BlogHer Talks to Jeremy Page
By Rita Arens on December 19, 2011
BlogHer Original Post
BlogHer: Sea Change has a story within a story. I always find myself wondering about how the author does it. Did you write each story separately and then combine them? Or did your writing flow from one to the other like it does when reading the book?
Jeremy Page: I'd like to say I wrote the book entirely in sequence, as it appears, but in practice it never works out that way. I tend to get immersed in various aspects of the story, and when I was writing the diary sections, they did take over, as if I was in that car with Guy and his family driving through the southern states. Likewise, when I was out at sea with Guy, I felt I couldn't get off the boat, either. So a lot of the book was written in separate strands, with the intention of combining them later. I spent a great deal of care and time making the diary work within the other story, making sure the emotional links were there and both stories reflected upon each other. If they hadn't, the whole structure wouldn't have felt authentic to me, and I would have abandoned it.
BlogHer: Sea Change is a book with a lot of atmosphere. It often felt to me like how the sea is just before a storm. Did you have anything that took you to a place to write that atmosphere, such as a musical playlist or a postcard like the one that Guy had in his boat?
Jeremy Page: Well, I wrote most of the book in a wooden shed at the bottom of my garden. A long way from the sea, but not too dissimilar to a ship's cabin. I have a wood-burner in there, where I burn logs, and I can make coffee on the hot plate on its top. Altogether, the kind of spartan existence that Guy was having. In fact, the wood burner came from a Dutch barge, like Guy's, and has its own walk-on part in the novel. At times, I felt the writing shed was quite a short-cut to the atmosphere that occurred in the book. I felt quite at sea in fact, down in my garden. When writing feels difficult, I sometimes listen to music to assert a specific mood, but usually it's a matter of working and working until the work itself grabs you, and when this happens, it doesn't matter where you are -- you're in the book and nowhere else.
BlogHer: As you were writing, did you always know Guy would end up preferring Marta to Rhona, or was it a surprise to you?
Jeremy Page: Ah, that's a tricky question! The truth is Guy's attracted to them both -- to Marta's sensitivity and compassion, and to Rhona's youthful mix of confidence and vulnerability. But I always knew he'd prefer Marta in the end. They have more in common. Rhona, ultimately, would not choose Guy.
BlogHer: What do you think happened to Guy in the end? Did you imagine where he went in the end or leave it hanging in your mind, as well?
Jeremy Page: I really believe a novel has to be shared between the author and the reader. My job finished when I handed in the final draft, and the novel now belongs to those who read it. Their interpretation seems just as valid as mine. So if you want to believe that he survived, then believe it. As for what I think happened to Guy, I'd like to think he got away with it, found a new life and new direction. I'd want that to happen because actually, I like him and feel for what he's been through. But sometimes life's not that fair. I think it's more than likely he didn't make it.
BlogHer: How long did you work on Sea Change? Did it come faster than Salt, or was the experience harder to follow up such a successful novel?
Jeremy Page: I wrote it in less than a year, and am really glad I did it this way. Salt took a lot longer to write, and it was difficult to maintain the energy and all the various elements of the story without deciding to constantly change them. Salt was also a first novel, and so was pretty unchartered territory. I remember feeling afraid of embarking on a second novel, because anecdotally second novels can be like pulling teeth. But from the start, Sea Change had a very vivid and immediate feel in my head, where I knew the characters so well it was as if I was living constantly alongside them. As a result, for a lot of the time when I was writing it, I was really just watching the story, and putting what I saw down on paper. It's an odd experience when you feel that close to the writing. There's a time, just after you finish, when you are able to recite the whole book, word for word. It can be quite eerie.
Fascinating stuff, eh? Please join us as we discuss Sea Change in BlogHer Book Club!