I always make a compilation tape for Jackson for each book. I find it’s rather like a meditation, something I come back to on a regular basis when I’m writing because in some mysterious way it reminds me of the essence of each particular book. He, and I, like country music but that’s quite a broad church. Sometimes it’s apparent to me why I’ve chosen certain tracks and at other times I’m not at all sure of the reason. There are a lot of songs about dead mothers and orphaned children for Case Histories and When Will There Be Good News, and more than a few about death and heaven in Started Early. (Jackson’s taste is strictly on the melancholic side.) At the moment I’m writing a book that begins in 1910 and goes through the Second World War so just now I’m listening to music from the Twenties and Thirties, rather odd and not entirely to my taste. I’m looking forward to Glenn Miller and the Andrew Sisters--not Jackson’s taste at all! --Kate Atkinson
Listen to the playlist
In this Amazon exclusive, we brought together authors Kate Atkinson and Lee Child and asked them to interview each other.
Lee Child: This is the fourth Jackson Brodie book. It's starting to look suspiciously like a series! What brought you back this time?
Kate Atkinson: I never intended to write more than the first one -- which was Case Histories -- but I wrote it so quickly -- which was highly unusual for me -- that I somehow felt as if I hadn't finished with the form and the characters. And then it became the 'power of three' and I thought "one more" and then I found I had unfinished business for Jackson and it became four. I honestly don't know how that happened. There is something seductive about the shape of a detective novel, or at any rate of using a detective in a novel, because it gives you a ready-- made dynamic and a reason for introducing characters to whom interesting things happen as opposed to, say, starting with a whole load of people in a bank or an office and thinking so what are their stories, and what's going to happen to them? (Although, even as I'm writing that, I'm thinking oh, actually that sounds quite intriguing).
Child: Your career so far shows you're not afraid to write whatever you choose. It's as if you've been in and out of several different rooms in the house. Is that fun?
Atkinson: Yes! I get bored quite easily but also there are so many ways of writing out there to explore. To run with the house analogy -- I love houses and there are so many lovely ones that I'll never have a chance to live in because life is short and so is money. It's the same with different styles and genres of writing. I hope before I die I manage to write a romantic novel (because I never write any kind of romance) and I would love to be able to write a children's book, but I think they are the most challenging of all.
Child: Is it easier to write the Brodie books than the others? Or harder?
Atkinson: I found the Brodie books easy to begin with, and then very difficult to finish. I haven't actually finished with him yet but at the moment he's taking a holiday somewhere restful. I found the new book really hard but I think I'd just run out of steam with the character. I'm writing something completely different at the moment and it's amazing how much energy I have for it and what a relief it feels! I think the next time I re-visit Jackson it will be with that same kind of enthusiasm -- and he (and I) will be all the better for having taken a break from each other!
Child: You write about Yorkshire with a certain exasperated affection. You were born there, right?
Atkinson: I am actually a patron of the Yorkshire Tourist Board! I think it's true of everyone in exile -- I live in Edinburgh -- no matter how mild the form, that you have a longing for what you have left behind.
I think the older you get the stronger that is -- not so much nostalgia, but a feeling that your heart is in another place. I may be kidding myself there and, like Jackson, there are certain parts of Yorkshire that I would never want to re-visit, but like him I think there are places in North Yorkshire that do mark it out as God's Own county. (I don't know why Yorkshire people are so fervently patriotic about their county!) My whole family is settled in Scotland so that kind of prevents me from moving back although I dream about that little cottage in the Dales, Aga in the kitchen, sheep bleating outside the window...
(Photo of Kate Atkinson © Martin Hunter; photo of Lee Child © Sigrid Estrada;)