Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sarah Pinborough Interview (with Charles Tan)

Sarah Pinborough

Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. What is it about the concept of family that made you decide to write "The Language of Dying"?

I wrote The Language of Dying as a kind of cathartic process - and also so certain memories wouldn't be lost to me as time went by. Although the piece is a work of fiction, I drew heavily on experiences I had when a friend of mine came to stay with me when he was dying. The last week was quite awful but also a fascinating family study. I think this 'waiting for someone to die' is a terrible time, especially as with each day that passes that person often becomes so much less like the person you knew. I think we all worry we won't remember the real person and only the unrecognisable mask of illness - but I've found that when I remember that particular friend now I always see him when he was whole and healthy. This makes me happy. I think he'd have been very pleased with the novella and that makes me happy too.

Your novella is unlike anything I've ever read before--and I mean that in a good way. What were the challenges in writing such a story, especially for the novella-length?

I knew that the subject matter was too emotionally strong perhaps for a full-length novel, and didn't have a huge amount of action in it, and so it was natural that it would become a novella. I'd never written one before (or since in fact) but I was pleased with that length. The challenges involved were mainly personal and stylistic. I chose the first person/second person present tense because I felt it fitted that sense of living in the moment that comes towards the end of a life and I also wanted the power to be behind the words as it were. I didn't want too much description but went for, what I hope is, really clean prose. Some things are weakened by too much description and I didn't want to patronise any reader who may have been in the same situation at some point.

Your second to the last paragraph, in my opinion, is very important as it makes a drastic impact on your story. What made you decide to include this scene?

I just had to go and have a quick read to see which you meant! I think the story was always heading to that point right from the start. I can't remember exactly why I included it now as is always the way a couple of years after you wrote something, but i think I wanted to create a sense of terrible liberation and freedom. It's up to the reader to decide whether it's a good thing or a bad thing.

1 comment:

Danel said...

This sounds like a very involving and moving book, filled with human understanding, and suggests the wide range that Sarah Pinborough has.

Cheers and a good luck wish to Sarah for the Shirley Jackson Awards!