sophieint4Q. The subject of rape comes up within your book. Did you find this a difficult subject to write about because it is such a delicate topic?

A. I wanted to use the idea of a rape accusation to explore issues about conflicting testimony and culpability because rape still seems to me to be a crime that, by its nature, is very badly catered for by our legal system. It comes down to one person’s word against another’s, and often the more articulate voice, or the person who is in a position of cultural power or prestige, will win out. Because of the fact that the case so often just comes down to testimony – and in their quest to make a good case, both sides will often rely on the ‘character’ of the people concerned, and there’s a can of worms – it seemed like the perfect forum in which to explore the question of how narrative modulates truth.

But yes, it was very difficult to write about, and I was terrified of getting it wrong in a way that might seem crass or dismissive. I did my very best to get the technical details right by conducting a lot of research, but the psychological reality of it – well, that’s where being a novelist comes in, I suppose. You just have to try to imagine it.

Q. If someone was torn between your book and another one, what would you say to make them pick yours?

A. Philip Pullman likes it. Look, he said so on the cover. You think you know better than Philip Pullman?

Q. Like in real life there are some people you like and some you dont… so do you have a favourite character from within the book? And if so, why?

A. Despite the fact I know he’s obnoxious and I deeply disapprove of him, I will always have a special place in my heart for Damien because he started the whole thing off, and without him there would never have been a Rites. But all the characters are me, really, at the same time as none of them are me, so it’s very hard to pick a favourite. It’s like asking whether you prefer your liver or your lungs.

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