Anthea Church, author of Sleeping with Mozart ('An eccentric love story for grown-ups' Daily Mail), has written today's blog on how she came to write her book. Published this month, Sleeping with Mozart is the story of a charming, funny and compulsively self-examining woman's attempts to get over a broken heart. You'll love her. Have you ever wanted to be friends with one of your favourite literary characters? Well, now is your chance - Anthea has set up a Facebook page for her endearing heroine, Dorcas.
A book has to be ‘born’ with something. Sleeping with Mozart was born with the name of the central character, Dorcas, but it had no title other than ‘The Inspection’. The title was useful, though, because it held the work in place thematically. Every character in the book was either inspecting or being inspected. The teachers in the school where Dorcas works were facing an inspection. Jamie, the ex-lover, was being inspected, as were a series of men dished up by a bad dating agent. And of course, Dorcas, in her raw openness, is being inspected by the reader, as well as the men she meets who never have their say.
As a theme, inspection has always interested me. I remember when I was thirteen and my closest friend at the time returned from an afternoon of sport. I looked at her across a table strewn with crusts of white toast and thought: I’ll never have a life like yours. This came to me as a simple fact tinged with a sense of superiority, which has since matured into envy. I knew that I was saddled with something she was not; a faculty of analysis which meant that every experience would have to be trawled through retrospectively for errors of judgments or hidden meanings. At the time I had no words for it or I might have buoyed myself up on Socrates’ assertion that an unexamined life is not worth living.
So inspection and examination were the thought-out aspects of the book. But whatever a book is actually born with, which is different from what one plans intellectually, is where the book really lives. This book lives with Dorcas. Once I put the story into her hands, she did the steering; navigating with seeming ease through life’s subtext as well as its silliness.
On a personal level, everything about her helped me. She could laugh and suffer; criticise and be kind; be adept and awkward. All combinations that I live myself. She certainly represents, then, a key aspect of my own character but what was interesting was that as I was writing, I began to grow ahead of her. It was like starting out as twins and one twin growing unexpectedly into a protective adult. This was a relief because the gap between writer and narrator is a vital one in which to place signals to the reader.
I really loved writing this book. I loved writing comedy but was pleased that the comedy left plenty of room for sorrow. Evelyn Waugh has always been a great favourite though the biting cruelty of ‘A Handful of Dust’, for example, wasn’t appropriate in this book, nor actually would it ever be possible because I haven’t a bone of ‘Evelyn Waugh’ in my body.
Dorcas has not finished yet. She has a lot more to say and I plan to keep her alive in various stages of her life. Fitting with her sometimes dangerous sense of autonomy, I shall not write about her chronologically but as if she is ever present at different ages. Dorcas at seventeen could just as well be the sequel to Dorcas at seventy. In the meantime, she can be followed on Facebook where she is involved in a conversation both with fellow characters in Sleeping with Mozart and with interested strangers. Do make friends with her. She will do her best to speak back to you.