An Australian who settled in Scotland, an Irishwoman who lives Canada, another Australian with Greek heritage and a Brazilian with worldwide appeal.
The Woolf: Is there a book you were supposed to love but didn’t? And which book did you expect to hate but didn’t?
Helen: I can’t say it! Everyone loves that book. OK, I’ve never actually read To Kill A Mocking Bird. I pick it up, look at the first page but can’t get drawn in. Yes, my husband keeps telling me what a brilliant book it is, but …
As for a book I unexpectedly loved, The Rapist, by Les Egerton. It’s not got a publisher yet. I wondered if I should refuse to read it, imagining what my feminist friends would say, but the voice is so dark and fascinating. It takes you inside the head of a rapist.
The Woolf: Which was the book that changed your life?
Emma: Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion taught me what should have been obvious, that I could be an out lesbian and a great writer at the same time.
The Woolf: I’ve just finished Dead Europe. You wrote that before The Slap and the structure in terms of voices, points-of-view and tone are very different. Didn’t you have 13 different voices in the first version of The Slap?
Christos: Yes. Part of getting to the narrative voices in The Slap came from the experience of doing Dead Europe. That novel works by alternating between Isaac’s story and an almost fable-like structure, which come from my father’s storytelling. He has a vampire in his village, for example. His stories used to terrify me as a child. As I tried to find a voice to communicate these stories, I simply discovered the pleasure of writing outside my narcissistic self.
The Woolf: Interviews often show more of the interviewer than the interviewee. What question would you want to ask our readers, all of whom are writers?
Paulo: Writing is a socially acceptable form of getting naked in public. Are you taking off your clothes?