Claire Dyer talks about the many types of love in her new book, The Last Day.
1. Can you tell us more about your novel, The Last Day?
The Last Day is a novel about three people and many different kinds of love. Having been living separately for six years, Boyd asks his wife, Vita, if he can move back into the family home while he sorts out his finances. He also asks if he can bring his twenty-seven-year-old girlfriend, Honey, with him. Of course, Vita says yes to both of these things because she is over Boyd and her heart is resolute and strong. However, living together unsettles all of them. Secrets are shared and kept, the dynamics are always shifting and loyalties are tested. And, at the heart of Boyd and Vita’s story is something that binds them and which, when the last day comes, will test them yet further.
2. How did you come up with the idea for this novel?
The novel has had a strange evolution. It started with an idea about a woman who, over the course of a year, paints her husband’s lover’s portrait. Originally Honey was to be the focus of the story, but as I wrote it, Vita emerged front and middle in my mind and it changed from being a book about jealousy, to one about the different colours of love.
3. What was the hardest part of the book to write?
There’s a scene about half way through for which I had to dig deep but I can’t really say any more without spoiling the plot for you!
4. Do you have a favourite character you can tell us a bit more about?
I love all my characters, but I suppose, as I say above, it’s Vita who has captured the biggest part of my heart. I loved writing her because I never knew what was going to come out of her mouth next! She is one of those characters whose head and heart are misaligned and so she says what she doesn’t mean and means what she doesn’t say. She’s rude and gruff and uncompromising but over the course of the novel, she changes and I adored being witness to this transformation.
5. What is your creative process like?
As I write both fiction and poetry, my writing life is split down the middle but the creative process is much the same. I have a basic idea of what the story/poem will be and then I wait to see what emerges. I swim regularly and often plot ideas or next lines come to me then. But, more than that, for me writing is about the music of the line and the beauty of the language as much as about the narrative. Basically, I write what I see in my mind’s eye in the best way I can and just hope the reader likes the result!
6. Who are your favourite authors?
Ooh, this is a tricky question as there are so many. I love Dickens, Austen and the Brontës. I also think Margaret Atwood is a master of the craft and have read many Anne Tyler novels and I love Anna Quindlen, Patrick Gale, Julie Cohen, the list is quite endless …
7. Has any other writer in particular influenced the way you write?
The poet Elizabeth Bishop has had a significant effect on my writing life. A friend once described her poems as cats that always land on their feet! She takes risks with syntax and subject matter but often says huge, important things with the simplest of images. She sees beauty in the smallest things and embraces the details that make the whole, and that’s what I try to do in my writing too, but obviously not nearly as well as she does!
8. When did you decide to write and what prompted you to start?
In a previous life I was Clerk of a City Livery Company and therefore was on duty at dinners in some of the most beautiful Livery Halls in London. At one such dinner, I was chatting to the man I was sitting next to and saying how I would love to write and he said, ‘Just do it.’ And so I did! I started writing in a piecemeal fashion shortly after that but it was when I changed to a different, part-time job that I found the time to concentrate more on writing both poetry and fiction until now, when it’s turned into my full-time job!
9. Can you describe The Last Day in 3 adjectives?
Tender, triangular, tense.
10. What are you working on next?
I’m working on a novel about a tricky mother-son relationship which looks at the whole nature v nurture thing and how hard it is sometimes to be a mum.
They say three’s a crowd but when Boyd moves back in to the family home with his now amicably-estranged, Vita, accompanied by his impossibly beautiful twenty-seven-year-old girlfriend, Honey, it seems the perfect solution: Boyd can get his finances back on track while he deals with his difficult, ailing mother; Honey can keep herself safe from her secret, troubled past; and Vita can carry on painting portraits of the pets she dislikes and telling herself she no longer minds her marriage is over.
But the house in Albert Terrace is small and full of memories, and living together is unsettling.
For Vita, Boyd and Honey love proves to be a surprising, dangerous thing and, one year on, their lives are changed forever.
Claire Dyer’s novels, The Moment and The Perfect Affair, and her short story, Falling For Gatsby are published by Quercus. Her poetry collections, Interference Effects and Eleven Rooms, are published by Two Rivers Press. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London and teaches creative writing for Bracknell & Wokingham College. She also runs Fresh Eyes, an editorial and critiquing service.