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Ahead of her appearance at Litro Live! on 23 April, Dan Coxon talks with Emma Jane Unsworth about alcohol, heroines, and her forthcoming novel Animals.
Animals is great fun to read, the kind of drunken romp that staggers forward under its own momentum. Was it fun to write? Or did it bring its own set of challenges?
I find that the fun comes either side of the writing: having ideas is fun, and seeing the finished thing is fun, but the bit in the middle is just always really hard work. Annoyingly. The themes of Animals gave me scope for extreme humour and a fast pace, incorporating elements of satire, farce, slapstick etc – but I hope there are stiller points, too, where the characters are forced to stop and take stock of what they’re doing. Which is largely being complete dicks.
Why did you want to write this book, about these characters? What seemed so essential or exciting about them?
Oh, they’re awful. Pretentious, self-obsessed, usually drunk or high, out for what they can get. I loved them deeply and felt it was my duty to inflict them on the world.
There’s a lot of drinking in the book, along with drug taking, theft, and various other incidents of bad behaviour. How close is this to your own life? Are you a secret party animal?
There’s nothing secret about it. I’m a druggy thief. I sold my nan yesterday for a bag of mandy.
Who’s inspiring you right now?
Jenny Lewis, Jesca Hoop, Zoe Pilger, Lorrie Moore, Sarah Brocklehurst, Anneliese Mackintosh, Alison Taylor.
What are your four or five favourite books? And what alcoholic beverage would you pair them with?
Hold on, I need a drink to answer that.
The Collected Dorothy Parker – a box of wine
Confessions of an English Opium Eater by Thomas de Quincey – absinthe
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan – shooters
The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan – a malt whisky
The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank – a cup of tea, after all that
At the moment it’s a tray table on a train. I’m between homes, in more ways than one. There’s a dried pool of old coffee on the surface and a man next to me eating a fish sandwich so strong it’s basically assault. I hope he sees me typing this.
And finally… what next for Emma Jane Unsworth?
I’m finishing my third novel – a chase story set in a campervan, about a woman who’s completely screwed her life up. I’m a bit obsessed with campervans.
Emma Jane Unsworth will be appearing as part of Litro Live! on 23 April, alongside Glen Duncan, Naomi Foyle, Charlie Hill, Maia Jenkins, and guest musical performances. Tickets are available here. She won the Betty Trask Award for her novel Hungry, the Stars and Everything (Hidden Gem, 2011) and was shortlisted for the 2012 Portico Prize. Her short story ‘I Arrive First’ was included in The Best British Short Stories 2012 (Salt). Animals will be released by Canongate Books on 1 May 2014. She lives in Manchester.