KATH: Jonathan, let’s talk about our new release, Is it Her?, based on a painting you bought. I could immediately see why you bought this picture. It holds a lot of detail without being over-fussy, so the people and the place are able to speak to the viewer. Are you a visual person? Do you think out scenes in words, or in pictures in your head?
JONATHAN: Well, if I may be so bold as to answer that question. Literally. My side of the conversation is all in bold. It’s a great picture because there’s no knowing how each viewer will interpret it. I love that art can mean different things to different people. If you remember, we considered asking the artist what he envisaged when he painted the scene, but I think knowing that might somehow detract from the magic of it.
I think writers have to visualise to some extent; only then can you be sure that a scene is authentic and plausible. It’s a difficult question to answer as it all just ‘happens’ while I write and trying to deconstruct what happens is not easy. I am certain, though, that when lost in writing, I see the scene play out before me as if it is real. And when you DO see it unravelling in that way, you know you’re writing something good.
How long after looking at the painting did it take for you to come up with your story?
KATH: I'm not sure I can remember. It certainly wasn't very long. Maybe ten or fifteen minutes. I used the car's general shape and style to set the story around the second world war. Then I asked myself, why ask the question, Is it Her? Why does he wonder if it's a special woman? Why were they separated? That led me on to looking at a reunion from both sides.
Did you find that working with another person put any restraints on you? Would your story have been different if you'd published it on your own?
JONATHAN: I can honestly say, no, I don’t think I did feel any restraints. It was refreshing writing in tandem with someone else, knowing we were both working on the same project. Would my story have been different if I’d published alone? I’m pretty sure it would have been non-existent as the project came to life using two heads and not one!
Did you ever worry that comparisons would be made between our stories? Did you feel any pressure in writing your own story?
KATH: Yes, I did. I have the usual self-doubts and wondered whether mine would stand comparison with yours. When I read yours, and the intensity and tension it contained, I felt that even more. When someone asked whether they should vote for the best, I was biting my nails! Strangely, we both turned out stories of almost the same length.
You write dramatic stories and also successful comedies. Did it ever occur to you that the painting could have been the spur for a funny story?
JONATHAN: I always had confidence in you! I’ve read enough of your work to know you can turn out a good, well-written story. And we are comfortable in telling each other what works and doesn’t work so, between us, we could iron out any issues in both our stories.
Actually, no, I never considered humour for the story. I did, however, have a moment where I was convinced I was going to write a horror as the scene reminded me of the one at the end of ‘Don’t Look Now’. Those who have seen that film will know the feeling of sickly dread when the red figure reveals itself!
KATH: So, that won’t be me, then! I fall asleep in films!
JONATHAN: Are there any genres you haven't yet tackled that you want to have a go at?
KATH: There are several genres that appeal to me that I’ve already had a go at but they haven’t yet been published. I’m quite drawn to the supernatural. I don’t mean horror. I don’t want to keep myself awake at night, let alone others. I mean the sort of thing which can’t be explained by science. As someone with a scientific education, it’s intriguing to consider those parts of our experience we can’t explain. Instead of the usual writing prompt of, ‘What if…?’ I started with ‘Wouldn’t it be weird if…?’ and that got me going.
Now another for you. You’re a creature of opposites. I think of your writing sometimes as though you’re balancing at the edge of the abyss and about to kick a stone down there to see how deep it is. Yet at other times it’s much more light-hearted and great fun. The Anniversary was definitely one of the former. Do you alternate? Or does it just depend on your mood?
JONATHAN: I don’t intentionally alternate but, yes, I think the subject matter is a reflection of my current mood. FAG, for example, was incredibly intense to write and at times it felt as if my feelings were literally pouring out onto paper. I think you have to be in the right frame of mind to write something otherwise it just doesn’t have the essential authenticity readers expect. I guess I’m lucky that I feel comfortable in writing in a wide range of genres. Of course, this doesn’t make it easy for readers who follow my work!
Kath, you’re widely known as a prolific reader and reviewer. Do you ever find there’s a conflict between reading and writing, where you have to make a choice about which to devote your time and attention to?
*JONATHAN stares and blinks once*
KATH: What’s your favourite cake?
JONATHAN: The one we ate not ten minutes ago. List three things you can see right now.
KATH: MacBook Pro; Salford Cathedral; oh, and a kettle. *meaningful stare*
JONATHAN: *rises and walks over to kettle, switching it on deftly* While the kettle boils, Kath, tell me what makes you boil with rage?
KATH: Injustice and cruelty, mainly. And politicians. And people who don’t read.
*JONATHAN throws cold water over Kath’s raging head*
JONATHAN: Oh now look what you’ve done. There’s water everywhere!
KATH: You threw the water!
JONATHAN: Well, excuse me for extinguishing the rage from your head. Anyway, let’s not argue. The damage to my immaculate floor is already done and now it is merely a floor.
Kath, thanks for taking part in this interviewie - it’s the new selfie, don’t you know!
KATH: Don’t I know it. Cheers! *KATH raises mug to JONATHAN*
*JONATHAN walks off to fetch mop*
If you're still with us and fancy reading the book, you'll find it on our Amazon Author pages - Kath's and Jonathan's. And here's the actual painting, with the book and authors.