Alison Moore will be joining us for an interview and reading on Friday 31 May at 2.15pm at St John’s Theatre & Arts Centre. Her novel, The Lighthouse, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012, and The Pre-War House and Other Stories was nominated for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award 2013.
Born in Manchester in 1971, Alison Moore lives in a village near Nottingham with her husband Dan and son Arthur. She is a member of Nottingham Writers’ Studio and an honorary lecturer in the School of English at Nottingham University
The Lighthouse is described as ‘deliciously unsettling… our sense of inevitable disaster becomes almost unbearable,’ by Jenn Ashworth in The Guardian.
Alison took some time to be interviewed for our Blog last week.
JG. Your path to literary acclaim is an inspiration to all aspiring writers. In 2009, you had a baby, left your PA job and started to write your debut novel The Lighthouse, which was subsequently shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. How did you feel when you heard the news?
AM. I was in the playpark with my son when the nominees were announced. My husband came down on his bike to tell me my name was on the longlist. I was simultaneously deliriously excited and totally numb – it was like he was talking to me through a thick wall of glass. Then he said he was just going home to check… And of course I was still out with my little boy so then it was straight back to buying pretend ice-creams from his kiosk under the slide.
JG. It’s a story about a man separated from his wife, who goes on a walking holiday. Where did your main character Furth, come from?
AM. I saw a scene in my head: a man sitting in a woman’s kitchen, but the woman’s upstairs and doesn’t know he’s there, although she did used to know him. So I was getting a sense of this man obsessed with a woman from his past, his trying to return to this person and a place. In 2007, my husband and I had been on a circular walking holiday and that seemed a perfect setting for this story.
JG. How much of the novel did you know before you started?
AM. Once I wrote the beginning, where Futh is on the ferry, I found I knew what the final chapter would be, and that informed the penultimate chapter. But I didn’t know quite what happened in between, which suited me – I like to take the journey alongside my characters.
JG. Your work previous to The Lighthouse was a selection of stories, shortlisted for numerous awards. Do you have a preference for the novel or the short form?
AM. I don’t have a preference – I see them all as stories, some short, one or two a good deal longer. My approach is not that different, even though the overall experience is. I’ve written short stories since finishing The Lighthouse and I’ve also begun a second novel.
JG. Your recently published short story collection, The Pre-War House and Other Stories, have been variously described as ‘sinister’ and ‘unsettling.’ Where does your inspiration come from?
AM. In a broad sense, probably from everything I’ve ever read. More specifically, stories can start in so many unexpected ways, from a vivid mental image – which has happened with short stories as well as The Lighthouse – or in one case an idea for a title popped into my head and the story followed. One of the earlier stories came almost fully formed while I was walking through some woods with my dad. The Pre-War House, in which pregnancy features, was written during the last month of my pregnancy. Some of the darker stories have been inspired by being invited to submit a story to a particular publication.
JG. Who would you say are your greatest literary influences?
AM. I think literature got under my skin thanks to LM Montgomery and Dickens. Writers I read in my teens or twenties and still read now include Ian McEwan, Graham Swift, Graham Greene and Kurt Vonnegut. More recently, I’ve discovered Shirley Jackson, Flannery O’Connor and Lorrie Moore, amongst others.
JG. What are you reading at the moment?
AM. Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. I seem to be alternating old and new at the moment. I just reread Wuthering Heights and next I’ve got Women in Love lined up and then May We Be Forgiven by AM Homes.
JG. Is there any time of the day that’s best for you to write?
AM. I write whenever I can, whether my window that day is in the morning or whether I find I’m writing at midnight.
JG. You lecture in the School of English at Nottingham University. How do you balance your teaching and your writing life?
AM. I’m an honorary lecturer, which means I’m just invited to give talks from time to time. The real balancing act in my life is between family and writing. When Arthur was little it was simple – when he was awake it was his time; when he was asleep it was writing time (or reading/sleeping/film time). After the Man Booker Prize nomination, that went out of the window, but by then he was three and about to start pre-school, so now I have that chunk of time two mornings a week. Also, we do long distance events as a family, so Arthur’s seen some of the venues in which I’ve done events, and he’s been to playparks and cities he wouldn’t have been to otherwise, and he’ll have a long weekend by the sea in Ireland thanks to Listowel Writers’ Week!
JG. Do you have any advice for our emerging writers at Listowel Writers’ Week?
AM. I aim to make some progress every day with what I’m working on, however little, just to keep it all ticking along. The only advice I always give is to read a lot, but I think a writer would be doing that anyway.
For more information or to book this event please click the following link Alison Moore