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Merritt Tierce: IMG Has My Husband Read It?

My first novel, Love Me Back, was published on September 16. Writing the book took seven years, and along the way three chapters were published in... Continue »
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Hush, Little Baby: A Novel


Hush, Little Baby: A Novel Cover



Author Q & A

RANDOM HOUSE: Hush, Little Baby is deeper and more serious than

your previous novel, The Madness of Love, yet it retains a similar

mythical, dreamlike quality. Is this characteristic conscious or unconscious?

KATHARINE DAVIES: I think it is unconscious; it may come from my

experience of the world and my particular way of seeing things,

and also perhaps from the way that I work, which is often through

writing poetry. The opening of Hush, Little Baby began as a poem

written at the very beginning of the spring, although I later cut out

quite a lot of the images to give a greater feeling of momentum at

the start of the novel. There is a section later in the book that

comes directly from a poem I had written, too. This is the poem—

I’m sure you can relate it to the relevant part of the book.


The moths returned.

They laid their eggs in dust.

They came in the aftermath.

They floated ghostly through kicked-in doors,

they rested on the edges of dents in the walls,

they flickered in the empty grate.

They were indiscriminate:

they flew from drawers;

they didn’t distinguish mine from yours.

They issued, dazed, from the pages of books.

They were fragile flinders,

they masqueraded

as splinters, as smithereens.

I killed them without qualm.

In my palm they were nothing.

Brittle carcasses. Dust.

But you could not.

When I left I thought of how they would seize their chance

to feast in your shirts undisturbed.

I thought of the tiny opening and shutting of their wings.

Of the closing of a door.

Of the extinguishing of lights.

Of the brush of your fingers,

like moths settling and then taking flight.

RH: Do you write short stories as well?

KD: Yes, but I would like to do so more often—I think they are the

most difficult form to write in, but they can be tremendous. I often

read them. One short-story writer I love to read is Lorrie Moore. I

find her story Terrific Mother extraordinarily moving and funny at

the same time. The subject matter of that story is not a million

miles away from Hush, Little Baby.

RH: Sometimes, after finishing a novel, the author mentions that

she will never really feel as though it is completed, but just as

often, a writer will say that she couldn’t possibly imagine adding

another scene or word. Does Hush, Little Baby fall into one of

these categories? If so, can you say a little bit about why?

KD: When I wrote the last chapter of Hush, Little Baby, I knew,

quite passionately, that I would never want to change a word of it,

especially the final sentences. But I felt that way about the ending

of The Madness of Love, too. I found that the endings of both these

books took me by surprise and almost wrote themselves. In both

cases, I found myself thinking, Ah! So this is how it ends!

RH: Many writers try to read other works that touch on topics similar

to those in their own writing, while others swear that they have

to stay away from anything that reminds them of their own work.

Do you fall into one these groups, and if so, why?

KD: I think the things I want to read about and write about are

often similar, but they are very universal subjects—love and relationships

and “being human”—so I don’t avoid reading anything

particularly. Perhaps if I were in the middle of writing a book I

wouldn’t read one that was about exactly the same subject matter.

However, I did read one or two books that were somewhat related

to mine. For example, I reread George Eliot’s Adam Bede, which

contains the story of poor Hetty Sorrel and her illegitimate baby.

RH: How do you determine how much research is necessary to

your work, and how much of it is just a story that comes to you

with no need for background research?

KD: I find research quite difficult to do and am much happier

working from my own thoughts and imagination. I think research

can become never-ending, with each new discovery resulting in

another bit of research. Even though this can be fascinating to do,

and can result in wonderful novels, I personally often end up using

only a fraction of any research I have done. I think you also have

to be careful that it doesn’t become an inhibiting factor—if you

are basing a story on fact, or merging fact and fiction, it can be

hard to make decisions about what to keep the same and what to

change. If the whole thing is imaginary, then you are much more

liberated. That’s why I like using made-up places. Having said

this, I sometimes do research by visiting a location I want to include

in my book and then coming home and writing about it. I did

that with the chapter set in the London Butterfly House in Hush,

Little Baby. This is the most enjoyable kind of research because I

get to visit lots of new and interesting places or I revisit places I already

know and see them in a different light.

RH: How long did it take you to complete the first draft of Hush,

Little Baby? And how long was it from the original idea to the

completed book? How does this time line compare with that of The

Madness of Love?

KD: They probably took about the same amount of time, although

my first book was easier to write because the subject matter was

lighter and I always had Shakespeare ’s Twelfth Night to refer to, as

I was basing the book on the plot of the play. Funnily enough,

Hush, Little Baby was in my mind even before I wrote The Madness

of Love, so all the ideas were there; it was just a case of getting

it down on paper and working out how to do the shifts between the

adult and child perspectives.

RH: In addition to writing, you also teach. Do you find it difficult

to juggle your writing schedule with your work schedule? How

often do you write?

KD:When I am in the middle of a book, I write a thousand words

a day, every day, and I edit the writing from the previous day in the

evening, so I try to take breaks away from teaching to do this properly.

When I teach creative writing, though, I find it stimulating

because I get ideas from doing the exercises in class with my students

and I love the immediacy and freshness of new writing and

new ideas, which is all very inspiring. I think it is easier to juggle

my own writing schedule with teaching than with the deadlines

that come into play once you are in the editing and production

stage of a novel.

RH: What do you do when you get stuck on a plot issue? How do

you break through writer’s block?

KD: Strangely, I don’t really get writer’s block. But I always make

sure I go for lots of walks, as I hate sitting still at a desk for too

long and missing the whole day, especially when I am in the country.

I find the natural world endlessly inspiring and also soothing

when the writing is getting all too much.

RH: Do you think it’s important for readers to know anything personal about the author in order to better understand the content of a novel? Why or why not?

KD: It might be interesting, occasionally, for the reader to know

the personal circumstances of a writer, but the appreciation of the

work should never depend on it. It has to be remembered that an

author may not actually want to tell the reader their personal circumstances,

and that this is fair enough! I think there is far too

much pressure on writers to tell readers about their private lives.

Books should speak for themselves.

RH: What are two main themes you would like readers to take

away from having read Hush, Little Baby?

KD: First the experience of childlessness, and the fear of being

childless. I think the pain of this experience has formerly been

something that has not been spoken of very much. Another thing

that the book is about is the effect of our childhood on our subsequent

life decisions, and the assimilation of our childhood and

adult selves as we grow older and reach a new level of understanding

and self-knowledge.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product Details

A Novel
Random House Trade Paperbacks
Davies, Katharine
Katharine Davies
Fiction : General
Single women
Single women - England - London
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
Publication Date:

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Hush, Little Baby: A Novel
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Product details 227 pages Random House Publishing Group - English 9780307531360 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , From the winner of the 2005 Romantic Novel of the Year Award comes a heart-rending, evocative story of childhood discovery and disillusionment. It is a poignant and vivid exploration of a woman’s childhood experience and her visceral need to be a mother.
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