The author's apocalyptic novel 'Then' delves into the heart of darkness
This article is from 2011.
‘Oh dear, I’m sorry!’ says Julie Myerson. She’s apologising for giving me nightmares with her latest novel, Then. ‘Well, I’m only half-sorry as I suppose I do want to have that effect.’ The London-based writer has never shirked from disconcerting subject matter: ‘I always write about the things that frighten me, and mostly that’s loss of the people you love.’ But even so, Then is particularly harrowing with its charting of a contemporary apocalypse, love and loss and the devastation of a mind and of the world.
As Myerson readily admits, the novel arose from dark times. ‘For a while after the furore over my book [The Lost Child, about her teenage son, for which she was widely lambasted] I sort of lost my writing confidence; my life confidence, actually. But another thing happened which was quite creative: I found myself in such a low place that there was nothing left to lose, so I let rip and I wrote exactly what I wanted, without fear or moderation. It was amazing. When I got to the end, I took a step back and thought, “Fucking hell, what have I written?”’
As a reader, it’s hard to move on from the novel’s horrific images and scenarios. How did Myerson cope with the writing process? ‘I was lucky that I wrote a lot of it – especially the worst bits – while staying in our house in Suffolk,’ she recollects. ‘It was last summer, and outside it was hot, light, blue skies. I’d come out of all the novel’s ice and snow to have a walk, a little dazed, along the beach. One evening I went to a friend’s house and we had a “Spotify evening”, drinking wine and playing Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone in the warm garden til very late. It was a perfect antidote.’
21 Aug, noon, £10 (£8).