One of the most unsettling things about 'Monologue' is its long silences, in which the man sits alone, staring into the middle distance, without grip of his narrative, lost to the past.
Being published is a bit like being entered into a race you don't even want to run, but, once running, can't help but not want to lose.
Socrates was famously executed for his philosophical and political beliefs. I wondered what would happen if you had a similar character, who was so relentlessly questioning of everything? In a modern society, would we be any more or any less tolerant of that kind of character?
With twenty six letters, you can create anything you like – any person, any world, any place, any emotion. And they are so potent, so powerful, and at the same time, they're marks on the page, and that's all. There's nothing else to them.
I'm just fascinated by the past. You know, both by the possibilities it holds and by the complete tyranny of it, the way it sort of keeps you in this stranglehold and makes you want things that you no longer have and you can never get back.
I think we often live at a surface level, and that ends up with us in a lot of difficulty because we just function on assumptions and secondhand knowledge.
Monologues are self-verifying and self-referencing, a world in their own right, one with its own internal logic that strengthens with reiteration.
With 'All Is Song,' I tried to construct a very traditional narrative that pulls no tricks.
As the U.S., much of Europe, and the U.K. shift toward the political right, the rhetoric grows more insular, defensive, and protective.
When there's change, and people fear things, they become more dogmatic in their views. They lash out: you can see it in the media, scapegoating and penal sentencing.
There are many ways to go about a story. And if you give yourself some formal constraints, it just makes the job so much – maybe 'easier' isn't the right word, but because you know your boundaries, you can just play within those boundaries much more, so it's much more fun to do.
The sense of one's past is so strong and forms our sense of self so strongly, it will always fascinate, elude and confuse me.
It's quite difficult to write about female friendship without it seeming to be a very niche subject. It's a difficult balance.
The Japanese have different words for love. To them, it's plain weird that we love spaghetti and love our children and love our lovers, all with the same word, when surely the thing being described as love is radically different in each case.
When we fall in love, we feel that this person is ours and we are theirs by our mutual volition, and we know they could leave – we know that because they are free, and their freedom is part of the thrill.
The past is open to all sorts of magical possibilities because it can't be verified. It's as we make it, so it seems to be entirely free. It seems to be completely up for grabs. But of course it's not.
Common perceptions of female friendships are morning coffees discussing children, bags, periods and agreeing about the misdemeanours of men… mild, soft, nurturing relationships.
Down on the ground, we seem to do anything but make lengthy, robust monologues. We can communicate in an instant almost anywhere. Gone is the slow old letter – itself a monologue, a sort of considered performance of best self – and in its place is the e-mail, the text, the SMS, the tweet.
I made a decision when I started writing 'All is Song' to take the compliments I had for 'The Wilderness' and try to be confident and not overwhelmed by it.
I conceived 'All Is Song' as a modernised, loosely interpreted version of Socrates's life.
What I always liked about Socrates was his insistence on questioning things for the sake of reaching some sort of clarity – even if it is only clarity about the gaps in our knowledge.
My sister is my sister regardless – has always been and always will be and has no choice about it. This is a love quite distinct from that of a lover, with whom we fall in love, in part, because they are free and have a choice.
One of the things the novel can do is address big questions in ways that are accessible to people. It's not that I want to teach people, but these are the things that interest me, and this is my medium for exploring ideas, and I think the potential of novels to do that is massive.
We use the same possessive pronouns for everything, but do we own our lives or sisters or husbands in the same way we own our shoes? Do we own any of them at all?
Socrates, after all, could be an intensely annoying man, all the time questioning passers-by until they became exasperated.
We see book-burning as a crime against humanity: it's intolerable because books represent a kind of freedom to us.