Grace McCleen is the author of The Land of Decoration, a much anticipated debut novel about a 10-year-old from a Christian sect who creates a miniature world in her bedroom in the Welsh valleys. Here she talks to Elen Lewis about what writing means to her
Which fictional character do you most identify with?
Captain Ahab from Moby Dick.
How does your song writing inform your fiction writing? And vica versa?
The feeling of rhythm overlaps into both disciplines. It’s about the music of sentences and words.
Why did you write a novel?
I was ill and I couldn’t do much else. I wrote a long novel. It didn’t work and from that novel came three novels and one of them is ‘Land of Decoration’.
What do people get wrong about you?
I could go on all day about this! I suppose it’s that I didn’t set out to write a page turner. I’m very serious about my work and I’m very serious about literature and I don’t think that’s been picked up yet.
What should all first-time novelists know?
Don’t worry about doing an MA or getting on a creative writing course, they can turn you into clones. So much writing today doesn’t have that spark of originality.Instead, follow your intuition, be in touch with your emotions and try to enjoy it. If I’m crying, I know I’m writing well. Although it doesn’t last for long, but that’s one sign of a good writing day for me.
In terms of inspirations…
What is your favourite book?
Moby Dick or Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson
‘Death in Venice’ directed by Visconti and a wonderful soundtrack by Gustav Mahler.
I haven’t got one. Kafka, Virginia Woolf, the Brontes, Marilyn Robinson, and that’s just prose.
It would have to be an imaginary place.
Something by Beethoven, Rachmaninov or Debussy.