Thursday, February 24, 2011

Monday Afternoon – One Year Anniversary – First Book Published by Night

Since Authonomy has been around, not one single book that has made the Editor’s Desk has been offered a contract by Harper Collins.  That’s over 100 books and not a single contract.  It’s surprising that writers still struggle to make it to the top of the heap when there is less than a 1% of getting a contract. tried to improve upon that system by allowing the readers to vote which manuscript will be published. 

Tim Roux created Night Publishing and Night Reading in hopes of publishing five books a month.   Every month the members vote.  The entire editors’ desk at Night reading gets published.

What excellent ideas.

I absolutely love the first book Night published, Monday Afternoon by Steve Sangirardi.  The prose drew me in as an English teacher is tempted to cheat on his wife.  It’s easy to say that cheating is wrong, but this book offers such depth of thought and complexities that challenge the reader to think as we grow to understand the characters motivations.  It’s stunning that this book wasn’t offered a contract by a big publisher.  As its one year publication anniversary (March 3, 2010), I decided to play tribute to its author with an interview (you can also find the first chunk of the novel on Authonomy).    

KJ Kron:  When Angelo meets Monica for the first time, it feels like 17 year olds falling in love.  The excitement, the anticipation.  I felt like this was going to be a romance, but I wouldn’t call it that.  How would you describe it?

Steven Sangirardi: Though it might sound cliché, the two are lonely soul-mates…in the sense that they fall in love and fornicate rather quickly. The nineteenth-century British poets call it the finding of the Epipsychidion, the ideal intellectual and sexual counterpart. Monica and Angelo also bring out the child in each other, as when they ‘play’ in the museum or dance the night away.

KJ: He seems to suffer from a lot of Catholic guilt.  Are you Catholic and how much of your Catholic upbringing did you manage to put in this book?

Steven: Considering Angelo’s great guilt over his mother-in-law’s accident, the reader should not be surprised by his decision at the end of the novel. Catholic gods die hard. I myself am a lapsed Catholic, and yet every time I pass a church in the car, I make the sign-of-the-cross. Since you have asked this question, I feel comfortable saying that I’m always asking forgiveness for sins I’ve not yet committed in case I unexpectedly die. Lol.

There is no way you could write this book without being an English teacher.  What is your teaching experience?

Before retiring from Clarke High School in Westbury, NY in 2009, I taught high school and college English for thirty-three years. I began teaching at the University of Missouri at Columbia in 1976. I taught all over New York City for a time. I had to retire at the relatively early age of fifty-four because of Multiple Sclerosis. My bad luck. A writer should write about what he or she knows, right? I like to think that I understand every nuance of teaching.

As an English teacher, I absolutely love this book.  All the allusions to literature I’ve taught.  He also uses allusions from movies, etc.  Monica shares his background in a way his wife can’t.  Does that mean they are alike or is it just their shared love of literature?

As I implied in the first question, their love goes far beyond their love of literature. They both loved the Stamford Nature Center, were both born in July, and together loved watching the film King Kong. They were also, er, complementary in bed. They were especially able to peruse the speech bubble hovering over the other’s head.

Romeo and Juliet is a perfect love because they die without leaving that initial honeymoon phase.  I’m curious if you believe that Monica and Angelo would have been able to stay in that honeymoon phase forever?

That is an excellent point. I think, and several readers have told me the same thing: sooner or later, Angelo’s Catholic Superego was going to prevail. Doesn’t Monica tell him the same thing? These same readers, I should frankly point out, were upset with the ending of the book. The wanted just the opposite to occur.

I read the book Sex in America that states that married couples rarely cheat on each other because they’d feel too much guilt and they couldn’t find the time and most couple that cheat end up getting divorced.  Once Angelo crosses the Rubicon, do you believe that his marriage to Alice is doomed?

Probably. The part of the book that I most enjoyed writing was Angelo’s return-visit home, alone, when he clears out his belongings in preparation for life with Monica, and still he is bombarded with memories and absent voices. In a way, he can’t believe what he is doing. And his wife Alice will never let him forget his marital transgression. If a man takes inventory of his life at any given moment, his life is pretty much the sum total of his choices up to that point of his inventory. Angelo strays from the conjugal path and pays dearly for it. He is like a shuttlecock, fluttering between Connecticut and New Rochelle.

He struggles with his faith in God and his lusts at one point pitting Freud against Jesus.  How can you summarize those two points of view?

Ha. Jesus and Freud play tug-of-war on Angelo…and will likely render him Venus de Milo. Duty vs. Desire, it is a bitch. I suppose the main question of the novel remains: what does a man do after fifteen years of marriage and fatherhood when he falls in love with another woman? Does he repress his impulses, as a moral Catholic spouse should, or does he explode in the name of freedom? We can’t forget that Angelo Aiello is a very decent man who happens to be unhappily married. Then he meets Monica Richardson. Ahem. Maybe, just maybe, the traditional bad angel on his left shoulder is really the good angel, and the good one on his right shoulder is the unhealthy tyrant.

It’s painful to see the way he treats his wife, yet there is good in him.  His wife is frustrated that he can empathize with his students but not her. Do you blame his lack of moral consistency due to being in an uncomfortable situation?

I think Angelo has come to know the B.B. King song: “The Thrill is Gone.” He married Alice too quickly due to her physical beauty, and now that the Beauty has vanished---some of the reason for which is Alice’s own fault--- Angelo finds his new thrill in a very unexpected place. In Angelo’s defense, he didn’t intentionally intend to hurt his wife and daughter, as he tells them. Nonetheless, if Angelo were brought before some Oprah tribunal comprised of a jury of women, Angelo would be lapidated, stoned to death; then his decapitated head sentenced to a pillory.  

I like the line about how he hates Billy Collins’ poetry and they prefer the classics, sonnets.  Do you share that point of view and what are some of your favorite poems / poets?

Like Robert Frost, I am opposed to any poet who plays tennis without a net, that is, relies almost entirely on Free Verse. Billy Collins is actually a good poet whom I enjoy. But open any magazine or journal or anthology, and behold the fast-food poetry that is usually composed in, er, five minutes. My favorite poets are Yeats, Frost, Stevens ad infinitum. I am a poet myself and have written two hundred sonnets.

Your style is different.  Long paragraphs and long sentences which really shows the confusion Angelo goes through.  It’s different from much of the modern fiction I read with short paragraphs and choppy sentences.  Are you critical of modern literature the Angelo abhors modern poetry or do you like modern fiction?  When reading your book, two come to mind: The Corrections, a modern piece of fiction and The Death of Ivan Ilych, a classic.  Which would you say is closer to your style? 

Thanks for that compliment. When I read Dickens, Franzen, Tolstoy, Boyle, Faulkner, Morrison, Joyce---the list is endless--I feel like an excited second-graded waving his hand, and it feels good playing the second grader vis-à-vis these masters because there is always something to learn. My writing is eclectic: I am influenced by everyone I am reading at the time. In fact, three years ago my wife and I were at Stop and Shop. I was browsing the book section as usual, while my wife went up and down the aisles. I culled from the shelf an author I had heard a lot about, someone poohed-poohed by literati. It was Nicholas Sparks’ True Believer. I read it and understood the cylinders and pistons and belts of a best-seller. That book taught me much, and Monday Afternoon is somewhat based on it.

This is a 90s book, which made me wonder – did you write it during the 90s? How long did it take to write?  How many drafts did you go through?  How long was it sitting on your shelf before you tried to publish it?

I wrote the book sporadically from 2005-2007, then honed it after my retirement from teaching, four, five hours a day. Allow me to include the most important statement ever made about writing. It’s from Thomas Mann’s Tonio Kroger: “You cannot pluck a single fruit from the laurel tree of art without paying for it with your entire life.” After I retired, I felt such a guilty void that I sublimated that guilt into writing, turned my blood into ink. Writing, as Mann suggests, becomes your obsession.

You go through a full ranges of emotions in this book.  Which do you prefer writing, the joyful or the painful scenes?

I thoroughly enjoyed writing the scene where Angelo and Monica make love for the for the first time and go dancing for the first time entirely enmeshed in that Dirty Dancing number. I also thoroughly enjoyed writing about Angelo’s sister-in-law’s death and his compunction returning home to gather his possessions, etc., for his new life with Monica. I think any writer must be able to don both the comic and the tragic mask.

One of my co-workers said that the English department is full of broken dreams.  That’s true in my case, struggling novelist.  And that’s the case with your two main characters.  Do you think anything would have changed if they were published poets?

Sounds like the Green Day song. Who knows? They might have been too content with their lives to seek the other person. I’ll end with this confession---as I wrote this novel, I fell in love with my character Monica Richardson. I was anxious to discover what she was going to say and do the next day, as soon as I, the author, awoke. I began missing her as soon as the book was finished. Life on the planet.

I see you have a new novel out.  Tell me a little about it.

My new novel, also published by Night Reading, is A Shakespearean View of Freud. Around 1980, I read something by the critic Harold Bloom that sparked my interest. Bloom wrote that he was getting tired of reading Freudian interpretations of Shakespeare. Why couldn’t someone write a Shakespearean interpretation of Freud? Times being what they were, I attempted the task.

Tim Roux, the founder of Night Publishing, decided to publish your book first.  How did you two meet?

I met Tim on the website Speak Without Interruption. We exchanged writings, and Tim asked to see my novel. I owe him a lot.

Best of luck with A Shakespearean View of Freud and continued success with Monday Afternoon.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What it's Like to be Offered a Contract

The moment I finished watching Robocop, I wanted to be a writer.

I understood the satire.  It was funny.  It was violent.  What else could you want in a movie?

I was 19.

Four years later I finished writing my first manuscript:  Pinkie System.  It took place in the future.  Pockets were a thing of the past.  Credit cards, money, keys, etc. was all stored in one’s pinkie.  Instead of key holes, there were pinkie holes.  Instead of swiping one’s credit card, one swiped a pinkie. The problem: a group of thugs went around chopping people’s pinkies off and stealing all that they owned.

I imagined Pinkie System being an international best seller.  There would be an audio book and a movie deal.  In the future, it’d be required reading in high schools since all my predictions about the future would come true. 

I was kind enough to share my brilliant manuscript with my roommate Ed and my mother.

Ed and I were having a party.  As I walked down the steps, I heard Ed talking to Christina Greenwood, a girl I had a crush on.  He started talking about Pinkie System, so I stopped and eavesdropped.  “Karl’s book Pinkie System is the worst book I’ve ever read.  Every page he says ‘pinkie’ this and ‘pinkie’ that.  I swear if I see the word ‘pinkie’ one more time I’m throwing Karl’s manuscript out the window.”

Was it really that bad?  I asked my mom what she thought of it.  “Well,” she said, pausing to look for the right word.  “I read it.”

That’s where my dreams of making a movie deal and selling tons of copies vanished.  I buried those crazy fantasies as stupidity of my youth.  But lately I’ve been forced to consider those possibilities again – no matter how farfetched – when Slush Pile Reader offered me a contract.

I figured the contract would be simple.  A page or two covering the most basic things.  Kind of like the EZ tax form.  It ended up being 19 pages.

I read through it.  There were a few words I didn’t know, but I thought I understood most of it.  I wasn’t too sure what would happen if it became a movie, an audio book, etc.  A friend of mine, Ben, is a lawyer.  I told him about it and he asked to see it.  I said it was so unlikely that any thing major would happen.

“Still, you should protect yourself,” he said.  Ben didn’t deal with book contracts, but another lawyer in his firm did.  That lawyer gave me an explanation of what was in the contract.  He offered his services to re-write the contract for a decent price, so I took him up on it.

There were a few minor points that Slush Pile Reader and I had, but in the end it all worked out.  It seems that different lawyers have there own way of phrasing things.  All and all I’m happy about it.  Signing a contract makes things seem official.  I no longer feel like I’ll never get published.  It’s right around the corner. 

And as I pondered the points of the contract with a lawyer, I had to entertain outlandish dreams just so I’d know what would happen.  For a moment, I felt like a teenager again, walking out of Robocop with a head full of dreams.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

An Announcement

I never like the first Monday of the month.  Right after the bell rings to release the students, all the teachers have to go to the auditorium.  The staff meeting means less time for grading and that Xavier is going to be in daycare for an extra hour as I learn about the latest school district’s latest acronyms.  We have a ton: AYP, CFA, PPP, and SOL (I’m serious, but it’s not what you’re thinking – it’s Standards of Learning) to name a few.

The February staff meeting began with our principal saying, “Congratulations to our own Karl Kronlage whose book will be published by Slush Pile Reader.”  I scanned the crowd looking for my wife – she had to be the one who told the principal.

We have a large staff – there are 2,700 students and close to 200 teachers.  Right away, the teachers around me started congratulating me, telling me they didn’t know I had written a novel, what was it about, and could they have an autographed copy. 

Twenty-two years ago when I wrote my first manuscript, I freely told people that I wanted to write novels.  But as the years went on and people asked if I any of my books were released yet, I felt like a fraud or a failure saying, “I’ve written three novel but none of them are published.” 

I hesitate telling anyone that I have written a novel. When is someone a writer?  After writing a novel?  Getting it published?  Making money off of it?  Earning enough to quit the day job?  Maybe I have the wrong question. When does a writer stop telling people that he or she writes?

I went part-time twice to write Saint Peter Killed God (2000-2001 and 2007-2008), but I didn’t advertise it.  If I did, then I’m sure people would have wondered – when is Karl getting published? 

Now that the cats out of the bag, I’m a little overwhelmed.  Just trying to make copies, I’m stopped by two or three people asking me questions about my book and congratulating me.  I’m not sure how I’m supposed to act.  I just smile a lot.

My wife said that she told the principal because he always asks the staff to email any good news.  I guess she did the right thing but I feel like I’ve been exposed, which isn’t such a bad thing.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Catching Up with Cathrine Chisnall, author of Descending and Surfacing

One website that is publishing writers I’ve read on-line is Night Reading.  They are making dreams come true.  The first book I bought from Night Publishing was Catherine Chisnall’s Descending, which I started reading on Her book really stuck with me for days after I read it. I wanted to talk to Catherine about it. 

KJ Kron: I think of a romance as a story where the two potential lovers are separated by an obstacle, like Romeo and Juliet’s family’s hate each other. In Descending, Jamie, the student, and Emily, the teacher’s assistant, are separated by many of society’s taboos. But I wouldn’t call this a romance. How would you describe it?

Catherine Chisnall: I would say firstly it’s a cautionary tale. ‘Don’t get involved with students, whatever you do!’
I have read up about cautionary tales.Apparently they are a distinct type of story, passed down in folklore probably from when humans first developed a moral code. Here is Wikipedia’s definition:
‘There are three essential parts to a cautionary tale, though they can be introduced in a large variety of ways.
First, a taboo or prohibition is stated: some act, location, or thing is said to be dangerous. (Emily realising she shouldn’t get involved with a student).
Then, the narrative itself is told: someone disregarded the warning and performed the forbidden act. (Emily, despite her own knowledge and friends’ warnings, has a relationship with Jamie)
Finally, the violator comes to an unpleasant fate, which is frequently related in large and grisly detail. (I won’t say what Emily and Jamie’s fate is, as I don’t want to give the story away, but it is appropriate).
However, when asked to choose a genre from a modern list, there isn’t a ‘cautionary tale’ category, so I have been calling it a ‘contemporary drama’.
My friend, Ruth Francisco (author of Amsterdam 2012, a masterpiece), summed Descending up well. ‘Desperate people doing desperate things.’ I couldn’t put it better myself.

KJ: Like Emily, you’re a teacher assistant. How long have you been working as one and how would you describe the job?

CC: I was a learning support assistant or LSA, (which is what they are called in England) for about ten years. I’m not now.
In 2009, due to health and family problems and being stuck in a college where I felt useless and unnecessary, I decided to call it a day and went back to being a full time mum.
I absolutely loved being a learning support assistant when I started in 1999, but it really depends on the environment you work in. I felt I had done all I could in education, I was drained and exhausted, so it was time to stop. Apparently this sort of burn out is common in the caring sector. You have to be sensitive to do that sort of job, but inevitably being sensitive leads to burn out.
People think we just sit there doing nothing, but apart from helping students with their learning, we are carefully monitoring the atmosphere in the classroom, quelling arguments before they escalate, noticing who needs help with what, when and how, and when to stop helping students who are trying to get you to do the work for them.
We must also reinforce the teacher’s discipline while simultaneously building supportive relationships with the students. They will tell us things they won’t tell the teacher, their mum or girlfriend/boyfriend, so we also have to judge when they are in danger and pass the information on e.g. if they are being abused, or getting in with a bad crowd.
It is a very delicate balance of a job. You are not a teacher, in control and unchallengeable. You are not a student, even though you sit with them and they trust you. You have to walk the line of being firm but fair to all, including when the teacher is being unfair to the student or they are in direct conflict- you have to take the teacher’s side whatever your own feelings about the justice of the situation.

KJ: You really get inside the head of Emily and make her likable even though some of her actions made me want to yell at her. What are her strengths and weaknesses?

CC: I am amazed at the sympathetic reaction to Emily from so many readers. I assumed everyone would condemn and dislike her, as some readers indeed do. Everyone has had a different reaction to her.
Anyway, her strengths, hm… that is a hard question. Maybe doing the job in the first place? As a woman in an entirely male college, she has to be strong because it’s a lonely situation. I have observed that single sex environments are rather unhealthy. All-male places become very competitive, with everyone obsessed with who is Alpha male. All-female places become very bitchy and petty, probably for a similar reason. I think men and women need to live together for harmony. That sounds very hippy-ish! (laughs)
Weaknesses. Giving in to her feelings for Jamie and just thinking ‘sod it, I’ve had enough of being sensible and alone.’ Ignoring the fact that she’s doing the wrong thing, even though she knows she is. Conveniently ignoring the fact that however much she fancies him, he’s still just a kid.

KJ: As a teacher, I’ve run into a few students like Jamie. Why is Emily attracted to him?

CC: I think it’s cos she’s a nice, middle class girl and he’s a bit of rough! I don’t know if you say that in America. She hasn’t gone out with someone like him before, I think her previous boyfriends have been a bit wishy washy.
It’s the old ‘good girl, bad boy’ attraction which probably began with the first humans. She has been the good little girl for so long: helping others, keeping quiet, struggling on alone. Then along comes Jamie, whirling into her life and turning it upside down. She wonders what it would be like to live like he does, not being cautious and careful all the time, just doing what he wants to when he wants to. He is the opposite of her and they say opposites attract.
And the other thing of course is that Jamie is there to look after her in the lift when she is in danger. There’s probably a bit of ‘oh my hero’ in there too, perhaps. I only just thought of that!!

KJ: This is my 15th year as an English teacher and twice I’ve heard of young female teachers who have had affairs with older students in my school district (ten high schools). It’s not very common but it happens. Did you know of a case in the UK that inspired you to write this book?

CC: Yes, there was a case on the news soon after I began working in learning support. A teacher had an affair with a 15 year old boy at her school. I watched a documentary about it, cos I wondered what sort of person she was to do that.
She seemed rather sad and lonely, she had moved into the town to take a new job and didn’t know anyone. It seems the students were the only ones to make friends with her.
Anyway, I wondered how she got involved with the student. She didn’t seem like an evil paedophile abusing an innocent child, because he wasn’t a child, but he obviously wasn’t a man either. I felt sorry for her as it can’t have been one sided, he must have been willing. She went to prison cos he was under 16, the age of consent.In that case, it was straightforward: she was wrong, he was right.
I wondered what would happen if this sort ofrelationshiptook placewith a student over 16, not in a school setting and perhaps with an LSA, not a teacher. It wouldn’t be so clear cut. LSAs are far closer to the students than teachers are. Teachers are in control at the front of the class, while LSAs sit among the students, like their confidantes.
In my job, I heard no end of rumours about relationships and attractions between staff and students, so I wondered what would really happen in such a relationship.It wouldn’t go right, that’s for sure!
Hence Descending.

KJ: The Brits use slightly different terms that what we use in the states. You referred to "college” and I quickly realized you weren’t talking about a “university”. Do American readers have any questions that need clarifying and what are they?

CC: Ah yes. We have ‘secondary schools’ which take children up to 16, or 18 if there is a sixth form college. Schools are very structured and don’t treat pupils as adults.
Then there are ‘Colleges of Further Education’ which take students from 16 up to any age, including adults over 18. They are much less structured and the students are treated like adults from age 16 and expected to behave like them. This is the grey area I wanted to explore.
‘University’ is called ‘Higher Education’ which means the studentsare academically inclined, have ‘A levels’ and are over 18. Therefore they are adults. If they had relationships with lecturers it would be ‘frowned on’ but not illegal.

KJ: As a teacher’s assistant, Emily seems to have a different relationships with different teachers. Would you say that mirrors what you experience?

CC: Definitely. Some teachers are extremely aware of what is going on all round the classroom: which students are having a feud; who has home problems; who is psyching out whom. They know exactly what to do to keep order. In those lessons I could do my job of supporting the students’ learning without having to deal with bad behaviour.
Some teachers do not notice the undercurrents in a class and simply deliver the lesson while the students play up. In those classes I would usually work with a quieter student because if not it meant having to take on discipline and control of the students. I did not have the authority to do this and anyway, it’s not technically my job.
There were also some teachers who knew well what my job was, shared lesson plans and objectives with me and made it straightforward for me to simply work with students’ on their targets.
Other teachers did not understand and thought I was a general dogs body, there to make the tea, or expected me to take on the discipline role with no practice or authority. I learned very early not to do that!
Legally, learning support assistants are not supposed to be left alone in the classroom with students, as we are unqualified. This is in case there is an accident where a child hurts themselves or some other incident which could lead to legal action. I have occasionally been left alone in a classroom by certain teachers.
Teaching is full of different people and there is little consistency, because everyone is human and does things differently. If the government wants everyone to teach in the same way, they should employ robots!

KJ: In a couple of places in your book, the students try to intimidate Emily. Have you ever experienced or witnessed something similar with your students?

CC: Yes, I have. But firstly I must say that even though I’ve worked in some very rough, deprived areas, the vast majority of the time the students have been pleasant and cooperative. Despite the fact that most of them had terrible home lives and problems, such as abusive or absent parents, poverty, or having to be ‘the man of the house’ at age 11 etc.
However, teenagers will always try and intimidate people, I think especially LSAs because they know we are unqualified andnot ‘proper teachers’.They assume we are stupid because we are ‘just LSAs’.
I was shocked when I first started work, because when I was at school 30 years ago no one ever talked back to teachers. These days, answering back is normal. I have been asked all sorts of intimate questions, been pushed and ostracised, especially when I was a new LSA. It got better as the students got to know me: “Miss is alright, don’t talk to her like that!” etc.
When I was younger, I was occasionally sexually propositioned by the older boys. I think most women in education under the age of about 60 have been propositioned by students! One of those times could really have ended badly but luckily another student stepped in. He said ‘you’ve got no chance with her, mate, she’s got a husband.’ Which was sexist and reassuring at the same time!
That was another thing which prompted me to write Descending. What if I wasn’t happily married and didn’t have a husband? Would I have been ‘fair game’? What if I was a different person- young, lonely, unhappy? Would I have been tempted by a man-child like that?
Having grown up in a prim and proper middle class area, I was amazed how much more physically mature kids in working class areas were. There was a girl in year 7 (i.e. 11 years old), who could easily pass for a 16 year old and most of the boys looked like men at age 14. I know people don’t like to talk about the class system, but it still exists in the different maturity rates of children, according to my observations of schools in different areas. Middle class children tend to be far ahead intellectually, while working class children tend to be far ahead physically and emotionally.
Of course if intimidation happens in schools, there is a clear cut ‘chain of command’ to appeal to e.g. Head of Year, who tells the students off and threatens them with dire consequences if they don’t behave. In Further Education colleges, there isn’t this clear cut structure, so it is possible that someone,e.g. Emily, wouldn’t know where to turn.
Whether you are intimidated or not depends on how kindly you treat the students and how well you know them. I was generally kind and didn’t confront them, so they were generally nice to me.

KJ: The humiliation Emily must feel to have her entire situation out in the open but still coming to work. In the states it takes a huge offense to fire an employee. Is the same true in the UK? Is that why they didn’t fire Emily?

CC: I am honestly not sure, I was just guessing at what might happen. I didn’t ask anyone, I speculated. Because Jamie is over 16, the age of consent, it is not legally or technically an offence for her to have a relationship with him. It is just ‘frowned on’ and discouraged.
I think Emily was fired because of the consequences of the relationship i.e. Jamie got into fights and trouble because of her, and there is a 13 year age difference between them. And of course the college management was worried about the college reputation. They didn’t want to appear to condone such a relationship in front of the other colleges in the area, so they had to sack her. I don’t think they could keep Emily employed under those circumstances, but it was not illegal.

KJ: Emily takes Jamie out to a club, isn’t overly worried about STDs, is honest about her relationship with Jamie to her superior, and seems hurt by how others react to her. Would you call her innocent or reckless?

CC: Reckless. She doesn’t care anymore. She’s had enough of being a good little girl, doing the right thing all the time and just getting the reward of being more and more lonely and unhappy. She basically thinks ‘fuck it, I’m going to do something silly for once.’ She’s reached that point of not caring about herself or anything else anymore. I think she is on the verge of a mental breakdown, to be honest.
That is the attraction of Jamie. He couldn’t be a less suitable boyfriend, so she picks him as something different, a change in her life. There is that saying ‘if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.’ So she makes a change and doesn’t do what she’s always done. In fact, she doesn’t even choose, she just lets it all happen really.

KJ: I haven’t read many books like this. Maybe Lolita. What books have you read that are similar and what are your favorite types of books?

CC: I haven’t read any similar books, not even Lolita. I have heard of that book about a teacher having a relationship with a school boy and also an older teacher, Notes on a Scandal. I watched half the film of the book, but realised the story isn’t truly about the teacher’s relationship with the boy. It is about the young teacher’s relationship with the older, possibly lesbian, teacher, so it’s not really comparable to Descending. I don’t mean to sound dismissive, sorry. Now I’ve got Descending published I might read Notes on a Scandal to see what it’s like. I didn’t want to read it and get confused with it and my story.
Descending goes right into the relationship between Emily and Jamie, its right in your face. I wanted to write it in the first person to get more into Emily’s head, so people might understand her better. I hopefully don’t flinch or gloss over anything about the relationship.
Favourite types of books… not sure. I don’t get the time to read these days, I do more writing! I generally read popular psychology books, not novels. I also did a Sociology course last year, so I read those sociology books as well. I have done so much studying of literature in the past, I think it’s put me off reading fiction! (laughs) At the moment I am reading ‘Making a Living without a Job,’ by Barbara Winter. Something for us all to think about!

KJ: It was a pleasure reading your book. I got to experience a world I hope to avoid (smiles). How long did it take you from the time you started writing it until the time it was published?
That is kind of what I thought. Other people apart from me must wonder what sort of person would have an affair with a student, so hopefully they got the same experience as you.
It took me about 6 months from start to finish. I wrote it in December 2009 in a few weeks, it just poured out. Then I put it on various sites: Authonomy, Slush Pile Reader, and Night Reading for critiquing. It was picked up by Night Publishing in May 2010, then finally published in July.
There is a sequel, as you know, called Surfacing, which was published in November 2010. I was amazed that so many people said ‘oh, poor Emily, what happens to her next?’ and wanted me to write a sequel. So I did. Jamie is in it too, cos I wanted to see what happened to him next as well.