sophieint2Q. You’ve chosen to write the book having many different narrators, was there any particular reason for this? Is this how the idea of confession came about in a non-religious sense?

A. Well, I started with Damien as a narrator and originally he was going to narrate the whole thing. But after about ten or twenty pages I hit a roadblock and couldn’t think of how he would continue the narrative – I knew I wasn’t done with him, but it was like he just wouldn’t play ball for a bit. I was sitting there feeling a bit frustrated with him and then a few conflicting ideas of how other people might see him – as irritating, as a victim, as unimportant, as rather magnificent – swam into my head and suddenly I thought, There are other people too! Very quickly the voices of Kathleen, Rachel and Father Creevey crystallised in my mind, and I started writing their stories, with an initial emphasis on how they saw the core incident of the book and what they thought of Damien, but gradually creating a whole reality and backstory for each character. So I guess that’s where the idea came from of not only a number of narrators, but also this kind of psychological reality in which they’re speaking to the reader directly – and uneasily aware that everybody else is too.

The idea of confession is at the very heart of the book – it was one of the ideas that had been bubbling away in my mind for years before I set pen to paper. I think that the notion of ‘sharing, purging, making clean’ (to paraphrase one of my characters) is one of the great imperatives of our time. I see it all around, even in a culture that has divested itself of much of its religious baggage – in the increased popularity of therapy or counselling as a panacea for problems, in the emphasis upon sharing and expressing in friendships and relationships, in the media’s obsession with scooping the stories and emotional outpourings of celebrities and those same celebrities’ obliging willingness to tell and emote. I was fascinated by the idea that this impulse is far bigger than the cultural or epistemological boxes that are used to contain it. So I knew that literal confession was going to have a big part to play in the narrative, and almost without knowing it I found my narrative reflecting that fact by itself becoming a series of confessions to the reader.

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