What was the starting point of Peach and what came first, the language or the story or something else?
Peach started with a beat. I was frustrated, uninspired, tired and due to submit 4000 words of a novel for my creative writing class at university. I was listening to music with my eyes closed and I began to write the feeling of frustration, frustration turned to fear, fear to desperation and then an image of a girl. And suddenly I had Peach. When I read what I had written and realised how image driven it was, I knew that she was not just a girl, not in a normal world. The story came later. I had to turn in a synopsis with my 4000 words and I thought: 'this is pretty crazy to begin with, I may as well go the whole way.'
In your acknowledgements you thank some people for helping you to ‘remain creatively free’. Was this a struggle for you? Have you been worried about how the more violent elements of the story and the breaking of taboos might be received?
I feel strongly that an individual’s art should never be compromised. I wrote Peach selfishly, for the love of writing, never anticipating that it would be read by anyone other than a handful of people. I was aware that it was quite different to mainstream or commercial fiction. I am pleased that so little was changed during the editing process and that the story has retained its authenticity.
I have some anxiety around the violence in the book and how it may upset or be a barrier for some readers.
Your book takes risks on different levels. How conscious was this?
I set out to experiment with language and form; the whole novel is driven by this, but my awareness of the themes that have emerged was essentially non-existent.
You play with language in a way that is reminiscent of Ali Smith, Eimear McBride and Max Porter. How much of this is instinctive and how much created in the rewriting phase?
I began writing the novel in 2008. At the time, I was reading Gertrude Stein and James Joyce. I was inspired by the risks they took. The tone was instinctive, every line was laid down, re-read, re-written, re-read and I would not move on until I was happy with the placement of words and punctuation. I was meticulous and driven in this and I ignored everything else.
Peach says, ‘Let’s pretend this never happened’. Do you feel women are still reluctant to step forwards and report sexual assault and rape?
I think things are improving for women who are victims of sexual assault and more women are speaking up, but I think there is still fear of judgment and stigmatisation. I hope things continue to improve.
Though not violent or aggressive, Dad and Mam are horrific in their self-obsession and neglect. Why was it important for Peach to be so isolated, with only Green to support her?
It was important to me that she reached rock-bottom. I wanted to express hopelessness and helplessness as sharply as I could. But I don’t believe they are entirely neglectful. There is love and tenderness there. I wanted her to have nowhere to turn so that she could exact her revenge in a way that was instinctive to her.
Was it important to you to go against the grain by not allowing for some neat resolution, some optimistic ending?
Yes. I wanted the reader to be left with questions and sadness. I find the books and movies that stay with me the longest are the ones that have loose ends.
How does your writing sit alongside your job as a children’s nurse? Was it hard co-existing in the darkness of your story while bringing the required lightness and hope to the wards?
Fulfilment for me is about balance. I feel so lucky to have a job that I love, where I feel useful and where I can connect with children and families and make a difference to their lives, but I also feel lucky to have a creative outlet. I try to keep my work and writing as separate as possible, but I can’t help but take inspiration from my work. I meet and work alongside incredible, dedicated and inspiring people.
What made you not pursue writing as a career having studied Literature and Creative Writing, and what made you decide to write this book now?
I graduated in the midst of a recession. I’ve always loved writing but I never truly believed I had enough talent or skill to work full-time as a writer. There was a lack of opportunity for me when I finished university. I wrote the first half of Peach in the spring/summer of 2008. I didn’t go back to it fully until 2015/2016. It was always there, in the back of my mind, a planted seed. It needed to be finished, so I finished it.