Chaired by Jackie McGlone
As readers we are not told the exact year the book is set in, however in the age of Google it is easy to work out. This is mainly due to the fact that the demolition of Penn Station is happening throughout the novel and thus we can tell it is set in 1963. Patrick commented that this was mainly due to luck. As a writer you occasionally stumble across a fact which features perfectly within the novel. People were still using Penn Station as it was being demolished, this is a perfect symbol for destruction that was present in New York. At that time New York was very much a city in decay, there was also a lot of tension in the atmosphere throughout the city. It was an exciting time in New York but at that time the city was not a tidy or very safe place to be.
Jackie picked up on the narrative of the novel and how Patrick does not do alternative chapters for the narrators. He stated that he is reluctant to be predictable and ultimately have a symmetrical novel. At times, it just felt right to let the characters go with it and this could end up being a couple of chapters.
At this point Bring up the Bodies up the Bodies was mentioned, it is the novel that Patrick is reading at the moment. He drew similarities between the female characters present within the novel and how he wanted Constance to be cool, powerful, withdrawn but intelligent. He did point out that Bring up the Bodies did not influence the book and this is the first time he is reading it. Patrick always like his main female characters to be strong woman who are ultimately up against a male power. Their personality is formed from the trauma within them, they have experienced deep, deep pain.
Patrick’s father was a forensic psychiatrist and he loved to talk about his work with his children round the dinner table. He worked in the largest top security mental hospital in the UK. A lot of the patients where convicted of murder but found not guilty by reason of insanity. His fathers talked about his patients’ with a lot of sympathy. He grew up with the message that it wasn’t the patients fault that they done what they done, they were there to get better. This has evoked a fascination of the extreme states that human nature can face through mental illness and this is a really good starting point for a novelist.
Time for some audience questions
How do you name your characters?
When you are going to live with the character, it needs to be name you are going to be able to live with everyday. Always try multiple names before finding the one that sticks.
It was pointed out by an audience member that Hilary Mantel is quoted on the back of Constance, singing its praise. When this was pointed out, Patrick seemed a bit taken a back and looked at his own copy of the book to see if this was true.
What is your attitude to being labelled as Gothic fiction?
Early on in his writing career, Patrick resisted this label and didn’t want to be labelled as gothic fiction. However over time he has grown more accustomed to it and it did seem a suitable way to describe the fiction he was writing.
While doing research for a book, Patrick came across two physiologists named Abraham and Torok. They proposed that the trauma suffered by a parent could in turn be suffered by the child. It is a traumatic infection that haunts the child. Even though they have never suffered any physiological trauma the child still experiences pain. It is called a crypt and what is inside the crypt is a phantom. This phantom is all the parent’s experiences and memories of the traumatic event. This is a large clue to why Constance is they way she is.
How much of your novel comes spontaneously?
First 100 pages is already thought out and is part of the original thinking of the book. Then you hit the point where you run out of steam and ask yourself where this novel must go next? Sometimes as a writer you have no idea were the book is going to take you. Some of it is easy and some of it is appallingly difficult.
Do your stories reflect something challenging that is happening in your own life at the time?
As the story you are writing starts to pick up momentum and everything that is going on around you is relevant. You find yourself constantly scribbling things on envelopes and putting them on your desk. Life does not determine the course of the story, everything that captures your attention has a place within the story.
At this point the discussion was brought to an end.