Janice Galloway interview: full transcript

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Transcript of an interview that took place in the residence drawing room of the Scotsman Hotel in Edinburgh on Friday the 22nd of August. Janice Galloway is interviewed about the first volume of her memoirs, This Is Not About Me, which covers her life from birth to twelve, and deals with the breakdown of her parents’ marriage - her father was an alcoholic - and Galloway's relationship with her much older sister Nora (referred to in the book as Cora). Reference is made to Galloway's three novels; The Trick is To Keep Breathing (1987), Foreign Parts (1994), and Clara (2002), the last of which is a novel about the life of Clara Wieck Schumann, the 19th century composer and wife of Robert Schumann.

Janice Galloway: Nice shoes! Ooh, I like them.

Kirsten Innes: Me too. However, I can’t actually run in them because the buckles bang off my toes.

JG: And there was me thinking that would be the advantage of flats! I’m very short, I’m 5”3 -- it’s actually reasonably okay in this country, but you go to Scandinavia and end up feeling like a munchkin. I’ve never got myself out of heels.

KI: Those are lovely, though.

JG: Och, they’re stupid. Can’t run in them.

KI: No, those are shoes that are perfectly designed for sitting on a sofa in your own private sitting room at the Scotsman Hotel, receiving visitors. Amid repulsive furniture.

JG: [Laughs] Isn’t that hideous? [referring to a table in the far corner of the room, the base of which is a sculpture of a naked woman, and to which she has objected previously] Do you know, the head and the hand actually turn. I think you’re supposed to rest your newspaper in the hand, and the head presumably just turns away if the lady’s face isn’t to your taste. Let’s pretend we can’t see it, okay, and we’ll just go ahead with what’s happening over here.

KI: Okay. I wanted to start by asking you about Muriel Spark.

JG: Jings! Right! Okay, interesting!

KI: I found an interview you had done with her when [Spark’s autobiography] Curriculum Vitae came out, and you said you were absolutely astonished by this claim she makes at the beginning that absolutely everything –

JG: - absolutely everything has been verified! Yes that’s right! [laughs] I was listening to her say this and thinking ‘no!’ It does just seem astonishing.

KI: I just wanted to set that out there, because I thought that was interesting that your own memoirs are absolutely devoid of any sort of preamble at all - you just launch straight into it.

JG: Yes. Well, I had a pre-chapter, but it was very personal - it was about the birth of my son, which is when the idea - well, no, it wasn’t when the idea first occurred to me, but I realised that this is when you begin appraising your life in a different way, because it quite definitely marks the start of something that is going to last longer than you. It throws your entire life into a completely different relief. Do you have children yourself?

KI: No

Janice Galloway

JG: No. Well, that was my experience of it, and I’m sure other women have different experiences of it, but with a lot of women it’s their first really conscious attempt to see their life as just something that happens, rather than this intensely personal thing. Now you put yourself to one side -- THIS [motherhood] is the intensely personal thing and this bit [referring to one’s own life] has to be touched up and monitored in order to be able to attend to [mothering] appropriately. So that’s what my preamble was, but not like Muriel, jings no. I looked back at her life, and the bits that she’s been happy to make plain, and like most writers, Muriel Spark seems to have been very wary of inferences from her own life being drawn into the fiction as though there was a simple transference that goes on. There is no simple transference, it’s an extremely complex transference, but clearly that transference is happening, but if you dabble with it you’re in danger of ending up with a side of it which is just trite, or that establishes nothing except a kind of trivialisation of what it is you’re trying to do. I think she was very wary of that, especially coming from the generation she came from when there were simply fewer women writers, and fewer women writers taken seriously. But she had married a mad husband, who attempted to kill her when she found out she was pregnant. It occurred to me that living with someone to whom the difference between reality and fantasy is sometimes blurred, meant a lot of her books - like Reality and Dreams - referred back to this - that it’s very important to mark out what’s true from what is not true. I think life is much fudgier than that! [laughs] I do! I think the dividing line between what’s true and what’s not true is very fudgy indeed! But for Muriel I think it was probably a matter of survival to be very clear about the difference. And her religion, of course, encourages an understanding of the meaning of ordinary life as something that is not material, that reality, that the TRUTH if you like of our lives is something completely different. So for her, these words meant something totally alien to anything my head could cope with. It all made perfect sense when I thought about it, but it just blew me away that she had sought verification about the very facts of her schooling, or how she had behaved towards her own mother! [laughs] It just struck me as astonishing! This focus! It seems on the surface like a lack of security, you know, I just need someone to back me up. Having met Mrs Spark, there is nothing that suggested any lack of certainty about her - Hello! [to her husband, who has just entered]. This is Kirstin. We’re just going to sit here and do this thing - do you want a cup of tea? I’ve got this teapot, but I don’t have a spare cup. Do you wanna ask him for a spare cup? [some conversation unclear] Yeah. it’s a bit echoey in here. And it’s no very bonny, either. Have you seen this hideous table? Okay, I’ll get you in the public space. Yeah, so, that was - but then again, I’m talking as though my immediate impression of somebody I’ve never met before, but whom I’ve read, is more valid than what the woman is actually like. She maybe suffers from dreadful crises of confidence, but it was just a surprising thing to do. And no, that is not how I approached this book. At all!

KI: I was just really bringing that up as a model of Scottish female autobiography which you’re not following at all. There was one point - do you mind if I quote you back at you?

JG: I don’t mind at all! No, I’m asking for it, putting all these things back in a book.

KI: 'I was, she said, a born storyteller, a drama queen, and a bigger liar than Tom Pep. A child's memory bears no more relationship to reality than a cartoon, surely: a jumble of imperfect synaptic snaps put together any old how. An adult, on the other hand, is in possession of the whole picture. This understanding throws us all, sooner or later. Unquestioned, it will throw you away entirely.' [from pp 28-29 of This is Not About Me] I just wanted to look at that, it seemed to me that this quote was very much central to the way you put this book together - the 'jumble of snaps' seemed pertinent even because you start off looking at photographs, but by validating your own childhood memories.

JG: I think all children’s perceptions are fascinating. You only need to spend an afternoon with a child to realise that most of them, without even trying, are poets. They notice things you do; they put words together in funny ways. And it’s not just [American accent] ‘kids say the darndest things…’ The reason why we laugh at some of the stuff they say is because it strikes you in the way a good comic will - something really valid, and just such an off-beat way of saying it. And the reason it’s offbeat is because we’ve lost it. We have succumbed to a set of norms that we are all supposed to subscribe to. We’re sitting here. You’ve got some makeup on, but I’ve got a LOT of makeup on. And you’re not going to say to me ‘hey! You’ve got shiny stuff on your lips!’ or ‘why are your eyebrows that colour?’ Of course you’re not. We just take it for granted, whereas a kid will go [stretches hand out to my face] [laughs] and remind you. ‘Do your wrinkles hurt?’ my son used to ask. The things we have forgotten to say, because they’re not part of our civilised structures. And that’s why children are not only natural anarchists, they’re also natural poets. I think the job of most artists is trying to get back that sight that we’ve lost. So of course what children see is utterly valid, because it’s reminding you that the way the adult society in which they’re growing is not the only way to see the world, that we all once started not knowing what the rules are, and you’re only reminded of some of the subtler rules by listening to and watching children. So when I went back and tried to remember, I tried to validate what I did remember as - so many of us tell kids that certain things they remember didn’t happen, because we didn’t want them to see it. Or tell them that isn’t the case when the kid knows perfectly well that something was wrong. And somebody, saying, nothing was wrong! Not fooling anybody. And we all do it. The whole of childhood, I think, is a long walk down a very confusing corridor, with different things happening through every door you pass and none of them in any way explicable. And you just have to somehow fight your way through it and make what sense you can of it. And I found that from a very young age, I had a propensity for drawing things in through the eyes. I watched them. It wasn’t very safe, sometimes, to say things, because you were told that wasn’t true. If you said somebody hit you, you were told you were a drama queen, nobody hit you. So you start to shut up, but you sure as hell still know that what happened was what happened. Or perhaps because you’re afraid that what happened might not have happened, so to validate yourself, you watch. There’s a society called AlAnon, for the children of alcoholics. And at meetings, they all talk about this antennae. You walk into a room, and you just see where things are placed, and you see if anything’s broken, if anything’s fallen, and you LISTEN … and yes, it’s OK. [Laughs] That kinda thing. So obviously, it’s just something that came from my domestic background. And I think I would have done it anyway: I was very shy, and shy people are looking. We haven’t retreated completely from the world just because we aren’t speaking. We’re watching everything.

KI: The sheer detail of this book, though. Every single page is so textured, and I was sitting there earlier, trying to think back to my own childhood in that sort of detail, and I found I couldn’t do it - probably had too many things going round my head. What sort of process did you undergo to get yourself back to that childhood state in such detail?

JG: One of the very few advantages - no, actually, there are lots of advantages to getting older. I’m considerably older than you. I’m probably old enough to be your … mum. Which I’m just going to have to come to terms with. [Laughs] A long time ago starts to become clearer than yesterday. It’s made a joke of by older people, you know, you don’t know where your specs are - inevitably, on your head - but you can everything that happened on your fourth birthday, in tiny little detail. It just started more to come back. i think also, when you have children it starts to come back. You see them, being four, and you remember something - or a facial expression of theirs and you realise there’s a photograph of me doing that. And suddenly you are four, and you think, my god, is that the size I was? You gain an understanding of what a child is, when you’re with them. And you don’t put yourself into that place, usually, when you remember. You know you were smaller, because you could see up people’s noses and you could fit under tables easily, but you don’t actually think of yourself as having been one of these slightly more vulnerable creatures, I think, is quite difficult. I did active research, as well. I went to a primary school, one of these old fashioned primary schools, and sat at a primary school desk. You know how in Scotland we have tiny chairs? And god, was I that ever small! It really starts to come home to you. So how we treat children is rooted in the fact that they’re small. We literally talk over their heads, We don’t explain things, because it seems normal to us. But again the kid is - the radar’s out the entire time. If it’s entirely left to these people to look after you and they talk over your head and don’t seem to notice you half the time, well, that doesn’t seem like a terribly good option, so you have to ask what is going on here, and work it out for yourself, by looking and listening. So there was active physical research. I wrote part of it sitting under a table - that bit where she’s singing from under the table. I went under to find out what that was like, again, and by jings, I must have been really wee! Being under a table is not comfortable at this size! But I can remember the curtain being there and all the rest of it, so it was partly getting into the size, the dimension, and that went on to trigger more memories. But then it’s also the age I am - I am more in touch with childhood memories. You’re probably at an age where what’s happening here [puts hand in front of nose] is so interesting and exciting that THAT’S what you focus on. When you get older, there’s a sense of ‘been there, done that’, about a lot of things, and your head just seems to start travelling back. I don’t know if it’s all just part of the mystical process of beginning to die, you know, you go full circle or something. It’s kind of unnerving and kind of unsettling, but at the same time it’s part of the process of working out where you belong, setting it in contrast to who you are and where you came from. I’ve never been interested in the process of genealogy or anything like that, before I started doing this. And of course, there’s self confessed gaps - as you said Kirstin, there’s loads of pictures. I went back to the pictures. But I had to be rigorously honest about difference between the ones where I could remember being in them, remember them being taken, and the ones where I’m just ‘what’s that?”

KI: I wanted to talk to you about the pictures actually. I went back and got out my copy of Curriculum Vitae and –

JG: Oh WOW! Well researched!

KI: Not really - I studied it at university. But I’d read your interview where you talk about the photographs she included in that book, when you were talking to her about the photographs she'd included - her cat, and not her husband, for example. And now you’ve written this book that is all about the pictures, all about the way that family photographs string together a life, and they’re not physically there in the book. You put the pictures in there with your words, but not visually. What was the thinking behind that?

Janice Galloway

JG: Well, part of the thinking behind that is that I had long asked for photographic elements in books - I wanted photos in my second novel, Foreign Parts - and I had continuously been turned down by the publishers because they were expensive. And in the end I was really glad I didn’t have them, because it’s left to me to evoke them in the words. you have to evoke the sound of voices - if music’s playing, it’s a bit bland just to say ‘music was playing’. You need to make that specific kind of music, somehow, in the words, available to the person who’s reading it, who’s not there, so that they’ve got the texture, they’ve got the very feel of what it is. The paradox of making something very specific, Kirstin, is that if you make it very specific, other people can get into it easier. If you make it very general, it’s too general. They’re trying to grasp where you are all the time - ‘so, what was it. Was the chair over there…?’ It throws them. I think that’s disorientating. If you make it very specific, right away, they’ve got the snap shot and are already enlivening it with details from their own lives, from what they know about rooms like that, what they’ve felt in situations like that. It opens it up more. So, it’s my job to be as specific as possible. That’s why I do that. The sheer viscerality of life. If you’re as accurate as you can be about that, people can feel their way in much better. It’s less about the plot; it’s more an act of communication -- what do you feel about that? That’s why that plethora of detail is there. So when it came to the photos, what I was experiencing was me looking at the photos, so it seemed to be an unnecessary complication -- just a party trick, in fact, to say ‘Annnnnd, here’s that very photograph!’ [Laughs]. It seemed beside the point. I’m not describing the photo; I’m describing what it feels like to look at being in the photo, and, in that funny, Alice in Wonderland way, trying to get back inside what was happening at the time. Because so few of the photos - people just didn’t have personal cameras back then. You can take pictures of anything you ruddy well like with your PHONE these days! You went to the photographers. Occasionally, somebody with a Box Brownie would show up, but that was only once in a lifetime. And the photographers would always put you in a highly artificial set up. It was part of the - it was almost Victorian. Everyone was wearing their best stuff. You don’t want to be wearing your normal clothes, when you’re having your photo taken. There’s a photo of me as a child with two stuffed doves, sitting on a motorscooter! I wish I’d brought it, actually. It’s the most weird fucking thing you’ve ever seen in your life. What am I supposed to be doing? It’s the start of Fleming’s stories about James Bond about that time -- these scenic backdrops. Switzerland, that’s a posh country, isn’t it? And motor scooters, well, they’re very hip - people want to look as though they’re successful. it was a working class habit from the kind of working class background I came from. People really got dolled up, even just to go to the pictures. My mother would be horrified if she’d ever seen anyone in a shell suit! It wasn’t about comfort. It was about looking as if you were ‘getting by’. And of course, my sister was the archetype of looking not just as though she was getting by, but … Lord knows what Nora [sounds here like Dora] thought she had to look like, but getting dressed up, that was the thing.

KI: I wanted to broach the subject of your sister, within the book. Because obviously, some of it is ground that you’ve covered, fictionally, in The Trick is To Keep Breathing. Your actual family relationship set up, it's now clear, did to some extent feed into the characters -- even small details like both your sister in This is Not About Me and the character Myra [sister of protagonist Joy Stone in The Trick], both insisting on not taking anything but black coffee for breakfast. Without drawing those ridiculous conclusions you mentioned earlier about immediate transference from one’s life to one’s fiction, how did you feel about addressing this material a second time, knowing that even these small aspects are going to make the link?

JG: Well, as you suggest, it wasn’t consciously drawn upon before. [Myra] was just a someone who happened to be like that, and in many ways was absolutely nothing like my sister. When it came to fessing up that this was actually me writing about my sister, the first thing I felt was incipient danger. She wouldn’t have LIKED it! [laughs] I was always nervous of any - my mother died when I was 26, before I started writing. I only began writing after my mother had died. And my sister died in 2000, and I always felt safe because she didnae read books by women. So my books were of no interest to her, and she was never going to read them. Because she would have said "well, why did you do that?" How people wish to be portrayed. We came from a period where, like the photographs, you wished to be portrayed quite different to how you actually were. Because how you actually were was either a source of shame, or embarrassment - you weren’t good enough, it wasn’t like it was on the telly. It wasn’t like how it was in America. Scotland’s love affair with America! You wanted to look like a rich American, by and large. They styled themselves on American movies and picked up the language: in the West Coast of Scotland women were called ‘babydoll’, although it’s not remotely natural to the area! It’s about looking better than how you actually feel, because how you actually are is poor. I’ve never felt that that was healthy. Some of the excesses of misery into which members of my family were led came from the feeling of not being good enough. There had been too much dressing up, of the psyche, not just of the outer self, and it led to an inability to look at where we actually were in the world. I got my mother a phone, and she only ever spoke on the phone in a Yorkshire accent. Because a Scottish accent was plain. A Yorkshire accent?! What’s going on here? It’s clearly this thing about persona, about exposure. Even her voice wasn’t good enough to expose. I think my mother would have been profoundly uncomfortable about the book because of the facts of her life being open territory. Because it’s embarrassing. This is my line of work, and I am used to the paradoxes of being a writer - as I dare say you are - you’re not being self-revelatory. You’re telling a story. It doesn’t feel like you, and it doesn’t feel like members of your family when you’re writing them down. It must be horrible to have a writer in the family, because they’ve got access to this lovely detachment from things that you could potentially feel personally victimised by. I think she’d feel very uncomfortable, because of the revelation of the poverty she lived in, the difficulty of the marriage, because a huge amount of effort went into plastering everything up, making everything look good. I’m one of a generation who feels that things looking good, is a very double edged sword. Yes, it makes you feel better about yourself temporarily, but if you’re keeping things dark, that might be better said openly because then people could understand your situation and empathise, I mean, they might not. We’re now with a generation of people like yourself who’re probably much easier with taking that risk, and confess about puzzlements, or difficulties. About not having enough money, or not being able to get by, or pregnancy outside of marriage - which used to be such a big fucking deal. I had to explain that to my son. He said ‘what’s the book about?’ and I got to the bit about my sister abandoning her son. He could see that that was a dubious thing to do. I said, well, she probably never wanted to get married, and he said, well, why did she? And you’re stuck for an explanation. It was what you did! It was just what you did! My mother was pregnant when she got married. My granny was pregnant when she got married. Probably my great granny! It was just what you did, and then you made the best of it. This was what you deserved and this was what you carried. It was to do with facing it out. And in many ways I hugely respect that attitude, but I think it can be taken to a point where it becomes self punishment, and I think an awful lot of people have suffered unduly because of the importance of these things that nowadays we don’t place importance on at all. It’s like the Eddie Izzard sketch: being a ‘bastard’ used to be such a big deal. These days we just really don’t get it. That’s a terrific change for the better, that men and women feel less pressurised to push themselves into relationships that just won’t work. And I think [pauses]. I was about to tie that into what I think made up Nora’s psychology, and why she dressed up so hard. But I think that might be a bit facile. But anyway, that character [in The Trick] never was much more than aspects borrowed for the character, as you say. When it actually came round to trying to portray my sister, it was very hard. It’s very easy for me to get into the mentality of me, being small and - I’m likely to be hit any minute. I kept thinking ‘am I writing this down?’ Yes! I’m writing this down. And that’s why it’s called that. I kept telling myself ‘this is not about you. This is not about you protecting your vulnerabilities. This is not about you saying [posh voice] yes, actually I had a very loving childhood, I came from a very loving family, everything was splendid.’ And it was a very loving family in a strange way. Most of them are. There is no such thing as a dysfunctional family - we’re all dysfunctional in some way. This is normal. In many ways, a lot of this is recognisable to other people, so it’s not about me. And if it’s not about you, keep writing it. You’re not personally reliving something, you’re saying to people ‘is this recognisable?’ and there’s a lot of play and jokes in the books about ‘me me me’, because the people round about me were far more interesting than myself. I only realised what a larger than life character my sister actually was, and how admirable parts of the persona she created were -- I only started to realise what a larger than life character my mother was when I started to write about her. So there’s a strangeness in the business of going into things that they might have found embarrassing - too much in the way of self-revelation, far too much in the way of self-revelation - make them bigger and better people in my eyes. Don’t keep it quiet. That makes me think that there’s something to be ashamed of. Is that an answer? It went on for a long time! Ha ha ha!

KI: I know we’ve not got much more time, so I’m just going to jump about with the questions in my head a bit. You’ve said before that a lot of your work is about giving voice to the silenced.

JG: Yeah. People who don’t say much really interest me, and it’s only now that I’ve really worked out why!

KI: And obviously, when you were working on Clara (JG: Oh, GOD!), you were taking on this other person’s life - JG: This big, sprawling life!

KI: - taking in the full comprehension of a person’s a life. And you were very clear when you wrote that book, in saying, this is not a biography, it’s a novel about someone who was once alive. Was the process between the two books in any way the same?

JG: Almost exactly the same! Almost exactly. Apart from -- obviously, I had no personal memories of being Clara Schumann, but that was about the only difference. And in some ways that was no help. It can be a hindrance, in fact. There’s this mythology that it must be easy to write a memoir because it’s just ‘remembering stuff’. Actually, it’s not quite that! There’s a process of rigorous selection goes on, and on top of that, often the person you know least about is yourself. I could find out about Clara Schumann by going to the library. I could read her diaries. I could find out what her father said about her, I could read reviews. I could listen to the music she wrote. [almost indignantly] I have no such resource! For finding out about me. I can’t research ME! I’m shafted! I’m stuck with what I remember and what people have told me all my life - most of which, if you think about what people told you about yourself when you were little - some of it is as forgettable, you want to put it in a closet somewhere and drop it. There’s almost more of that than the stuff which was accurate and helpful and interesting. In many ways it’s more difficult to write about myself. The main challenge with Clara was creating a credible psychology, and much of her behaviour reminded me of things that I knew - and not because they had happened to me. You must know that, of course. It’s not a straight transference like that, but I can fit a psychology for her together quite easily. Robert [Schumann, Clara’s husband], I can create a psychology for by looking at the way friends I have who suffer from at least one of the illnesses Robert suffered from react. Wieck [Clara’s father], I found very easy to get into. Wieck was my granny, basically. Creating credible psychologies for historical characters is easy, it’s just a matter of empathy. You can’t necessarily do that, when you’re dealing with people who are this close to you. Which is one reason why their names have been slightly changed, so that I could unleash my freedom into interpreting their psychologies. Most of us do that to our families, but to a limited degree. We often doubt that they’re the ones who know themselves best, we think that we see things in them that they don’t see. But they’re still alive, so you don’t -- there’s no way you could just sort of bang this information down, about someone who was there to contest it, there to be hurt by it or upset by it. Or unless you had - like Stevie Smith, who used to get into terrible trouble. She would just write down whatever her friends were up to, wouldn’t even bother to change their names -

KI: - and then call it a novel -

JG: [choking on laughter] Yes! yes! It’s an extraordinary commitment to what the story needs. Well, I had that commitment to what the story needed, but I still needed that bit of assistance in giving it as much distance as I felt was valuable. I didn’t just want to make it about [sighs] about me. I wanted to make it -- in all the writing I’ve done so far, I’ve always wanted the people to be representative of everybody, in some regard. There ought to be something, in these people, that people recognise, have felt. It’s not about me. This is a portrait of childhood, in some regards, about the confusions that come across, about that process of trying to work out where you are, about the ghastly realisation when you work out you’ve got something wrong, and you’ve been under a misapprehension for a few years about what that was about, or you’ve been told lies, even when those lies were designed to protect you. The things you don’t work out until much later. So I hoped it was about all sorts of things. It’s also about a Scotland at that particular time in history, about a Britain at that time, while all sorts of social upheavals were going on, and what they led to. Something I’m going to look at in the next book, something which happened when I was a teenager, was the sudden emergence of reliable contraception. That changed EVERYBODY’S life. I can’t tell you how much that changed everybody’s life. That was partly what stopped the pregnancies leading into marriage, put an end to these miserable marriages. But I can still remember what it was like before then, all these odd, odd self-punishing rules that people lived by. And so it’s about them, it’s about that time, it’s about how we live our childhoods. It’s about all these things, and the least thing it is about is me. Not only that, but I lived with two extremely charismatic people - and my father was charismatic, too - I was the least interesting member of the family, and so that last person I’d want to write this book about is me!

KI: I noticed that when you were talking about thinking yourself back under the table, you referred to yourself in the third person -

JG: Did I? I didn’t even notice that!

KI: Yes - ‘how small she was’!

JG: Wow! Well, if you’re gonna write it down, if I’m thinking ‘I could go under that table and fit in there’, I’d just feel like an idiot. I need to have a reason for doing that, and the reason was, I was a character in a story. I’m not that age any more. Those people aren’t alive any more. So this is a reconstruction job. It’s like Robert and Clara and Wieck, it’s not that different, I just can’t research these people.

KI: There’s a bit where you realise that your sister was, you know, loved by people and not just this-

JG: Yeah, it gave me a real shock! [laughter] And a lot of people came to her funeral. A lot of people remember her fondly. She was … a force of nature. And I can respect that now. At that time she had a temper. She was this peculiar, glamorous, monster. [shrieks outside] - and those are the noises I associate with my sister. She was both fascinating and she was frightening. Maybe frightening people are always fascinating, I don’t know. I found my dad fascinating, too, maybe because I was trying to think, where is this coming from? What is this about? My mother drew much less attention, but the more I focussed on her, the more I became fascinated by her, too. She was involved in a massive series of cover-ups, one after the other, including about my sister’s background, which I only found out later … but this is book two! Yeah, people liked my sister.

KI: There are going to be more books, then?

JG: It was only supposed to be one. It was only supposed to be one, and then, it was like what happened with Clara. Clara was supposed to be this lady’s whole life, and then I became so fascinated by the minutiae that I couldn't let that stuff go, so it started to expand, and I had to stop it half way through the lady's life. This was supposed to be about me until the age of nineteen, for a very particular plotting reason - also because my own son is coming up to that watershed of leaving, and I was the first member of the family to go to university - I don't know what your own family background is like, but it's a big deal when the first member of your family goes to uni. And that was going to be the natural watershed, but I got so interested in, you know, cloth that had Sputniks printed on it, and bobby socks, that I got to what I thought was the natural halfway point of that material and I had to chop it off there. I hope that there will only be two books. I'll have to, yes, I really have to severely discipline myself to end it where it's supposed to.

KI: Well, I know you have to rush off now, so I think that's enough.

JG: Thank you, that's very thoughtful. It's been a pleasure.

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