Emily Hunter - Interview
Interview with Emily Hunter
We asked Emily some questions about her and her novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses.
The story grips the reader from the first moment - how did you achieve that?
The protagonists - the adulterous lovers - meet in the first chapter. I knew this meeting had to be electrifying and I hope I achieved that. One of the few glimmers of humour occurs at the end of the first chapter and lifts the reader straight into the second. Beyond that, I tried to think of what not to say to keep the reader's appetite whetted. And little observations pose big questions.
How did you write the different narrative voices?
Yes, the book is divided into "Him" and "Her" sections with each of the protagonists narrating their own parts. I enjoyed entering each of their minds to convey their characters to the reader and writing the same story from the male and female perspective was fascinating. It became even more interesting as the story progressed because a central theme of the book is how the characters change as a result of their interactions with each other; but each character changes in a different way, congruous to the way they are built up originally. So really it was a natural progression, and one that I hope adds to the interest of the book.
The novel has a prominent religious theme; are you religious?
The novel does look at religion - mainly Christianity - but I'm not trying to convert anyone, one way or the other. We have all thought about religion at some point, and I simply wanted to pose questions that perhaps readers have asked themselves before - to reignite their curiosity. Much like Hannah does in the book. So I'm not going to answer the question directly, but I think my views are quite evident by the end of the novel.
How did you get the idea?
The book opens with the hero - if that's the right word - coming across a dog in a deserted street on Guy Fawkes night; the dog was scared by fireworks. He finds the dog's identification tag and takes it to the owner. This is when the protagonists meet in the story. This happened to me. The idea formed between me finding the dog and knocking on its owner's door.
I wrote the first chapter that week, and then it lay dormant for many months until I suddenly had a few weeks between jobs when I finished it. By that stage I had formulated the rest of the story in my head.
They say your first novel is often the most autobiographical; do you agree?
This is my second novel, and the first lies locked in a box in a locked drawer; yes, I agree! It was good to get the first out of my system though. Aside from the first page or two of Forgive Us Our Trespasses, there's nothing autobiographical about it. Some authors have argued that as an author one is necessarily limited to one's experiences which is true to a small degree, but I prefer to think I am limited by my imagination. Research, of course, is a different matter.
If anyone is ever interested enough, I might be persuaded to publish my first novel; but I'm not sure whether it'll appear on the shelves as fiction or autobiography!
How do you write?
Apart from the initial chapter, the first draft of which I wrote in a notebook several years ago, I wrote Forgive Us Our Trespasses in four weeks, straight through, on a laptop. Although I had the plot mapped out mentally, setting down those thoughts is the tricky part. But once I'd done so, I printed it out and scribbled on it and typed it up, probably making a few more amendments as I went. My editor did the same, and a few weeks before the first proof was printed I made some final manuscript amendments which were taken into the final version. I find that if what I write doesn't come out more or less correct the first time, the easiest way to improve it is to start again.
What are you working on at the moment?
Every few weeks I have an idea for a novel or short story. I've written thirty or so short stories. I find them very satisfactory to write because the end seems achievable when the idea is first envisaged; novels take longer so I have to be more choosey and mull over my ideas more before I put finger to keyboard. So without answering the question in the way you want, I will just say I'm working on something!
What good books have you read recently?
I really enjoyed Diving Belles by Lucy Wood - a series of short stories, all slightly unnerving but brilliantly conceived. She's also from the South West, and I noticed some similarities with Forgive Us Our Trespasses. It was one of those books I wish I'd written. I have not met Lucy, but I think she's a name to look out for. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent is a great debut and I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for anything else she writes.
My favourite book of all time is Anna Karenina; Tolstoy is so wonderfully perceptive. Even a hundred and thirty-odd years after he wrote it, in a society he couldn't possibly have recognised, his observations and social commentary ring so true. These are the marks of a true literary master.