Beauty Sleep is an interesting choice for book clubs because it has a number of themes worthy of discussion and a very human take on the science fiction genre. Book Box Book Club very kindly shared their thoughts with me – and I answered a few of their fantastic questions. Thanks to Anna, Nikki, Maria, Laura of Book Box for letting me reproduce them here:
I like to write page-turning stories but I like them to have a central core that really matters. A few years ago, I met a man living on the streets of New York – he was a photographer and insisted that he wasn’t homeless, that his home was the streets of New York. His pride and determination brought into sharp focus that each sleeping bundle in a doorway equals someone with hopes and dreams and loves and losses. Another time I was walking down a main road in Edinburgh and there was a homeless person every 20 metres. I try and speak to people when they speak to me and it took me half a morning to get down that road. I was so shocked at the sheer numbers of people living on the streets, they just wouldn’t leave my head. And then I have a friend who was made homeless recently, she has a job and two kids but she got a tax bill she couldn’t pay ( to do with waitressing tips) and it sent her over the edge, she couldn’t pay her rent and was evicted. It could happen to any of us, a little bit of bad luck is all it takes.
Ahhh! I think I’ve told too much of the story of Shem, Bert and Scrag for that– you know how it ends! Also, there’s so much back story that doesn’t make it to the final book, I kind of have written their story, it’s just not for public consumption.
It was difficult to keep the balance between the past and the near future. I grew up in the eighties so the temptation to revel in nostalgia was strong – my excellent editor helped a lot there – she ‘strongly suggested’ pruning a lot of the eighties stuff out and putting in more of the future ideas. It was quite fun speculating what might be but I wanted it all to feel possible, touchable if you like – so I looked at things that we already have and just added the ‘what if this was taken a step further’ question. As to whether we’ll still have Instagram in ten years – I think so. Facebook has been around for fifteen years already and there’s no sign of it disappearing. There’ll be other platforms – there already are – I’m on Wechat ( Chinese Facebook)and WeMe (alternative platform to Facebook) but none of them are really taking hold in the western world. I think the next big platform will offer something truly different – like TouchTime.
I think it would have to be Marsha. She was such a victim of circumstances and has such a good heart but she needed more time (and therapy) to forgive herself. I like to think that Laura eventually breaks down her defenses and is able to help.
This is a tough one – Miss Lilly is a narcissist. She truly believes everything she does is right and, like a lot of ( bad) parents, she saw Laura as an extension of herself. So firstly, she felt like she had enough control of Laura and the school to be able to manage her. Secondly, she genuinely believed ( and at the time had no reason to disbelieve) that Laura would just become a mini Miss Lilly. Thirdly, she wanted to be seen to do the right thing and allow Laura a normal life – keeping her at home wouldn’t have allowed that. Miss Lilly’s public persona was very important to her. Fourthly, Laura was going to want more than the environment of the clinic and Miss Lilly could see that – this was a better option than allowing Laura to return to her old school.
They also asked about Chapter 45 and came up with some amazing thoughts about why I’d written it in blank verse…if indeed I had? I might leave that one for you to decide.
Their final thoughts were whether they would recommend the book to other book clubs?
Beauty Sleep is available now from all good booksellers:
A pacy, gripping thriller – Sunday Express.
A Black Mirror twist on Sleeping Beauty – The Book Seller.