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Virginia Reeves interview

Virginia Reeves interview

Virginia Reeves talks about how the Man Booker has been THE prize in her mind since she first became aware of prizes and that her writing usually starts with the character.

This is part of our series of Man Booker Prize 2016 longlisted author interviews.

What has it been like to be longlisted?

It is surreal to be longlisted. There really isn’t any other way to describe it. The Man Booker Prize has been THE prize in my mind since I first became aware of prizes, so to be listed, to have my name alongside J.M. Coetzee and Elizabeth Strout, feels impossible. I’m making my way through the other titles on the list, and the quality of writing is so high. I believe in my work, but that belief has been shared by a pretty small group of people for the majority of my writing life. In many ways, I’m still reeling from the fact that Work Like Any Other is actually a physical book, out there in the world. This recognition is beyond scope.

What are you working on next?

I’m working on a novel set in Montana that explores a friendship between a brain-injured behavioural psychologist and an erotic dancer.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading the longlist! I just finished Hot Milk by Deborah Levy and Hystopia by David Means, both just brilliant. On the nonfiction side, I’m reading The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery, which I’m absolutely in love with. My family is growing tired of the octopus trivia I continue to recite at every meal.

What is your favourite Man Booker-winning novel?

I can’t name one, sorry. My favourites, however, include: Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang, J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, and Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending.

Did you find writing about such big themes – race, guilt, love, death, redemption – daunting?

The short answer is no, but only because I wasn’t writing about those things at the time. I was writing a story about particular people, who lived in a particular place at a particular point in history. Because of who they were, what they did, and where they lived, all of those big themes came into play, but throughout the course of writing the novel, I wasn’t focused on any one of them. My writing usually starts with the character - this book started with Roscoe. Themes emerged later and were often delivered from other sources. I’ve had people say, ‘Your book is about redemption,’ and go, ‘That’s a great reading of it,’ having never before said ‘redemption’ within a discussion about the book. All that said, writing a novel is daunting, absolutely. 

Virginia Reeves