Because it’s in the shops.
I won’t be writing much about A Spot of Bother here.
I talked far too much about Curious Incident. It has become like one of those favourite family stories that get told and retold and retold. I no longer remember much about writing the book, only what I have said about writing the book. Which is sad.
Besides, novels aren’t crossword puzzles to which you have accidentally forgotten to append a set of answers. If a writer knows their onions and their novel raises questions, that’s because the reader is meant to answer them (one of the more annoying questions that interviewers sometimes ask is, ‘Why does George do this?’, or, ‘Why does Christopher do that?’; well… because it seemed believable and appropriate, and if he didn’t then the rest of the plot wouldn’t happen).
In any case, if I like a writer’s work, I prefer to hear them talking about the other books they enjoy reading, their political opinions, their preferred flavour of crisps, the music they listen to… (I shall get around to all of those at some point below ).
Nevertheless, for those who want to know…
A potted answer to some of the questions which keep coming up:
Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve written (or indeed why you wrote it) until many other people have read it. In retrospect, I realised that I was trying to write an artless novel (a number of reviewers simply thought I had forgotten to put any art in – which is a different kind of novel).
For all it’s seeming simplicity, Curious was tricksy. I wanted to write a novel with no tricks. Or to avoid the obvious ones. No literary showing off. No purple passages, no convoluted time schemes, no characters talking from beyond the grave, no thinking dogs, no mini-essays on cosmology…
I wanted to write about ordinary people living ordinary lives in an ordinary place, because they seldom feature in fiction and because it felt like fallow ground ready for harvest.
I didn’t want to write about fascinating characters having abnormal experiences in exotic locations, because it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking those things are the meat of the novel. I wanted to write about families, about love and marriage, about childhood and ageing, work, death, sex… the stuff that The Novel seems tailor-made for grappling with.
It’s an easy read and I put a good deal of work into making it an easy read, but most of that work went into making the work invisible.
Because there’s no authorial voice, it’s a little like eavesdropping on someone who lives down the road. Consequently, many readers tend to see it as a kind of mirror. For some it’s light and funny. For many, who have personal experience of some of the darker events in the book, it’s painful. Middle-aged men tend to describe it as a book about a gentlemanly middle-aged man going quietly mad on account of his self-centred wife and impossible children. Middle-aged women tend to describe it as a book about a passionate woman trapped in a loveless marriage with a self-centred man and tied down by her impossible children. Several gay men have told me that it’s a relief to read a book which contains a young gay man who is entirely ordinary. English readers, on the whole, think it’s a book about growing old. Every singe Italian interviewer has told me that it is a book about love.
Much to my amusement, even those interviewers who have clearly not liked the book a great deal, have nevertheless gone on to talk about the characters as if they are real people they know intimately.
And that, I think, is all for now (more Spot-related facts will doubtless leak out later), except to say that the rear cover of the UK hardback bore a small silhouette of a dog, despite the fact that there is only one dog in the story, and its role is extremely tangential. The US hardback cover showed a silhouette of a wedding cake. On top of the cake are silhouettes of the six main characters… and a dog
One day I will write a novel called Cat, and they will put a picture of a dog on the cover.
 See White Chocolate and Flapjacks.