Mark Thwaite Why Remember Me? What made you want to write this particular story?
Trezza Azzopardi, Remember Me came out of a mixture of concerns which occupied my thoughts during the last stages of my first book The Hiding Place. I was very much aware that Fran, the 'lost' sister in The Hiding Place, had a parallel life that wasn't charted in the main story. It began to preoccupy me. I was reminded of a woman I had seen as a child who was living on the streets of Cardiff; the memory of her has always stayed with me."
MT Your writing is very poetic and yet Remember Me has a very strong narrative drive. Was it difficult to sustain, and combine, the two?
TA "The narrative is largely conveyed through the main character, who is called a variety of names in Remember Me, but who I always think of as Winnie. She has difficulty engaging in normal social intercourse, but none at all in imagining and internally describing her life and history, and because the story in her head doesn't have to be 'told' through speech, there was a freedom there for me to negotiate two worlds - the spoken and unspoken. It was this 'split' which fascinated me: I think it's quite common to think abstractly - poetically, musically, 'organically' - so that thoughts can take the form of colours, smells and sensations. Winnie speaks little, but thinks a lot, and it's this thinking that drives the narrative."
MT How do you write? Longhand, straight onto the computer?
TA "I take lots of notes, scribbled on anything I can find at the time, and I don't throw any away, but when it comes to writing, it's straight onto thecomputer. It can be too seductive though: sometimes I'll sit for ages waiting for the words to 'come out' of the inside of the computer screen.They never do!"
MT How much research do you do?
TA "For Remember Me, I read lots of first-hand accounts of growing up during the second world war, talked to people who were Winnie's age at that time, looked at endless pictures of Norwich from the turn of the century to the present, and went to various sites that might feature in the book. But I don't consult the research when I'm writing, and if I think the 'learning' shows in any way, I delete it. I hate having obvious signposts - if I can't suggest a place or time in a natural way, and if it isn't intrinsic to the story, then it shouldn't be there."
MT What is coming next?
TA "A book about a man on a mission - working title is Winterton Blue."
MT What is your favourite book/who is your favourite writer?
TA "A Change of Climate by Hilary Mantel is a book I re-read a lot. It is effortlessly written, very powerful, and she's one of my favourite writers - joint first with William Trevor."
MT What book do you wish you had written?
TA "I never feel that about another book, but in terms of wanting to write properly, clearly, in an invisible and beautiful way, I would say The Heather Blazing by Colm Toibin, or Disgrace by JM Coetzee. I would feel I had reached the absolute height of my powers."
MT Do you have any advice for the aspiring writer!?
TA "Make sure you have something to say - think of the trees."
MT Anything else you'd like to say?
TA "Just thank you."
MT Well, thank you, Trezza.