The way to catch Amanda Craig is to go to one of her events where she can’t just do a runner. She was in Manchester yesterday, with Michèle Roberts, talking about their most recent books. They were already there when I arrived, and I was virtually first, so that’s keen. I think I overheard them discuss those perennially important subjects, e-readers and schools. The place was respectably full, given it was the middle of the day. The audience was predominantly ladies (4 men at the last count).
It was weird, because I sort of ‘know’ Amanda from facebook, whereas I was sure I didn’t know Michèle at all, but she looked familiar in that way some people do.
Amanda – who has the most magnificent hair! – kicked off on the strength of her name coming first in the alphabet, and she read us the preface to Hearts and Minds, after describing how she began this novel which took her seven years to write. Basically she wanted a story about people who are from somewhere other than Britain, so she researched everybody from au pairs and taxi drivers to prostitutes.
Michèle enjoys short stories, and reads one a day, which gives her time to think about them afterwards. She was once shortlisted for the Bad Sex Award, which surprised her but didn’t stop her. The latest book is Mud: Stories of Sex and Love, and she read us a bit, which I think is where the intertextuality came in. Inspired by Boswell and Johnson, she can see no reason why men are allowed to walk cities at night, and women can’t do the same. It’s the difference between ‘flaneur’ and ‘street walker’ which annoys her. ’It won’t do’!
She is thinking of doing an ‘art installation’ in the form of a taxi where you confess during your taxi journey, having been inspired by the taxi drivers of Norwich who used her to confess while driving her to the station.
Amanda is currently writing a North and South kind of novel, and is very aware of Mrs Gaskell while in Manchester. She recalled an early visit, when the city was dark and dirty, and I suspect she and I must have visited round about the same time. We also seem to share some witchy instincts, with her planning all sorts of things for her novels, which then happen in real life.
They both had plenty of books to sign, but I think Michèle was the only one faced with a carrier bag full of books. And I do wish I knew how authors manage the beautifully draped beautiful scarf bit. Michèle did it. Amanda didn’t need to, with that hair.