Saturday, July 5, 2014

Emma Healey

Emma Healey's debut novel is Elizabeth Is Missing.

From the author's Q & A with Kimberly McCreight:

Kimberly McCreight (KM): One of the things I most admire about Elizabeth is Missing—and there is so much to admire—is the utterly convincing voice of Maud, both in her advanced years and when she is much younger. How did you tackle the challenge of presenting a single character at such disparate times within a single narrative?

Emma Healey (EH): I’m so glad it’s convincing, thank you. I started with Maud’s voice as an eighty-year-old and found that only needed a little adjusting to take her back into childhood. The voice overall is very much based on my mother’s mother, Vera. I was very close to her and she had (ironically) a brilliant memory and had lots of stories to tell about her early life. I spent most of my school holidays with her, so remembering and sticking to the kind of words she would have used gave me a guide for Maud’s lexicon. Voice is so much about vocabulary. I do have to say though, I think writing from the point-of-view of a single character, even in two time frames, is much easier than swapping between characters. Reading Reconstructing Amelia, I am amazed at how well you alternate a first-person and third-person narrative, from the point-of-view of a teenager and a mother, as well as using Facebook statuses and text messages, all in one novel. I should be asking you how you made that work so well!

KM: Was there something that drew you to writing about a character losing her grip on reality, particularly one struggling with dementia?

EH: The initial inspiration for the book came from my father's mother, Nancy, who has multi-infarct dementia, but my aunt’s mother-in-law had suffered from Alzheimer’s for several years before that and other members of my family had had various forms of dementia. At the time, dementia wasn’t something that was being talked about so much and I was fascinated (as well as terrified and upset) by the way a person could come and go—one minute their old selves, the next in a world of their own. Their patterns of behavior could be anything from perfectly reasonable to completely bizarre and it seemed like....[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue