling out of control. And suddenly there was this voice in my own head, a young manâ€™s voice â€“ precise, pedantic, slightly mocking â€“ saying, â€˜When I was fourteen, I did something terrible. At least, thatâ€™s what some people tell me.â€™ That narrative voice was Damien, one of the four protagonists, the one who starts the novel off. The rest followed from there.
Q. The blurb of your book creates the impression that this book will cause controversy. Is this part of the intention of the book?
A. Iâ€™m not sure whether â€˜controversyâ€™ is quite the right word â€“ I didnâ€™t set out cynically to upset people or get them angry. But I definitely want it to make people think about the issues that it raises, and to redefine their values or beliefs a little bit as a result, and in comparison I donâ€™t give a monkeys whether they â€˜likeâ€™ it or not. Iâ€™ve always said that my dream for this book, rather than any particular good review or prize or sales figure, is that somewhere a bunch of people might be sitting around in a pub arguing about the book and the issues it raises, and that minds might be changed as a result. So far, the response has been great â€“ many people have written to me saying that the book has troubled them, disturbed them, made them feel compromised or involved, kept them awake at night questioning things they had never questioned before. Thatâ€™s absolute music to my ears.