Tuesday 15 July 2014

Interview with author Andrew Clover

Welcome Andrew Clover, who is on a blog tour to promote his new book, The Things I'd Miss. I used to like reading Andrew's column, Dad Rules, in the Sunday Times Style magazine. I miss it! So it's pretty cool to be able to ask him a few questions here...

First book you remember reading?
A Fly Went By by Dr Seuss. I was walking through my brother’s room, I kneeled down to read it, and I still remember finishing it and thinking: I just read a whole book on my own! I can’t tell you what the plot was. I think it involved a fly, which went by.

How do you decide on what book to read?
Well I write literate love stories, so I read up the best stuff in that genre (Beautiful Remains, One Day, Where’d Did You Go, Bernadette..) While

writing, I also read anything that might inform the tone I’m trying to achieve (for this book it was Brideshead Revisited, The Bell Jar, and The Fault In Our Stars).

Who is your favourite author?
It’s got to be Shakespeare. I love him so much that I meditate in the morning and I imagine he’s there. I know True Love each morning, as I recite “When In Disgrace With Fortune….” When I reach “and in these thoughts myself almost despising/ Happily I think on thee…” it’s not clear if it’s me loving Shakespeare, or him loving me, but it’s a beautiful moment of Shakespearian commingling, and it makes me feel pure ecstasy each morning.

If you could ask him/her one question what would it be?
I ask him questions all the time. Recently I wrote a first draft of two books. I wrote a romantic comedy. I also wrote The Things I’d Miss. It’s about a woman who, one cross day, has a car crash, and, the next thing she knows, she wakes up as a student again, and she’s beside the man she always loved – the one she never kissed… I thought The Bard would opt for the first idea which was actually quite Shakespearian (it had a change of identity, passion, some great scenes). Shakespeare preferred the second. “It seems the better story,” he opined - or that’s what I imagined. So then I spent three months, improving the story of the rom-com. Then I gave both books to my agent. She preferred The Things I’d Miss. I should have listened to Shakespeare!

What is more important to you in a book, the writing the plot or the conclusion?
Well the trouble with writing is you’re always tempted to concentrate on your strengths, and you ignore the weaknesses. I have a smooth easy prose, and write good dialogue; I’m less good at plots. But look at Shakespeare! He nicked plots all the time! So with The Things I’d Miss, I thought I’d basically rip off the structure of A Christmas Carol. (Other people have, and I always enjoy it - It’s A Wonderful Life, Sliding Doors…) Knowing that instinctively, I ceased worrying about the structure. I concentrated on the writing. I listened to the narrator’s voice, and I tried to write out complete scenes, just the way she told it.

If you do re-read books what book have you re-read more than others?
I’d read Brideshead Revisited it as a teenager, and I enjoyed it on a visceral level. Sebastian was the sort of friend I’d like to have. I got very horny at the scene with the sister, on the boat. But rereading it, I was struck that the narrator is a painter, who’s seeing and feeling with a painter’s intensity. Maybe that lead to the conception of The Things I’d Miss: my heroin is revisiting her life, in a Near Death Experience, and each scene she sees – it’s embued with a clarity and force, because she thinks she’s dying: these are the scenes that she’d miss.

Is there a particular genre you opt to read? Is there an author who in your opinion defines this genre?
Well I love romantic comedy, so I love to read Dickens, Austen, Hunter S Thompson, Coward, Orton, Wilde, Nick Hornby, Helen Fielding… But the archetypal one has got to be PG Wodehouse. I resisted reading him for so long (I associated him with snobbery). I now reread him endlessly, because his prose is the most easy, elegant and comic prose that I can imagine.. Even though my latest book is more of a tear-jerker, reading PG Wodehouse still helped. It’s all about making a smooth read!

A character in a book you would like to bring back to life and why?
I love that Theatre Manager from Nicholas Nickleby – the one who involves his whole family in his mad Travelling Troupe - including the donkey, who, we hear, “went on in the pantomime, but he was broad… too broad!” (That donkey really makes me laugh! I can imagine him, going on, and being broad!)

How would you encourage the younger generation to read?
I’d ensure they have no TV or wi-fi in their bedrooms, then not push too much. Aged eight, my daughters both discovered books the way I found A Fly Went By: they found them for themselves. I make sure they have the best stuff though. Now aged 12 and 11, they’re currently tearing through Michelle Harrisson, Helen Dunmore, Sally Gardener, Divergent, and The Twilight series. They love books. Why wouldn’t they? Reading stills your thoughts; then it lifts them to a clearer, more passionate realm.

The Things I’d Miss by Andrew Clover is published by Arrow, at £7.99

Girls Love to Read:
Seeing my dogs every day #thethingsidmiss
Book Club Mum:
An impromptu hand-hold from my children #thethingsidmiss

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