I am delighted to be able to share with you my exclusive interview with Marion Husband, author of Now the Day is Over.
Having read the book and gushed about it to all my friends (click here to see my review), I was over the moon to get the opportunity to learn a little more about the woman behind the words.
About the author
Marion Husband is a prize-winning author of poetry, short stories and novels, including the best-selling trilogy The Boy I Love, All the Beauty of the Sun and Paper Moon. She has an MA in Creative Writing and has taught creative writing for many years for the Open University and has lectured on Creative Writing MA courses in Newcastle and Teesside Universities. Marion is married with two grown up children and lives in Norton in the Tees Valley. Her sixth novel, Now the Day is Over, was published in October 2014.
To start with can you tell us a little bit about your most recent book, Now the Day is Over?
Now the Day is Over is a ghost story set between the present day and 1920. Unusually for me, this novel is told by one person – Edwina, a ghost. She is omnipresent – knows everything about everybody: an eye-of-god narrator, just the type of narrator I would discourage my creative writing students from using – too experimental, too liable to go wrong for all the questions the style begs: how does she know? Is she making up stories or telling the truth? But I did want to experiment with this novel, to toss it all up in the air. Now the Day is Over is also a love story, but is also about guilt, grief and suspicion. Edwina – the ghost – was a nurse during the First World War. She haunts the present-day house of Gaye and David (the house was once hers) and tells the story of their unhappy marriage, gradually telling her own story, too.
Where did your inspiration come from to write a book like this?
My inspiration for Now the Day is Over was the First World War and how men and woman survived the war’s aftermath. But I’m also inspired by places: the Victorian houses I grew up in; my home town of Stockton with all its cemeteries and parks and churches, its High Street and backstreets. Inspiration is a nebulous thing, I think; for me it comes mainly from what I’ve just written, whether the character is becoming interesting or not. I have given up on other novels because I’ve failed to convince myself that the characters are entertaining enough to keep me writing.
And what about Edwina? Can you give us an insider insight into your main character?
Edwina, the ghost, is mad: she was maddened by her childhood, by the war and by her marriage, but mainly by her brother who was also maddened by his childhood and his experiences in the trenches. Edwina never truly grew up – her mother’s death when Edwina was five petrified her – she remained that frightened child even as she nursed seriously wounded and dying men during the war. The reader has to decide if Edwina is mad or bad, a liar – a story-teller – or someone with special powers of mindreading…But then, she is a ghost and I have invented my own version of what ghosts can and cannot do.
How much research went into Now the Day is over? Does research play a large part in your writing process?
I researched Now the Day is Over by reading diaries and autobiographies of 1st World War nurses. I read many, many books about the war itself, including novels and poetry – research is about knowing your subject, looking things up when you have to. There are facts you must get right, the rest is interpretation.
Who is your intended audience for this book?
My audience? – everyone (although I know my own audience is largely women and gay men) – those men and women who read a lot, so much in fact to have come across someone as obscure as me. My honest answer re who my audience is? Me. I write to entertain myself.
The cover of the book is an interesting one. Who designed your cover? Why did you choose this particular image?
The cover was designed by me – I wanted a picture of an angel standing over a grave in an over-grown cemetery – the kind of cemetery I played in as a child where there was an angel just like the one depicted – it would scare my brothers and me to death. The image came out as rather more glossy than I would have liked…Covers are problematic in my experience.
Do you have any interesting or fun facts about your most recent book you would be willing to share with us?
An interesting fact about the book – Edwina was originally Edward – my agent told me to change the sex as he thought I shouldn’t write another novel about gay men…
Edwina started out as Edward! I let that fact bounce around in my head for a little bit before moving on to some more general questions about Marion as a writer.
Which writers inspire you?
Writers who inspire me: Julian Barnes; Pat Barker; George Orwell (very much so); Sarah Waters; Hilary Mantel (the best living writer); Margaret Atwood; Philip K Dick. Too many to mention, really.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It takes me less than a year to write a novel – sometimes only three months. But afterwards there are the months and months of rewriting and despair.
How do you deal with the dreaded writer’s block?
I have writers’ block now – no ideas, no inspiration, nowt. I am not dealing with it now, but I used to deal with it simply by writing. I used to think there was no such thing as a block, but I was young then and on a roll…
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
If I have a writing quirk it’s trying too hard to be playful (a contradiction in terms?) I like flourishes and embellishments, allowing one thought to lead to another – a stream of consciousness, which is what Edwina’s narrative is, I think. I hope I won’t put off anyone reading Now the Day by saying this – I’m very definitely not James Joyce; I just like messing around with ways of describing a thing or conveying an emotion.
As a reviewer, I’ve noticed reviews tend to be a bit of a mixed bag, and often authors are less than happy to hear about potential problems in their work. What are your feelings towards good and bad reviews?
Good reviews buck me up for a few hours; bad reviews confirm all my own thoughts about my writing. On balance, though, it’s a bit like Kipling said – good or bad – Triumph or Disaster – both are imposters and for me they tend to cancel each other out.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
To aspiring writers I would say write a lot – a very great deal – write and write and write. But also read – read more than you write and soak it all up. I would say that you can only get good at something if you practice for many, many hours, but you also need feedback from a trusted source…In essence, write grammatically correct sentences and make sure your syntax is elegant, interesting and strong. Go easy on adjectives and adverbs; make sure the verb fits the action.
And finally, how can readers discover more about you and you work?
Discover more about my work on amazon, where all my books are for sale and where there are reviews and synopsis. Also I have a website – http://www.marionhusband.com, but it doesn’t always work properly, like me, and so I have a Goodreads Author page where all my blogs are. I also twitter links to blogs and reviews: @marionhusband.
Marion’s Latest book Now the Day is Over is available to buy direct from the publisher, Sacristy Press, or from Amazon for those outside of the UK. If this interview has piqued your interest be sure to check her out, you won’t be disappointed. I have another of her books sitting waiting on my bedside table, so there will be more to come from me too. Watch this space!
Many thanks to Marion for taking the time to talk with me.