Author Q&A: Caroline Smailes ‘The Drowning of Arthur Braxton

Caroline Smailes
Drowning of Arthur Braxton

Title: The Drowning of Arthur Braxton

Author: Caroline Smailes (Author Blog)

Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction

Publisher: The Friday Project (HarperCollins)

Publication Date: 11th April 2013 (£5.99)

Stand alone or series: Stand alone.

Why did I choose to read this book? I was attracted to the unique title. Plus, as a follower of The Friday Project on Twitter I jumped at the chance to get an advance proof and interview with Caroline!

Where to read? The setting of the novel is quite ingenious and integral to the story so I guess one would have to visit Victoria Baths, Manchester or perhaps The Roman Baths, Bath

Refreshments: You shouldn’t really eat before swimming, however, I would suggest a hearty plate of ‘Fish and Chips’ – just because this is what I ate and enjoyed immensely!

Synopsis:

Arthur Braxton runs away from school and hides in an abandoned Edwardian Bathhouse. It is here he discovers a naked woman swimming in the pool, and from then on nothing is the same again. This is Caroline Smailes’ latest offering and fans of her previous novels won’t be disappointed. Her honest narrative weaves a brave and poetic fairy tale detailing the lives of unique and complex characters taking her readers on a roller coast ride of hope, despair and ultimately love.

Q&A with Caroline Smailes

1. Where does your interest in Greek Mythology come from?

Greek mythology has been an obsession since my teen years. I remember reading the Daphne and Apollo myth and being fascinated with metamorphosis and confinement. Those aren’t usual obsessions and fascinations, but they stayed with me and, clearly, escaped during the writing of ‘The Drowning of Arthur Braxton’.

2. Are the names of your characters important/ meaningful in some way?

They are. I’ve pulled on aspects of the Greek mythology that the stories are based on. For example, Laurel’s story is a retwisting of the Apollo and Daphne myth, where Daphne is transformed into a laurel tree as she flees from Apollo. Therefore naming the character Laurel carried a significance and all the clues are there, but I’m hoping that the novel can still be read and enjoyed without any prior knowledge of Greek mythology.

3. Your novel has a series of impressionable teenagers –How much impact does your childhood have on your writing?

In this novel, none at all. The novel is set in the present day, I’m an old woman and my characters are teens. The main challenge I had was trying to create current and authentic teen voices, especially that of a teenage boy. I had to do lots of research and eavesdropping to try and create convincing teen voices.

4. You mention that the bath house is based on ‘Victoria Baths ‘. What, if any, were the other venue candidates?

Originally the novel was going to be set in a lighthouse on the coast of Talacre, but then Victoria Baths was suggested as a possible location. I was able to go along and look inside the building. I fell in love with the beauty, with the space and with the stunning original features. The novel started forming as I walked around, absorbing the history and exquisiteness.

5. Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Nope, they’re based on Greek mythology. Although I would have loved to have been friends with Daphne.

6. What authors/books do you feel have influence your writing?

I guess we’re all influenced by everything we’ve ever read. So every fairy tale, all the Greek mythology, my love of Roald Dahl, my admiration of Jeanette Winterson, of Margaret Atwood, of Angela carter. I’ve read so many novels that are truly amazing, too many to mention, but they all influence me in that they drive me to want to be a better writer.

8. The inspirations you detail, music, mythology etc…Do you feel you’re quite spontaneous in your decisions or that you have set ideas before you start writing?

I’d like to say that I’m spontaneous, because that’s how I used to write. I’d never plot or plan, I’d simply write whichever scene popped into my head. But I’ve changed. Now I plan and plot every single detail before beginning. I have character outlines and images, I have an entire narrative structure plotted out for my next novel, so I guess I’m no longer spontaneous.

9. What’s your must-have snack to have on hand when you’re writing?

I try not to snack when writing, but I do have a jar of blackcurrant and liquorice hardboiled sweets in my office. I absolutely hate them, so sucking on one makes me not want to snack. There is logic in there… However, I do love cake. And I often use cake as my ‘carrot on a stick’ to get me to hurry through a section or a block.

10. Shoes seem to be your guilty pleasure… what is your favourite pair of shoes and why?

For me, wearing ridiculously high heels signals a special event or occasion. By day, I’m rushing around in flat pumps or Converse. My favourite shoes change from week to week. This week I’ve favoured wearing a pair of black patent-leather Christian Louboutin’s. And why? Because they’re extravagant, stunning and a little bit magic.

Rating: 8 out of 10 – I found this very different to any other novel I’ve read before and it inspired a roller coaster of emotions whilst reading. I’d definitely recommend.

PS. Big thank you to Caroline Smailes for answering my nosy questions and James Lynch from the Friday project for passing them on!

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