Interview with Claire Fuller, author of Our Endless Numbered Days

Interview with Claire Fuller, author of Our Endless Numbered Days

Claire, great to welcome you onto the blog to celebrate the paperback publication of Our Endless Numbered Days!

It’s been a great year for you, starting with the Observer’s list of debuts to watch and including the Desmond Elliot prize and being nominated for the Edinburgh Festival First Book Award. Is there one moment which stands out? Which did you least expect?

What a difficult question! I don’t suppose I’m allowed to say having my book published at the end of February? Because of course it wasn’t exactly a surprise since the book was sold to Fig Tree/Penguin nineteen months prior to that. But the launch party for the publication, held at a wonderful independent bookshop near where I live called P&G Wells, was an amazing moment. So many friends and family turned up to help me celebrate, and it all seemed rather unreal. We had a cake in the shape of a cabin, which I was eating for days afterwards.

As for the thing I least expected it has to be winning the Desmond Elliott prize. Our Endless Numbered Days was up against so many tremendous books that I didn’t think there was any way it could win.

 

desmond elliot award

 

The paperback of Our Endless Numbered Days came out on New Year’s Eve: what do you think the book has to say about new starts, and about resolutions?

Another great question, that has made me think. And the answer is quite a lot actually, although I didn’t write it with those ideas in mind. The story is told from Peggy’s point of view, when she has returned to her mother’s house after living for nine years in an isolated cabin with her father. Her return is certainly a new start. She has to re-learn how the world and the people in it work. As I was writing these sections they did make me question the consumerism that we all participate in – Peggy is anxious about how much food is in the house that can never be eaten, how many saucepans and wooden spoons her mother owns for just a family of three, and how easy it is to waste things.

James, her father, also believes he is making a new start when he takes Peggy off to the forest and tells her a terrible lie in order to keep her there. Perhaps for a new start to be a positive thing it only works if you are honest about why you’re doing it and are truthful to yourself.

I’m not sure any of my characters are particularly good at resolutions. James is flighty, and Peggy’s only resolutions are the kind that children use – or I certainly used to: I remember carrying a saucer of milk outside for my cat when I was 18, and saying to myself, if I don’t spill any of this, I will get good grades in my A levels! In the book, Peggy is asked to drink a cup of warm milk and she says to herself that if she manages it she’ll be able to go home. Neither of us got exactly what we wanted…

 

us edition our endless numbered days

 

I’ve enjoyed seeing the different covers for the foreign editions. Which one is your favourite? And did any of them pick up on something within the book which the others missed?

I have to say that I love the UK hardback version with the chalk drawing on the black background – something quite sinister and yet childlike about it. I also like the creepiness of the US version with the shadowy shape behind the girl, which is made of flies. This illustration is odd in that my US editor at Tin House, when searching for a possible cover looked through Julianna Swaney’s portfolio and came across this drawing already done. It fits the novel so perfectly even down to the fact that Peggy collects sticks. I think the only thing they had to change was the colour of the girl’s shoes.

Aside from these two, I also particularly love the Taiwanese cover. I really like photographs used as book covers, and this one shows a cabin in a dense forest, exactly as I had imagined die Hutte in Our Endless Numbered Days.

 

taiwaneseedition of our endless numbered days

 

Peggy has a very different physical presence in the two timelines of the book, and I found it quite unsettling to read the sections where, as a young woman, she is having to deal with those changes. In the fairy tale canon, a sense of danger often comes from unleashed female-ness (as opposed to femininity): how much would you agree that this happens with both Ute and Peggy? 

I definitely played with how females are perceived in fairy tales: beautiful, passive, caring. However, I’m not sure that the danger in the book comes from unleashed female-ness – I see the danger as coming from James (who perhaps performs the role of the wicked stepmother). You could say that Ute, Peggy’s mother, fights against the role she has been cast in – that of caring, loving, stay-at-home mother. She is a fairly distant parent, she earns the money in the household, and it is she who first deserts Peggy in order to pursue her career. Interestingly many readers find her unsympathetic for these very reasons.

Peggy meanwhile subverts her fairy tale role and uses it to her advantage. She isn’t content to wait passively for a handsome prince to come and rescue her, so she uses other means.

 

Little_Red_Riding_Hood_Meeting_the_Wolf

 

And continuing from that, Our Endless Numbered Days is often likened to fairy tales: was this deliberate, or something which emerged through the writing process?

It wasn’t something I planned from the beginning. I’m in a writing group where we share and critique our work each month and I remember I had submitted an early chapter where Peggy and James were in the woods, and one of my group said that perhaps I could expand on a fairy tale theme – since they are living in a European forest. So, aside from the larger ideas mentioned in my previous answer, I did have lots of fun with fairy tale references in the book. I think there are about eight allusions to different stories, and I’m not sure anyone has got all of them yet.

If you could step into a parallel universe and write in a completely different genre, which one would you choose?

I think it was definitely be a ghost story – something subtle and creepy, perhaps not even a true ghost story, but a novel about ordinary people who are haunted. The trouble is though that, however much I loved ghost and horror stories as a child, I still haven’t been really scared by one as an adult.

Claire Fuller

 

Thanks so much for coming along, Claire, and I for one will look forward to future creepiness! 

 

Our Endless Numbered Days is published by Fig Tree, and you can buy it here or at any good bookshop. It’s been chosen as a Richard & Judy Spring Read and for the Waterstones Book Club.

You can find Claire on Twitter here and follow her blog here.

 

You can read my review of Our Endless Numbered Days here.

 

OEND - Sarah Jasmon

1 Comment

  1. Poppy Peacock
    2 Jan 2016

    Great interview with astute & fresh questions … can imagine you mastering the creepy/haunting/ghost genre, Claire, as I find your Flash fiction always has dark undertones😨

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  1. BLOG: Sarah Jasmon interviews Claire Fuller about Our Endless Numbered Days | theprimewriters - […] From Claire’s whirlwind year following the success of the novel, to fairytales and ghost stories – these are just…
  2. In the Media: January 2016 | The Writes of Woman - […] Claire Fuller on Sarah Jasmon’s blog […]

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