Books by my bedside: Sara Taylor
What’s currently on your bedside table (and why)?
The friend with whom I trade critiques came to visit recently and added a few to the pile, which tends to be more aspirational than practical. At the top is His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet, which I’m looking forward to because said friend knows her crime fiction.
She also brought Trans by Juliet Jacques, which is a memoir about the author’s transgender journey; and Borrowed Time by Jenni Daiches, which is about a woman who leaves everything to live in isolation in the Scottish Highlands, which is something that we’ve both frequently found ourselves tempted to do. I also have Anna Metcalfe’s A Hope on the Wall in an attempt to counteract the dismalness of November, and because of a peculiar weakness for pretty little books.
Which book/s would you recommend to your closest friend right now, and why?
I’ve recently made her read Daisy Johnson’s Fen, which is a collection of short stories that slowly builds on itself, interconnecting in places, to give a clear sense of an uncanny landscape. The next time we meet I’ve promised to lend her my copy of Sarah Monette’s four-volume fantasy series The Doctrine of Labyrinths; the forms of magic in the books are based on the schools of literary theory, and it subverts some of the tropes that have made me want to throw other fantasy books, so I want to see what she makes of it.
Which book/s are you planning to take on your next journey, and why?
Since I’m flying to the US for Christmas I’ve started putting aside airplane reads, which in my case usually means books I’ve had to unwillingly put off reading. The first two are Macbeth, Macbeth by Ewan Fernie and Simon Palfrey, which looks to blur the line between literary criticism and creative response; and I Love Dick by Chris Kraus, which every woman of letters I know has told me I have to read, but which I haven’t read yet because different women of letters keep borrowing my copy. I’m also planning on taking Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites and Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent, as both look like they’ll be gripping enough to make me forget I’m on a plane.
Tell us about your latest book?
The Lauras begins with 13-year-old Alex lying in bed listening to the latest of seemingly endless parental fights. This time the fight ends with Alex’s mother walking out for good, and taking Alex with her. As they wander across America, revisiting the places Ma lived when she was a child in foster care and keeping promises she’d made as a teenager on the run, Alex learns the stories that make up Ma’s past. But all roads end, and no one stays 13 forever: when Ma finds what she’s been looking for since before Alex was born, Alex has to decide whether this new life is worth forgetting about the father they left behind, or to follow in Ma’s footsteps and answer the call of the open road.
Do you discuss your own work-in-progress with anyone?
I tend to talk out plot issues in the general direction of my spouse, who sometimes has solutions. Later drafts tend to be inflicted on one or two writer friends, who are both good at pointing out issues and are generous with their ideas. My sister usually gets to read drafts due to threats and extortion.
Which book made you want to write?
I can’t remember what book made me first want to write, but The Treasure Seekers by Edith Nesbit was the first to make me think I could do it. It’s a children’s classic that breaks rules left and right, and reading it made me realise that I could try for something new rather than imitating what already existed.
If you weren’t writing you’d be...?
Research or university lecturing is what I’m qualified for, though if I ran away from home tomorrow I’d probably wind up working the opening shift in a café for preference.
Sara Taylor, author of The Lauras (Windmill, £7.99) is shortlisted for the 2017 Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer of the Year Award, in association with the University of Warwick. The winner is announced on December 7.