Q&A with @JoannaBriscoe Author of #touched


To celebrate the release of touched , Go Book yourself is honored to bring you a Q&A with the author Joanna Briscoe!

A huge thanks you goes to Joanna for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer these questions.

- Can you tell us a little about the quaint English town in Touched, was it inspired by a real location?

Yes, Crowsley Beck is loosely based on Letchmore Heath, which is very near London but is a 'proper' picture perfect English village. So it's now a very rich commuter village, as far as I can see, but it wasn't like that when I lived there. I was born in London, but my parents moved to the village until I was four. Though I moved then, I had an almost photographic memory of the village, of every little lane, of the lay-out of our house. When I returned for the first time a couple of years ago, I was somewhat spooked to see that the memories were correct. The basics in the novel are the same - the green, the war memorial, the pretty cottages - but then I had a worrying outlying house, a nuclear power station, a school for disabled children, and other touches that are just invention. 'The Village of the Damned' was also filmed in this village, and the Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw grew up there and I remember him when we were very young children. I thought this very very pretty village would be a good setting for a ghost story.

- Compared with your previous novels, touched seems quite dark. Did you enjoy the change? Did you find it challenging to write with a paranormal twist?

You know, I actually think all my novels are dark at heart. I just go very deep and dark and into the psyche and discover things I had no idea were there. Skin and Sleep With Me, and in fact You, are all really quite disturbing at some level, while having lighter touches. Perhaps my first novel, Mothers and Other Lovers, is less so. The paranormal twist came quite naturally to me, but I was keeping it too subtle at first, and had to really bring that element out. It's something I enjoyed exploring and can imagine returning to.

- Rowena seems very indifferent towards Eva compared to her other children. Can you elaborate on how her feelings seem to differ for each child.

Rowena loves Eva but finds her very difficult, and is mystified by her. I think parents' feelings do differ for each child, but that doesn't mean the level of love does. The beautiful child Jennifer is favoured by the world, simply for her beauty, and even her own mother is somewhat under its spell. Her twin Rosemary is pretty much in the background - overshadowed by Jennifer's astonishing looks. Eva is the most complex character, the most challenging, but I do think her mother loves her - though her reaction to her disappearance is worryingly casual. I sense a kind of giving up on Rowena's part, and certainly Rowena's husband gives Eva a very hard time. Then there is Bob, the only boy, who is seen as somewhat special within the family merely for being a boy. And Caroline, who is always just 'baby Caroline'. I think Rowena loves them all but feels utterly overwhelmed as a mother of so many, with a husband who has his own problems. I have sympathy with Rowena as a character, as I like her, but she is very troubled. 

- Touched has many different themes that run throughout. Did you find it difficult to manage all of these different threads to create a satisfying ending?

Yes, I packed quite a lot into a shortish novel. I think it's vital to tie up plot threads. The main difficulty was the order in which the revelations should come. My editor Selina Walker helped a lot with the ending, and suggested timing changes. I wrote the novel so intensely that I could keep on top of the strands as I was writing them, whereas usually it's harder to keep everything in the air. 

- What's next for you as an author?

Well I'm in the middle of a longer novel. Actually, further along than that. It is set in London, in a particularly gloomy location that has lots of potential... and features someone who is not as she seems... and there's much agony, big love and strangeness going on. If I spell it out more than that, the danger is I won't write it! But today is Touched's day, so apart from doing this, I'm pretty much taking the day off.... I feel proud of this novel, and the publishers did a really lovely job with the look of it.

About the Author

Joanna Briscoe was born in London but grew up in various villages in the West Country, attending six different schools. When she was ten, her family settled on Dartmoor, where she started to write. She had completed two children’s novels and one adult novel and collected dozens of publishers’ rejection letters in a scrapbook by the time she left school.

Rebelling against an excessively rural childhood, she went to University College London to read English, and then lived in Bloomsbury, central London, for most of her adult life. On graduating, she got a job writing and editing on Girl About Town magazine, and went freelance after a year.

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