Q: You describe The Gift of Looking Closely as a psychological mystery. What do you mean by that?
A: I like the grey areas – the blurry edges between who we think we are and who we really are – and I’ve always been fascinated by what makes us tick. I wanted to write about a character who had not yet explored her sexuality, who is perhaps even surprised that she could fall in love with a woman. Claire is slow to open up, but she becomes obsessed with Evie, the charismatic elderly woman she visits regularly as community punishment after being caught shoplifting – and she falls in love with Evie’s younger self, who she comes to know through the older woman’s stories and photographs.
The novel is a gradual unpeeling of the truth of things; the mystery is about what really happened, and even more about who the characters really are. There is deception and self-deception. Before telling Evie, Claire had never even spoken about the way she was tricked into helping her mother commit suicide. You can’t suppress things to that extent – they leak out, old patterns recreate themselves in the present.
I wrote the novel in the second person because I wanted to offer readers a different experience. So the invitation is to ‘be Claire’ – to step into her shoes rather than read about her. And as she says: ‘These are not comfortable shoes. But where they rub, where they hurt and most make you notice they aren’t yours – those are the best places to get to know me.’
The Gift of Looking Closely is available in ebook and paperback through Amazon or via albrookes.co.uk and has been nominated for the Polari First Book Prize.