INTERVIEW WITH CHLOE THURLOW
Chloe Thurlow’s new novel Katie in Love is out now. This is my exclusive interview with the young English author everyone is talking about.
Where do you see yourself going in the years to come?
I see myself as a mom with three children in a house surrounded by a pretty garden. I have a room with a dormer window and I look out over flowering plants and mature trees. I can hear birds and imagine a nightingale has built a nest in the ivy climbing the old stone walls. From this room at the top of the house, I face the daily struggle of the blank page and the constant worry that whatever I plant and nurture could be better. I drink coffee. The nightingale sings and cheers me up.
Do you write full time?
I work occasionally as a teacher, occasionally as a waitress, occasionally as an English Tudor. I have worked in PR and marketing, but find it deceitful putting a spin on products, celebrities and places in which I have little trust in order to make people buy those products, admire those celebrities and visit those places. My dream is to write full time.
What’s your favorite past time?
I have been asked this question before and it is terribly hard to answer. I swim, I walk, I learn Spanish, I listen to Bach and flamenco. I love to go out for cosy meals and drink cava with friends. Sometimes, I drink too much and break things when I fall over. I like movies and the theatre. I ride and play tennis badly. I can’t cook for toffee and my drawing is risible. Oh, yes, I love to dance. When I dance it is like wearing a mask and I forget myself.
Where are you from and how did that shape you to be the person you are today?
I am from everywhere and nowhere. Thanks to my father’s various postings, I was born in Belgium, took my first steps in Italy and began school in Canada. The family home is in Kent, in England, where I was sent to an all-girls school. How did this shape me? I understood at an early age that all people are equal, that the accident of where you were born is irrelevant, and that in every village there are nice people and nasty people.
Any of your books autobiographical in nature?
If I were to write a story about a young black boxer from a poor part of town, I would make him determined, persevering, contradictory, unsure whether to lead with the left or right, when really, he knows the opposition and knows how he should lead. He would be aspects me. In that sense, all my books and stories are in some ways autobiographical. I draw on my life like taking coal from a mine and turn it into the driving force of narrative. At least I try to.
I want people to know you like I do; can you tell them why you choose to write erotica?
My tutor at university gave me a copy of A Spy in the House of Love by Anaïs Nin. He then suggested I write an erotic short story for a magazine. The story was published and I have never recovered from that early success. I wrote my first erotic novel, The Secret Life of Girls, in part because I knew it would annoy my mother if it were published, and, being filled with self-doubt, the English condition, I wanted to see if anyone would deign to publish it. One book led to another and I quickly began to lose all sense of what was research, what was documentary, and what was sheer fantasy. The black boxer is a metaphor. The nightingale is real.
Some people who don’t know you might be unkind after reading your books or your blog. I know you as a classy woman who is very informative and thought-provoking; what do you say to those who may not understand?
Please read before you condemn. My early novels were coming-of-age escapades testing the boundaries. My blogs move between erotic themes, social issues and women’s health. I would remind those who do not understand that erotica is a literary genre. In Katie in Love, I set out to bend, sculpt and redefine the form. We homo sapiens are multi-faceted. The erotic is one facet and I have tried in this new novel to create a crystal ball reflecting the light of love, romance, relationships, philosophy – even politics. It is a contemporary story with all the fears, frustrations and uncertainties surrounding us all and how, in the end, love – if we find it – may be the answer.
Does having a blog affect your personal life; any real life experiences come from them?
I had one terrible real experience. A stranger who wrote nice comments on my blogs and bought all my books asked me to have coffee with him ‘in a public place.’ I reluctantly agreed, and thought he was going to do me serious damage when I made it clear that the equation of meeting for coffee and my writing erotic novels did not add up to me spending the afternoon in his hotel room. For that one bad experience, I have had many nice contacts from people who appreciate my work. Some say that reading my blogs has been ‘an education.’ I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s nice to hear it said.
Your new book Katie in Love, can you tell us a bit about the story?
Katie Boyd has chucked her actor boyfriend and ends up at a New Year’s Eve Ball on her own. She meets Tom Bridge, a doctor who runs an orphanage and needs volunteers with skills to help the children. They have a passionate three week affair, then he returns to his post in Sri Lanka. Katie examines her life and loves, her dreams and desires, her lack of direction. She is a girl who never thought she would fall in love and, now she thinks she may have done so, it’s too late, Tom has gone. If she had the skills they need at the orphanage, she would follow him. But she doesn’t and is forced into making a daring choice that will change her life forever. The book took me 13 insomniac-fuelled months to write and I have done my best to make it as beautiful as the physical book itself, a marriage of the aesthetic with the literary.
Is there anything else you’d like your readers to know about you or your work?
Just this: please read Katie in Love – it may change your life.