My debut novel, Slip of a Fish, is narrated by Ash, a complex character who collects words, climbs trees and swims in a deserted lake with her beloved seven-year-old daughter, Charlie. Bemused and overwhelmed by everyday life, Ash has a rich and singular interior world. She is relentless in her efforts to make sense of her relationships past and present.
Over the course of a presciently hot summer, Charlie begins to pull away from Ash and Ash’s naive attempts to reconnect with Charlie end in failure. Ash does something truly unforgivable and their relationship is damaged beyond repair. Ill-equipped to handle this loss, Ash retreats further into her head and her life begins to slip out of her hold.
When I wrote Slip of a Fish I was really interested in the way people miscommunicate – almost as modus operandi. I wanted to see if I could capture a sense of how our understanding and use of language can isolate us from other people as much as it can bring us together.
I didn’t know how far this idea would take me, but it wasn’t long before I realised that I had to let Ash do this unforgivable thing. It was difficult to write, and I wasn’t sure whether I’d be too angry with her to go on writing. But I’d already got to know Ash well and wasn’t about to give up on her. I suppose Slip of a Fish asks the same question of all of us. Can we empathise with someone, even when we don’t condone their actions?