Alison Moore is the author of three novels, including Man Booker Prize nominated The Lighthouse. She lives on the Leicestershire/Nottinghamshire border (in prime WEM territory), and is an honorary lecturer in the School of English at the University of Nottingham. Her latest novel Missing is published by Salt. We caught up with her in mid May, 2018, to ask her about her work.
You were nominated for The Booker Prize for your debut novel – The Lighthouse – how did that experience affect how you wrote?
At the time of the nomination, my son was 3 and I’d have been looking to return to work soon; the nomination made it financially possible to try writing for a living instead. In the short term, it was a crazy few months and my second novel went on the back burner for a while, but in the long term, I wouldn’t be a full-time writer if it weren’t for the Man Booker Prize.
You have a new novel coming out on May 15th – Missing. Can you sum it up for us?
The protagonist is Jessie Noon, a translator living in the Scottish Borders. Since her husband walked out, she’s been living alone, except for the cat, the dog, and the ghost she believes to be inhabiting the spare room. She begins a relationship with a local outreach worker, but she’s burdened by something that happened on her watch decades earlier. The novel’s concerned with communication and miscommunication, guilt and judgement.
How do you decide which ideas to develop into a full novel?
Certain ideas/characters/situations seem to attract or diverge into so many others that by the time you’re done unravelling and exploring it all you’re going to end up with a novel-length story.
Next up for you is a book for children – how did that happen?
The desire to write a book for children came from reading with my son. When he was 7, I thought seriously about writing a chapter book for his age, and wanting to do it led quite quickly to the idea.
Did you find the process of writing for children very different?
Creatively, it was largely the same, but I was very mindful of the age of my audience. My editor said it was recognisably my work but with a U certificate. I had great fun writing it. The first draft took me a couple of months – it’s quite a short book – and then I read it to my son, whose positive response was a huge relief, even if he is biased.
We once read that you wrote The Lighthouse at the same time as having a young baby. Firstly, that’s hugely impressive, but secondly – how on earth did you do that?
I never really think of myself as trying to do the two things at the same time, because I was never writing during his time – I wrote when he was sleeping. That did sometimes mean that I’d be in the middle of a late-night stint of writing when he woke up for a feed, but actually sitting with him in a darkened room was really good thinking time, then I could go back to my laptop and continue.
You live on the Nottinghamshire/Leicestershire border. Do you consider yourself to be a regional writer, and does it affect what you write?
As a person, I do feel rooted here, but the writing part of me is more of a wanderer, picking up stories wherever I am – I like writing about different places, and I love travelling somewhere for an author event or on holiday and coming back with a new story.
Do you feel that living outside of London is still a barrier to being a professional writer? Have you seen any change?
I don’t see that it matters whether my writing desk is in London or the Midlands or elsewhere, and so much is done online that there’s no reason for it to be a barrier to being published. My publisher, Salt, isn’t London-based, they’re in Cromer. And being outside London doesn’t seem to be a barrier to being invited to take part in London-based events – if you can get a fast train and travel expenses you can have the best of both worlds.