by this author
Formerly of London, Scarlett Thomas lives in Devon with her
boyfriend and dog. She is the author of several books, including
In Your Face and Seaside, the other novels in
the Lily Pascale series, forthcoming from Justin, Charles
& Co. Her other books are Bright Young Things (Flame,
2001) and Going Out (Fourth Estate 2002). In 2001,
she became part of the controversial British literary movement,
the New Puritans. In 2001 she was selected by a major newspaper
as one of the best 20 young writers in the UK. To relax, Scarlett
plays her guitar and goes for long walks. Dead Clever
is her homage to B-movies and classic detective fiction puzzles.
Visit her website at www.bookgirl.org.
Scarlett on writing Dead Clever:
I had run away from London (a bit like Lily does at the start
of Dead Clever, but rather more dramatically) with
my boyfriend. We literally just disappeared... I hired a car
and we drove south until we hit Devon and thought, Wow, this
place is kind of beautiful and remote and pretty spooky too.
I loved all the little towns with rivers running through them;
the houses built on hills; the dramatic cliffs and sea and
coastal paths; the boat taxis and the moors. After a few weeks
in motels and B&Bs, we decided to settle down in a remote
cottage in the middle of a field of sheep. Having always lived
in big cities, I found this a very odd experience. At the
time my life felt very mysterious and remote: that feeling
is definitely there in Dead Clever. Devon is a very
magical place, but can be overwhelming. As Lily Pascale says,
in Dead Clever: "The roads were so dark that if
you switched your lights off you would literally disappear,
swallowed up by the invisibility of night."
Running away had used up all the money I had. But how do
you get a job in a place that is basically trees, sheep, hills
and sea? Even the local shops weren’t hiring. Summer
was coming to an end and the local town was going into hibernation
mode. Half the shops only opened in the summer anyway. As
the winter nights started to draw in, we found that restaurants
and takeaways were opening less and less often, and then not
at all. I’d been used to a 24-hour culture in London
– In Devon nothing is 24-hours. Out driving on the lanes
after midnight felt like being in either a pre-industrial
or post-apocalyptic era. At night my boyfriend chopped wood
for the open fire and we sat there with logs crackling, wondering
what to do about money. We tried to make plans in case we
got snowed in once winter really came. No one would come and
clear the snow from our small lane, but there were no shops
within walking distance. This adventure felt very real.
Eventually I realized that maybe I should be writing fiction,
as this seemed to be what I was good at! I needed to get money
in fast, however, so I set myself a challenge – to become
a published novelist within two months. I sat in front of
the fire with my notebooks and started constructing the story
that would become Dead Clever. It was a very intense
time. Now when I write it takes me a couple of years to finish
a novel. Dead Clever took two months. That’s
not to say I worked less hard on it – I was working
16 hour days to get in finished, sometimes not going to bed
for two days, just keeping the fire going and the kettle on.
Now when I look back I think I must have been a bit mad, but
Dead Clever definitely captures the feeling of washing
up somewhere mysterious and feeling like you’re living
in an alternate world in a vast, mysterious landscape.
And I did get my publishing deal within two months.