Interview with Lulu Allison
1) To start with, could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about Twice the Speed of Dark?
My name is Lulu Allison. I came to writing late, having spent most of my life as an artist. My novel Twice the Speed of Dark is out today! It is my first book. You can buy it here:
2) Would you mind sharing an excerpt with us, or a favourite quote?
These are the opening words. I like the idea of gravity as a benevolent force, an entity that holds us.
Sometimes I am hooked by a stray wisp of gravity and pulled back to the body of the earth. Soft grass, hot dust, a sharp stone, for drifting moments I remember how they felt under foot. I remember how it felt to have a place. Gravity is once more my friend, my engine. The breeze on my ghost skin brushes memories of life into shimmering being.
3) What inspired you to write this story? It must have been a difficult subject to deal with.
I was inspired to write it by the Boston Marathon bombing, more specifically the response of news media who treated the victims of that even with greater concern and care than the countless victims dying every day in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. I wasn’t a writer, I was an artist. I began what I thought was an art project, writing small, invented portraits of victims from distant countries who weren’t even named in the Western news. Before I knew it, I was gripped, and to my great surprise, turning it into a book. I made a connection with the deaths of the two women a week in the UK who die at the hands of their partners, similarly ignored by the news media.
It was difficult. Thinking about grief is difficult. But it is also necessary, for me, and helpful. I am learning to let go of fear about death each time I confront it. Bereavement is different. We all grieve in our own ways. There were times when I found it very difficult, but also strengthening.
4) What are you working on now?
A novel called, provisionally, Wetlands. I wanted to think about an empty Britain, about walking across this land without actual human presence. Our landscape is so folded in with the story of its human occupation. I was interested in the eerie, the imperfect presence of humans. And also in our connection to land, the divide between land and body that is bridged by food.
5) What draws you to your genre? Have you always been drawn to it?
I guess I try to write the kinds of books I want to read. Those books would generally be classics or literary fiction. It sometimes feels like I am writing an old-fashioned novel, but I can see around me many other wonderful writers are doing, quite brilliantly and inspiringly, the same. There’s still room for fiction when plot is trumped by inner narratives and tenuous themes!
6) Who/what is your writing inspiration?
Much of what inspires me is phrases or short descriptions, poetry. I am a big fan of an American artist called Minton Sparkes, who describes herself as a speaker/song writer. Her poetry/songs encapsulate beautiful scenes, so much life brought into a few beautiful words.
7) What do you do if inspiration just won't come?
8) Which part of the writing process is your favourite, and which part do you dread?
The thinking, the having a concrete form for thought - definitely my favourite part. I dread research and copy editing. My spelling is pretty poor, and my grammatical understanding is skimpy. Luckily, Unbound have brilliant copy editors who turn it all into something whole.
9) What is your number one distraction?
Work for money, family, lack of a work room.
10) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
11) Tea or coffee?
Coffee, in my 1970s coffee cups with pictures of moustachioed men from Corfu in open-necked shirts dancing around them.
12) What are the most important three things you've learned about writing, editing or publishing (or all of the above!) since you started your journey?
1)As with all art, there is no trick. There is work. It may be beautiful, exciting, uplifting, demented, but in the end, it is work that counts.
2) As with all art, never be afraid to throw stuff out.
3) Connecting with people is important enough that however hard it sounds, keep going until you find a way. It is how you build an audience. And (once again, as with all art!) writing is an act of communication, so the audience is not just about sales, they are a vital part of making the thing real.
13) What's your favourite quote on writing?
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.
I don’t think of this quote simply in terms of being a preparation for the difficulties ahead, though it is that. More importantly for me, it expresses something I learnt as a visual artist that really helped as a writer. You have to develop a disregard, in some ways, for your own output. You cannot afford, if you want to do a good job, to be too attached to what is quite good. Better to keep failing and trying. It is that process of self-renewal or a kind of playing, however serious the toys, that leads to something.
14) What is the best piece of advice you've received?
When you are stuck, try the counter-intuitive. It is remarkable how many times proposing the stupidest answer to a problem can lead you to the right answer.
15) Where can we connect with you?
Thanks for the questions Shona, I enjoyed answering them.