Heather Child
The Undoing of Arlo Knott by Heather Child

The Undoing of Arlo Knott by Heather Child

What led you into writing?

No idea – I’ve been writing stuff ever since I was a small child. My first book was entitled ‘How to grow trees’ and the first chapter was as follows: ‘Plant some tree seeds.’

How does a typical day look?

If it’s a writing day, I’ll chain-drink tea and coffee in the morning, which is the best time for creative drafting, then move onto some planning or possibly publicity work in the afternoon and evening. It’s usually worth losing the fight with a biscuit if it means getting the next bit done.

In what ways do your characters test your abilities?

The main challenge is to get inside the head of someone hugely different to yourself, especially if you don’t immediately identify with them. It’s sometimes hard to quell my own inner monologue and find something more authentic to the character.

What’s your setup?

Heather Child's setup

Desk at the back of the house, with laptop. Or sometimes out in the garden with the frogs.

What lasting effects have your favourite authors had on your writing and style?

When drafting, it’s easy to slip into cliché or a sort of clunky placeholder text, so I’ll read the work of people who really know what they’re doing – people like Donna Tartt or Ann Patchett – for quality. I’ll dip into the Latin American magic realists – often Jorge Luis Borges or Julio Cortazar – to broaden my horizons, and I’ll read someone like Martin Amis to remind myself how to write confident prose that doesn’t give a damn.

What do you do for inspiration?

Roam the countryside, if I get the chance, or travel further afield. Routine isn’t great for the imagination, and a change of scenery always gets you out of a rut, so to speak.

What repeating themes do you find yourself pulling into your stories?

Decision-making, the sense of a right path in life, and people being controlled by their egos or constructs of their psyche.

There also tend to be a lot of plants. Someone once complained about the amount of vegetation in everything I write.

How do you wind down?

Walking or wild swimming is pretty good, followed by a relaxing read. Or, when I’ve forgotten what conversation sounds like, going for a beer with friends.

What sort of challenges do you regularly overcome while world-building?

It’s the classic see-saw of originality and plausibility… sometimes you want to create a setting that is so otherworldly it’s unlike anything the reader has imagined. However, they HAVE to be able to imagine it, or it won’t work, so you look for ways to anchor it to concepts and images that are already familiar.

What’s the most useful advice you could give to an aspiring author?

Get to know your story and its world inside out, so your prose will be free from anxiety, and use tangible, sensory imagery. Read Lisa Cron’s Story Genius, and don’t let setbacks put you off.

Tell us about the book you’re promoting.

The Undoing of Arlo Knott is about a man who has an ‘undo’ button for life. He can charm any woman, impress any friend, but a mistake in Arlo’s traumatic childhood is fast catching up with him, and the temptation to undo, undo and keep undoing might be too much to resist…

It’s crossover fiction – mainstream with a slight fantasy twist. What would you undo, if you had the chance?

Tags:

Latin America
Nature
Wild Swimming
Heather Child

Heather Child

Heather lives in Bristol, UK. Alongside writing she has had an eclectic career in charity marketing and communications, and currently works in sustainability.  More
The Undoing of Arlo Knott by Heather Child
Sabra’s strong, deft fingers grabbed the gearstick, working between the two highest gears just enough to get us round corners. She was sitting well back in her seat, gunning the engine. There was a smudge of something at the edge of her lip, perhaps the bits of Kit Kat I’d been snapping off to feed her, logs tossed into a furnace. We climbed a little, past ruined cottages, hedges rising and falling alongside the road, then over the next ridge she picked up speed again. It was two-way, but basically a single-track road. ‘Hey. . .’ She didn’t hear me. An ice cream van was rounding the bend at the bottom, coming up towards us at a leisurely pace. I could see the driver notice our speed and open his mouth in alarm. Sabra slammed on the brakes. The seatbelt dug into my chest. By the time we reached the van, she had squealed to a stop, mounting a verge so we were at a tilt. I thought the ice cream guy would get out and give us a thrashing, but he just crawled past, grinding through the hedgerow, mouthing insults we couldn’t hear and shooting us looks of the most potent disgust. ‘Fuck,’ was all I could say. I wiped the sweat from my hairline and shakily got out of the car, slamming the door. My heart was pounding. ‘That was too close.’  More

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