The author who brought us the ripping 19th-century yarns (and TV
sensations) Tipping the Velvet, Affinity and Fingersmith, before
taking on the wrecked lives of postwar London in The Night Watch,
may have contributed the bulk of the recent lesbian canon, but she
sees herself as a slow writer.
Speaking the day after being granted the freedom of the City of
London, Sarah Waters is as charming and unassuming as ever. Since
her Booker-shortlisted ghost story The Little Stranger spooked us
all in 2009, she has been working hard on her next novel.
DIVA: What's the new book about?
Sarah Waters: It's very much a lesbian story and
that's been really nice to get back to. I loved writing The Little
Stranger but I did miss a bit of lesbian romance. [She chuckles.]
So this has got a lot of that.
Our readers will be delighted.
It's full of lesbian passion and angst! It has quite a small cast
- my two main women and the characters around them. It's set in
London in the early 1920s, which is a new period for me, so that's
needed lots of lovely research. It's a fascinating time, not unlike
the post-WW2 world - a postwar London, still in recovery.
But I don't yet know how it's going to end. Normally I like to
have the whole thing plotted out at the start but for this book I'm
just letting it go where it wants to go.
How does that feel?
Unnerving at times. I feel like maybe I've made very basic wrong
decisions and I'll never be able to pull it together again. But it
still feels right for this book.
So you've plotted out every book in the
Some more precisely than others. With a book like Fingersmith, it
was so complicated that I had to have everything mapped out. But
with The Night Watch, which was more emotional, I did have the
basic structure but the writing process was figuring out exactly
how my characters felt.
I'm probably two thirds or three quarters of the way through this
new one. The further you get into it, the more confident you get:
the first year or two are fairly exploratory and then the book
gathers momentum. So I'm hoping that this year will be a really
productive one and see me close to finishing it. I'm redrafting as
I go along.
Read the rest of this interview in the July 2012 issue on
DIVA on sale 7 June.
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PHOTO: Charlie Hopkinson