Twice The Speed Of Dark by Lulu Allison
A mother and daughter circle each other, bound by love, separated by fatal violence.
Dismayed by the indifference she sees in the news to people who die in distant war and terror, Anna writes portraits of the victims, trying to understand the real impact of their deaths.
Meanwhile Anna’s daughter, killed by a violent boyfriend, tells her own story from the perplexing realms of death, reclaiming herself from the brutality.
Anna’s life is stifled by heartache; it is only through these acts of love for strangers that she allows herself an emotional connection to the world.
Can Anna free herself from the bondage of grief and find a connection to her daughter once more?
Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?
A) Until I started writing this book in 2013 I had been an artist for most of my life. I exhibited my own work and also was involved with many collaborative projects as an artist. I have always been a big reader and passionate lover of books, but it didn’t occur to me that I would ever write one myself. Partly because I have the attention span of a magpie – very easily distracted by something new and shiny. Most of my work as an artist was temporary, quick to achieve, transitory. I like things that I could flick in and out of, without being tied down to a long period of commitment….
It was an art project that tricked me into writing a whole book. I had been thinking about the way news reports things differently depending on where the victims come from. British victims of terror were given much more time and care than those in Iraq or Afghanistan. So I began a project with the aim of challenging this. To think of those distant victims as real people whose deaths mattered, I wrote portraits of them, imagining the people they had been.
And I was hooked. It is one of the central aspects of Twice the Speed of Dark. Anna, the main character, is brittle, lonely, bound by unresolved grief. Her daughter was killed by a violent boyfriend. Anna’s life was thrown into disarray. In the wild anger of the months after the death and after the court case that convicted the killer with manslaughter, she was horrified to see how little attention people gave to the death of her only child. In searching the news she sees all the other unnamed dead, victims of terror in distant lands passed over as a mere tally of casualties. She starts to write portraits.
The book is the story of Anna’s struggle with the grief that has trapped her for so long. It is also the story of Caitlin, her daughter, who, from the dark realms of death, tells of how she became trapped in a violent relationship. It is in the end too, a book about love.
Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?
A) It took a year, mostly of rejections from agents and a major redrafting before I found and was accepted by Unbound. Some of the agents were incredibly generous about my writing, but even the ones who loved it didn’t feel they would be able to place it with a publisher. Luckily, having been involved with art all of my life, I am well versed in understanding that rejection, though it can be dampening and dreary, is part of the job. Literary fiction is not the genre that shifts units, and that’s ok. I am so thrilled, however, that innovative publishers like Unbound have come along to re-populate the territory that has been recently abandoned by traditional publishers, as some of us still love it!
Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?
A) It is difficult to answer this question without siting an author who rarely disappoints rather than the one whose individual books have blown me away, but an author who rarely disappoints is Ian McKewan – though I have a deal of catching up to do on his more recent books.
I absolutely love A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride and
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack. Both use language so utterly beautifully – but so that it is a tool of what they want to express, not just a showcase of their skill. The language has more than a formal beauty, it becomes a vehicle into interior worlds and profound, complex feelings. Two brilliant books.
Another non-fiction writer I love is Nick Tosches, who writes, loosely, about the American south. He wrote biographies of Sonny Liston (Night Train) and Gerry Lee Lewis (Hellfire) that I absolutely loved.
Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?
A) My first favourite book was King Arthur and the Round Table by Alice M. Hadfield, given to me by my grandpa, along with some small plastic knights to play with! I loved it, but was so baffled and upset that Lancelot and Guinevere had to ruin things in a way that, as a child, I couldn’t really grasp..!
As a teenager I loved E.M. Forster, the gentle optimism and what seemed like a hope for the human spirit, weighed down by the foolish expectations of society. Humanely romantic, if a little heavily Empire era.
And here is a question: I read a Puffin book, I think it was in translation from Polish. It was certainly set in Poland, I think during World War Two. There were three or four boys, and they may have been helping someone hide from the occupying Germans. There was a mill where they would meet up. The cover had a painting that I remember as being Stanley Spencer-esque. I can’t remember what it was called, but would love to find it again – any clues anyone?
Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?
A) It is still a very new thing so I don’t have many experiences to go on. All of them have been fantastic and weirdly dreamy. Today, being official publication day, I will have the book launch; my daughter Lilian is a wonderful dance and spoken word artist and she has made a performance based on the words of Caitlin in Twice the Speed of Dark. I cannot wait to see that – I will report back!
Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?
A) One of the best resources an Unbound author has is the other Unbound authors. We gather on our Facebook page to whinge and wa-hay in equal measure. It is wonderful to have access to more experienced writers. And it is also great to have a place to moan, when you’ve already banged on until your partner is sick of hearing it, about how difficult x is or how unfathomable y is.
I don’t know how I would’ve coped without friends and family and my husband Pierre.
LA: Thank you for these questions Abby!
Lulu Allison studied at Central St Martin’s School of Art. She then travelled and lived abroad for a number of years, playing in bands in New Zealand, teaching scuba diving in Fiji, making spectacle hinges in a factory in Germany before settling in Brighton. She exhibited her art and worked as a community artist for Towner Gallery and Fabrica Gallery whilst raising two children.
In 2013 what began as an art project took her into writing and she unexpectedly discovered what she should have been doing all along. The art project became Twice the speed of Dark, which on completion, was taken up by Unbound and published in the autumn of 2017.
Twice the Speed of Dark is her first novel. She is currently writing a second called Wetlands.
*Thank you for taking part in the Q&A on my blog, I wish you every success with your writing career.