I shan't tell you things you already know about Caroline Smailes, because you can quite easily find it all out by yourself (for example right here). Today I want to speak of Like Bees To Honey, which is Caroline's third novel, officially released tomorrow. In a very odd, roundabout way, Bees reminds me of Back to the Future. Back to the Future is one of those movies which rejects categorisation, for it is at once a coming-of-age story, a sci-fi chronicle, a family movie, a romantic comedy-cum-fantastic allegoric adventure of heroism within one's own little world.
Thus when I put Bees down, I thought of it as a tale of trust and belief, a parable of courage and loss, a lyrical ballad with imagery as odd and evocative as Eliot's 'unreal city under the brown fog', a courageous narrative about redemption and existence. And yet, while it is all of this, it refutes pigeonholing, for all of these complementary elements revolve around a sub-text which has always eluded fixed categorisation: a universal exploration of what it means to believe; in oneself, in others and in all that is seen and unseen.
Why do I call it audacious? Well my dear reader, you must have noticed that these days to speak of belief and redemption, of canonical faith and rebirth, of spirituality and hope is the highly unfashionable doing of supposedly sad morons who clutch at straws past their sell-by date. To step unafraid into our intellectual reality with a novel that ties an emotionally lost human to unhappy spirits and a hippie Jesus takes a combination of courage and a great narrative ability whose execution is subtle, complex and skillful.
Like Bees To Honey is therefore a profound tale of identity at odds with the very notion of itself, as we all strive for answers, except we don't know what questions to ask, while we chase what we really want, except we don't know what that is. There is a bit of Nina in all of us, as we swarm in all directions, unable to read the compass hard-wired within us, struggling with the words we've always known, searching for keys we don't need, while we have the power to open all doors without so much as a jingle if only we believed.
But of course dear reader, I don't think you should take my word for it... Read it and see for yourself. And now I can leave you with Caroline who talks about her writing identity. Thanks so much for these answers Caroline but above all, thanks so much for Bees.
What is your idea of perfect writing?
Honesty, control, clever storytelling and writing filled with heart. I love good storytelling and like nothing more than getting lost in a well structured narrative.
What is your greatest writing fear?
Being found out, being told by everyone in the world that I can't actually write and should never have been published? (Insecure, me?).
What do you consider your greatest writing achievement?
Getting published. The publishing industry is such a fickle business, which at times seems to operate with little logic. My 'getting published' story is unusual with the Internet and blogging playing a huge part. I know that I'll never take 'being published' for granted and for me each book is such an achievement.
What is the writing tendency you most deplore in yourself?
Procrastination! Yes, I admit it, I am a procrastinator.
Which living writer do you most admire?
Jeanette Winterson. I think she is breathtakingly brilliant.
What is your greatest writing extravagance?
I don't really do extravagance when writing, mainly because I've tried hard not to allow myself excuses not to write. I favour pen and paper, so probably my nearest things to lavishness are my collection of £ 1 pens from Paperchase or my tendency towards Paperblanks notebooks or my need for a different Penguin mug to match my writing mood. My tastes aren't vastly expensive, but my quirks are often ridiculous!
What is the quality you most admire in somebody else's writing?
Clarity, honesty, brevity, simplicity, control and passion. I also often have dialogue envy.
What or who is your greatest writing love?
When and where were you happiest with your writing?
When I am engulfed in the world I create in my head, when the characters are living and telling me their story, when I lose grip over the narrative and it takes on a life of its own, when I am in my pjs an cow slippers, when I am in my office with a pot of tea, a notebook and pages of writing.
If you could change a thing about your writing, what would it be?
I would possibly be more of a 'happily ever after' writer.
What is the most marked characteristic of your writing?
I love to experiment with text, with white space, with typography and with narrative. My work is characterised by a passion for trying to engage the reader beyond the written word on the page. I have played with font and sounds in all my novels.
Who are your writing heroes?
Jeanette Winterson, Roald Dahl, Angela Carter, Chris Cleave, John Fowles, The Brothers Grimm, Neil Gaiman, I could go on...
How do you hope your writing will be referred to as long after you've gone?
In print! Failing that, 'heartfelt'.
What is your writing motto?