The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Matthew Crow

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Matthew Crow

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Summary: Robert thought that In Bloom was a highly-enjoyable, life-affirming novel and with a lot more laughs than you would expect from a book about two teens with cancer. He had quite a few questions for author Matthew Crow when he popped in to see us.
Date: 24 November 2013
Interviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James

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Robert thought that In Bloom was a highly-enjoyable, life-affirming novel and with a lot more laughs than you would expect from a book about two teens with cancer. He had quite a few questions for author Matthew Crow when he popped in to see us.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Matthew Crow: ...Funky tastemakers? I don’t know, really. I actually never think of a reader when I’m writing. I tend to imagine more the immense glut of novels being published in any given year that people could be reading instead of mine, and give myself temporary breathing difficulties in the process.

  • BB: Who or what were your inspirations when writing In Bloom?

MC: People, I suppose. More specifically Northern people- Geordie people, to be precise. Newcastle. Newcastle inspired me. I knew I was going to write about a family from the North East, mainly because it’s all that I know and felt that in a character-driven novel everybody would need to seem as ‘real’ as possible to maintain interest. I mainly just wanted to write about a very modern, very fractured but still very recognisable family and the dynamics within. Everything else emerged from that desire.

  • BB: As great as Francis and Amber were, I think Fiona might be my favourite character - I loved her friendship with Chris and with Francis. How important do you think strong friendships, as well as relationships, are in YA?

MC: Vital. Much like in real life, characters only really exist when they are reflecting off or projecting onto others. Adolescence is huge and strange, both unifying and isolating all at once. Suddenly you’re weathering the same storm as everybody you know yet often feel as alone as you’ve ever felt. It’s situations like this where books become crucial because they are the closest you can get to knowing what it is like to be another person, and the easiest- and most effective- way to show this is through a character’s interaction with others; the relationships they form or break, be they romantic, familial, friendly or antagonistic.

  • BB: I really liked the portrayal of both Francis and Amber's families. Who are your favourite fictional family?

MC: Thank you. Sue Townsend pretty much created the blueprint with Adrian’s family in the Adrian Mole books. Atticus and Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird are about as perfect as they come. More recently- and in terms of YA- I also thought the relationship between Standish and his Granddad in Maggot Moon was really sweet, and Annabel Pitcher created a brilliant, gripping, mysterious unit in Ketchup Clouds.

  • BB: I've read online that prior to writing your novels, you used to write pop reviews for magazines and websites. What was the best album you ever reviewed, and can you remember what you said about it?

MC: I tended to review concerts more than albums- when it came to albums it was usually features and longer think-pieces. I wrote about Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love once, arguing- with varying degrees of success- that it was the definitive album of the 80s. As far as concerts were concerned I went to Glasgow to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, which were one of my favourite bands when I was 16 or 17, and essentially penned a tear-soaked 700 word love letter to Karen O.

  • BB: In Bloom was both incredibly funny - despite the subject matter - at times, and utterly heartbreaking at other times. Does your own writing ever make you laugh and/or cry?

MC: Embarrassingly enough yes. Not so much when I’m sat down writing- that’s quite a mechanical process; too precise to get really swept up in. But a lot of writing doesn’t involve sitting in front of the word processor. It’s like an iceberg- what ends up on the page is just a tiny percentage of the ideas that you’ve been mulling over for months and months and months. So a lot of the time I’d just be thinking about what was going to come next and chuckle to myself. As far as crying is concerned I did get a bit upset when I was planning the last chapter, which came in one great splurge and- unlike the rest of the book- is printed almost exactly as it appeared in the first draft. There is a little interaction between two characters prior to a wedding, which I found tough. Though in fairness that probably had more to do with circumstance than the innate power of my words- I’d had such a blast writing In Bloom that I was more concerned with the fact that I was coming to an end and would probably never write a book as easy or enjoyable again.

  • BB: Do you listen to music when you write? If so, is there a playlist for In Bloom?

MC: Yes and yes. I listen to music when I write, mainly because I moved to London when I was eighteen and did a lot of my journalism- and wrote my first book- in Camden Library, which was very nice but also perhaps the single noisiest library of all time ever. The only way I could concentrate was to put on my headphones and play something bland at the lowest possible setting. When it came to In Bloom, Sarah- my sainted editor- had a great idea of making a playlist for both Francis and Amber. You can check it out here and send me any alternative suggestions you might have.

  • BB: If you could ask any other author any question, what would you ask, and who would you ask it to?

MC: I’d ask Donna Tartt who really killed Robin in The Little Friend.

  • BB: What are you reading at the moment?

MC: I’ve just finished two amazing books- A Girl is a Half Formed Thing by Eimear McBride and Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. Next on my list is She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick, A Story Lately Told by Anjelica Huston and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers.

  • BB: What's next for Matthew Crow?

MC: I’m at that annoying stage where I’ve been thinking of an idea for such a long time now that I know it’s the only thing I can write next, but I’m still not entirely sure how to go about it. So a lot of blank Word documents and YouTube if I’m being honest.

  • BB: Sympathies on that one, Matthew and thanks for chatting to us.

This review was kindly given to us by the ever-generous Ya Yeah Yeah.

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