‘What We Didn’t Say’ is Rory Dunlop’s debut novel and it’s out today in paperback, published by Twenty7. I had the pleasure of interviewing Rory.
Can you tell me a bit about ‘What We Didn’t Say’ please?
It’s a novel about a marriage, told by the husband and the wife. They love each other but they separate because of a series of misunderstandings and miscommunications. Then, two years, later they meet up. They want to get back together but they’re each hiding secrets from the other. It’s written in the form of a diary by the husband, with comments from the wife.
Where did you get your ideas from for this book?
I’ve always loved unreliable narrator books, like Lolita or The Sea, the Sea. I enjoy, as a reader, seeing things the narrator can’t. I thought it would be fun to have two competing unreliable narrators telling the same story. I’d never seen it done before.
Do you see yourself in any of the characters?
There’s a fair amount of me in Jack, the husband. He’s a bit more insecure and anxious than me but it wouldn’t take too many changes before I found myself thinking like him. There’s also rather a smug and insensitive barrister who appears briefly. I don’t see myself in him. It’s the opposite – he’s the person I try to avoid being at work.
Would you like to know any of them for real?
Yes! Absolutely! I identify with Jack, I think Laura’s cool and I have a particular soft spot for Adam, who is very similar to one of my best friends. I sent an early draft to a publisher who said ‘I love the concept but I can’t stand Jack and Laura. I suspect Dunlop intended this but…’ I was horrified. I hadn’t intended it all. Jack and Laura were meant to be flawed but likeable – that was how I saw them. I had to do an exhaustive re-draft after that.
Are you currently working on any other writing projects?
No. I’m trying to earn a living! Literary fiction is not all that well-paid and I have two children. I would love to write another novel but I’ll just have to see how this one does. I have a plot in mind – a courtroom drama.
Would you like to see ‘What We Didn’t Say’ made into a film?
Of course! Then I could definitely justify taking the time off work to write another one.
Do you have a favourite place where you do your writing?
Not really. Just not on a laptop, otherwise it does my back in after a while. The key thing with writing, I think, is having the time, rather than the place. You can’t, or at least I couldn’t, write a novel in the mornings or evenings before or after work. You need weeks at a time with nothing else to think about. I’m extremely lucky to be self-employed and able to find that time.
What’s your advice to anyone wanting to pen their first novel?
Two things: get help and, if you enjoy doing it, don’t give up. The first is the most important. I thought, when I started, that it all had to come from me, that creative writing was an inherent talent you either had or didn’t have and that tuition was cheating. That’s all nonsense. It’s a skill, like any other, and there are tricks and techniques. Go on Arvon course. Do an MA. Find a creative writing tutor. I learned more about writing prose in 15 minutes with Jim Crace than in a lifetime of reading novels.
What made you decide to write?
There are so many reasons that made me want to write: because I love reading, because I don’t express my feelings often enough, because I’m terrified of death etc. The novels I love most are the ones which make you think about your own life – the ones where you can see, perfected into sentences, ideas or thoughts that have fleeted through your mind. There’s so much all of us think about that we never express. It’s a joy to try to tease those half-thoughts out into words. If you don’t try, there’s a part of your personality that no one will ever know, that will disappear forever when you’re dead.
What else do you enjoy doing?
I love playing most forms of sport: cricket, football, tennis, golf etc. Now, with a demanding job and two kids, I don’t find time to play cricket or golf or tennis and I’m down to one game of 5 a side football a week. The guy who organises it, on whom we all depend, is having a baby and we’re all terrified it will come to a halt without him. If you’re reading this, and you fancy playing football in Acton on Tuesday nights, get in touch on twitter!
Has social media been useful for you?
It’s hard to tell. You put something out on twitter and you just don’t know how many people read it or how many of them take the trouble to buy or read your book as a result. The main impact of social media, to be honest, has been to make me feel jealous. When I read newspapers I skip over the book reviews as all the 5 star reviews for other people are a downer. Now, on twitter following lots of writers and book bloggers, I can’t avoid it. Every time I look, there’s ten more novels that I’m told are brilliant and topping bestseller lists. It feels like my novel will be lost in the deluge.
What type of books do you read?
I like novels that have beautiful prose. If they can make me laugh, that’s even better. For example, I’ve recently got into David Szalay and Joshua Ferris – they’re both incredible prose-writers and very funny.
‘What We Didn’t Say’ is available to buy on Amazon UK:-