Questions by Harriet
Harriet: Hi Charlotte. Thanks for agreeing to answer some questions. I have to tell you that The Other Half was one of the most enjoyable novels I’ve read in a long time. I know it’s your first novel, so I’m curious to know something about its genesis. When did the idea first come to you?
Charlotte: I had the initial idea back in 2015 – at this point it wasn’t a crime novel but Rupert, Clemmie, Nell and Alex were very much present – but it wasn’t until lockdown that I actually had the time and headspace to write it.
Harriet: Have you always wanted to be a writer? Any youthful attempts?
Charlotte: I’ve always wanted to be a writer but I don’t think I was serious about it. I self-published a TERRIBLE urban fantasy ages ago that no-one need ever read.
Harriet: Rupert and his cronies are the most wonderfully awful creations. Have you ever had the misfortune to be involved in a milieu of that sort?
Charlotte: Rupert et al are all fictional, but living and working in London puts you into contact with all sorts.
Harriet: I gather you’ve had an interestingly varied career – History BA, Art History MA and then acting – not to mention ‘purveyor of silk hats’. In what ways, if any, did these things feed into your writing of the novel?
Charlotte: I think my deep, deep nerdiness comes through. A lot of the recurring motifs are just stuff that lives in the back of my head that I’ve come across through my education. I do, however, think acting made me a much better writer. You can’t pull apart plays and not get deeply engrossed in the mechanics of good storytelling.
Harriet: Our readers love to hear about authors’ writing habits. A special room or place? A preferred time of day? Computer, typewriter, fountain pen? How disciplined are you, and how long did the novel take from start to final draft?
Charlotte: I am obsessive. As soon as I start writing I find it hard to do anything else. I started the first draft in April and was happy enough to send it out to agents that July. One thing I do is to try to challenge myself to read twenty different works (poetry, history and plays) as a sort of palate cleanse. I never manage to get to twenty though. I wrote it on my laptop on my dining room table blaring out a lot of mopey lady indie/electro music.
Harriet: Can you tell us what writers have inspired you? And what are you reading now?
Charlotte: One big influence for me was Laura Wade’s play Posh (the film version was called The Riot Club). I’m also a huge lover of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh as well as being a huge Jane Austen nerd!!!! I find anything that deals with the subtleties of class interesting. I also love Christie and Conan Doyle. Generally I try to read across genres and critically so I can hone my taste as a reader. I have just finished Excellent Women by Barbara Pym which is a comedy of manners set just after WW2.
Harriet: I’m sure everyone is going to fall in love with Caius Beauchamp. As Faber has proclaimed this novel as the first of a crime series, I assume this is not the last we’ve seen of him. Any chance of the wonderful Nell reappearing?
Charlotte: To be continued….
Harriet: Apropos of all this, can you tell us what you’re working on right now?
Charlotte: Book two has been handed in so I’m taking a little break and just reading whilst jotting down any random ideas I have for other books.
Harriet: Thanks. Looking forward to your answers. My review and the Q&A will be online later this month, on the same day. We’ll let you know as soon as this happens.
Charlotte: Thank you for the reviewing The Other Half!!!
Harriet is one of the founders and a co-editor of Shiny New Books.
Read Harriet’s review of The Other Half here.
Charlotte Vassell, The Other Half (Faber & Faber, 2023). 978-0571374939, 368pp., hardback.
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