I devoured this book in one sitting: I am a quick reader, but when a book grabs one's attention the way that Too Many Magpies does, I find it extremely hard to put it down.This book was amazing for its exploration of that disturbing sense of guilt that women experience as parents and the build-up of worry and tension in the novel just kept on ratchetting up. I thought TMM was very well written and I loved the opacity of the language; everything adding to that sense of heightened awareness. Anyhow, on we go with Elizabeth's visit.
Elizabeth Baines was born in South Wales and lives in Manchester. She is a prizewinning author of prose fiction and plays for radio and stage. Too Many Magpies was published by Salt in 2009. Previously Salt published her collection of short stories, (2007) which was pronounced ‘a stunning debut collection’ (The Short Review). In October 2010 Salt will reissue her first, acclaimed novel Balancing on the Edge of the WorldThe Birth Machine. She is also a performer and has been a teacher.
About the book: How do we safeguard our children in a changing and dangerous world? And what if the greatest danger is from ourselves? A young mother fearful for her children’s safety falls under the spell of a charismatic but sinister stranger. A novel about our hidden desires and the scientific and magical modes of thinking which have got us to where we are now.
Well, to me voice is all-important - to my mind, it's HOW a novel or story is told that is its real essence, and which carries its real meaning. I really can't begin writing until I hear the narrative voice. Sometimes that happens quickly and sometimes it doesn't, I find: you can have the theme and the story and even the characters, but you still can't hear the voice in which the story will be told - whether it's the voice of one of the characters, or of a separate narrator etc, and how precisely that voice sounds. I don't really find that I can do much actively to make this happen: basically I find it's a question of waiting to hear it, and if it doesn't come quickly, you just need to let the novel/story grow in your head. In fact, the voice of Too Many Magpies came to me very quickly right from the start (along with the first sentence that just dropped into my head): that of the main character, a woman trapped in a crisis and fearful for her children. Once the voice comes, I find, you're away, and it feels more like listening than thinking or working anything out. So all in all I found the voice of this particular novel very easy to achieve and as a result I wrote it very quickly. As I say, though, it's not always like that!
Thank you Elizabeth for such an interesting insight into this intriguing novel. For those who want to follow this interview up, you can read about Too Many Magpies on the Salt website; you can watch Elizabeth talking about her novel; and you can hear Elizabeth's podcasts too.
Next week, the Flying With Magpies tour lands at Vanessa Gebbie's Blog, and the last date of the tour is at Eco Libris. All thanks to Elizabeth and the Salt publishing crew.