I look back over the years and reckon that I've spent at least as many hours of my life writing for adults as writing for children.
Yet (apart from in Italy and France, where my work for the two separate audiences is weighted equally) I'm more generally known as a writer for children. For all the recent talk of 'cross-over' novels, I think writing for adults differs enormously from writing for children. Bright as young readers may be, the author must bear in mind that they lack a good deal of knowledge and experience of the world. Also, to some extent they need protecting from a too vivid exposition of its horrors. So though the good children's writer must stay emotionally truthful, they do, as Jill Paton Walsh has aptly said, tend to "cut at a different angle and depth".
It's deliciously different with adult audiences. That sense of responsibility is thrown overboard. The author's free to depict the world, and people's inner lives, exactly as he or she perceives them. We all know that thoughts and feelings - even in close and caring families - will often get strained and ugly. If you're the sort of reader who prefers a cotton-wool view of the world, you might not find my adult works either amusing or perspicacious. If you're a realist, like myself, you'll respond very differently.
The family is a crucible for both love and hate, and the endless layerings and refractions of these feelings have always been my stomping ground as a writer. I'm always surprised that murder in the domestic setting is not more common, so what I tend to do is dig deep into the psyches of characters who may have the strongest sentiments, both positive and painful, yet manage, like most of us, to keep things in check, and not fetch up with the details of their lives splashed over the pages of a tabloid.
I'm often called a 'fearless' novelist, but I don't think that any writer can be scared of conflict. And I do let my characters mirror the thoughts and feelings so many people nearly allow themselves to have, but then shrink back because it's hard to see some things in quite so raw and honest a light and then just carry on. But we all know the saying, "We read to know that we are not alone". And I think that is absolutely the root of the appeal of my adult novels to both men and women readers.
Which one to choose? Well, The Mail on Sunday calledTelling Liddy "Mercilessly funny", whereas The Times Literary Supplement described it as "a chilling, skilfully constructed novel of family tension and emotional revenge that looks without blinking at the depths to which intelligent, law-abiding people can sink". The Independent called Taking the Devil's Advice "A brilliantly orchestrated slanging match", with the Financial Times adding that it was "Shot through with wit, and full of effervescence and good humour". The Observer said In Cold Domain was "A glorious tirade against the grind of motherhood" and Time Out described it as "A streamlined, ruthlessly stripped-down psychological family romance... wicked and funny." And the New Yorker said of The Killjoy, "Strange and wonderful ...remarkable insight and style". Publishers Weekly called it, "Devastating and ingenious." The Observer said it was "Gripping... a knock-down triumph". And the Glasgow Herald reviewer said, "I defy anyone who gets beyond the first sentence to put down."
Start with whichever catches your fancy. With a bit of luck you'll read them all.
All the books
Click on the cover to find out more about any book: all of Anne Fine's adult novels are available for Kindle.
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