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Scarlett Thomas

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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.

mikobelle

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.

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