The 4thcoming series is all about introducing you to our authors. If you’ve ever wondered what your favourite 4th Estate author is currently reading, listening to or what their writing ritual is, then we’ve got all those answers for you.
A white teenage girl clashes with her new black stepmother in this brilliant debut novel. Rachel Edwards’ Darling is a truly addictive thriller with a shocking twist.
Name: Rachel Edwards
Occupation: Full-time writer
What you’re reading: Just finished Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders – transcendent. Also been reading the gripping House of Beauty by Melba Escobar. Soon, I will get to My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal, Black and British a Forgotten History by David Olusoga, The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson, Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff and Mythos by Stephen Fry.
What you’re listening to: I have Groove Armada’s At the River playing at this moment. More broadly, I seem to be revisiting some favourites for comfort during the winter – Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Amy Winehouse and Soul II Soul aplenty; The Dog Days Are Over by Florence and the Machine; assorted not-very-obscure opera arias; One Day Like This by Elbow; Express Yourself by NWA… I do love discovering new music, but these area few of my old faithfuls and I tend to over-play them.
What you’re watching: Very little, at present, as I’m working on a new novel. When in viewing mode I love snappy drama – Billions has one of the best scripts ever (plus an unforgettable opening scene) – and I’m also a sucker for love battling against the odds. The last couple of films that I saw in the cinema were La La Land and I Am Not Your Negro. The last film to make me cry was Moonlight – such an important film – and I will be going to see The Post. I am also partial to the odd French film and I always mean to ‘catch up’ on world cinema – good luck with that! Between books, I sometimes keep SKY or BBC News rolling ad nauseam. I tell myself I like to stay informed, but I realise I’m a bit of an obsessive.
Favourite word(s): Passion
Favourite song: The closest I can get to one song that is perfect in every way is These Foolish Things as sung by Ella Fitzgerald on her GOLD album, which is just that. The woman’s voice is heaven: preternaturally beautiful, achingly human.
Living person you most admire: Citing one’s mother may be a cliché but it is the truth. She was a nurse with the NHS for 40-odd years and became a single parent when I was 11, nurturing her patients, her family, her garden (love really is a verb with her – she’s selfless in a way I could never hope to achieve). If not, then it has to be Barack Obama for many reasons: his integrity, his obvious desire to do good on a large scale despite towering obstructions, his charisma, his prodigious flak-taking ability, his love of literature and the power of his oration. He was so needed on the global stage; he still is.
The trait you most deplore in yourself: I sometimes lack discipline (and then I nudge the weakest part of my character to tell myself that is all simply part of my charm)! Still, I have found that the things I really should be doing – mostly to do with love and writing – require not so much discipline as an honest engagement with one’s passion. Probably why that’s a favourite word.
The trait you most deplore in others: Being a hater. By this I don’t mean hating things of import – that is essential in order to effect change for the better. I mean prejudice, myopia, small-mindedness and those who take up toxic, often anonymous, commentary as weird comfort or entertainment: trolls.
The book you wish you’d written: In English, Possession by A.S. Byatt. It made a powerful impression on me for many reasons and not least in the way it weaves together like a three-dimensional tapestry. Extraordinary. Also, The Colour Purple by Alice Walker – like Maya Angelou, a guiding light. That novel rocked me as a young teen because I felt it said the unsayable; I also relished knowing it was acclaimed and by a black female writer – her voice rang out from what appeared to me then to be the chorus of all-white literary authority. Otherwise, Les Liaisons Dangeureuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. He must have had a ball writing that; so naughty!
The book everyone should read: Catch-22. The illumination of life’s absurdities makes one feel less alone.
Writing ritual: With Darling, I did not have a writing routine as such. I wrote every day and got the first draft (of several) down fast: it felt that the story had picked me up and would not put me down until I had done the right thing by it. That sometimes meant that if I woke with ideas at 5am, I would move through to the Writing Room and get busy. I have a very understanding husband. The only truly consistent aspect of each day’s writing is that I keep a notebook of ideas with me at all times and a smaller bedside notepad, so that I can capture everything as it arises.
Best advice ever received: ‘If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.’ Toni Morrison gifted that advice to the world, of course, but I took it very personally, to the extent that once the Brexit vote set me reeling I could not rest until I had completed Darling.
If you could change one thing about the world: Every religion on the planet, and every agnostic and atheist and pagan and hard-bitten intellectual should declare ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’. Job done.
Think of something beautiful: Understanding. That has to be the great hope of the human project.
The most memorable sentence you’ve ever read: So many sentences have stopped me in my tracks… a great number are Shakespeare’s, of course. Today, however, my memory reaches for ‘Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same’ from Wuthering Heights. Simple and profound, it resonates and in the context of, say, an interracial marriage, it serves to remind why racism, with its warped, skin-thin logic, is bogus and must fail (or be shown the way to fail) and why love must always win.
If you weren’t writing: I would be learning new languages and trying to get my piano playing back up to scratch so I might at least deserve to think about one day owning a baby grand. That and travelling – more off-the-beaten-track Caribbean, South America, Africa – all the ‘shithole countries’ ideally – the Far East and, for a change, a few cold places. (I suspect the trick will be to get on with doing all this anyway while writing the next book. One has to keep trying to cram it all in: more, sooner).
Who would play the main characters in a film adaptation of your book? I’ve given this some thought of late; there is some exceptional talent out there. I have some favourites in mind, but cannot reveal them at this stage, for a number of exciting reasons. Let’s just say playing Darling would take someone of a certain emotional bravery – from an actor’s perspective, it’s probably the sort of part that has to ‘choose you’.
Best place to write? I am lucky enough to have a spare bedroom reserved for writing. The Writing Room has many of my books and just enough of a view. It is peaceful. I try to explain that it feels as private a space as my mind itself, much to the amusement of the younger element of my family, who occasionally try to wind me up by lounging within. But, if I’m honest, during some of the more torrid phases of writing it feels better to write in my own bed, where I do the rest of my dreaming. Just feels right and I’m all for doing what feels right.
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