Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover

Curious Arts Festival 2018: Friday

A photograph of Emma Healey talking to readers at the signing table in the Waterstones tent

Disclaimer: I was invited to cover this festival on a press pass.

For the first literary event, Emma Healey spoke to Georgina Godwin, mostly on the subject of her recently released second novel, Whistle In The Dark.

Speaking of her relevant history, Healey started with the time she was a student of book binding. At that point she had decided she was never going to be a writer and didn’t want to do something academic as a career. This feeling came as a result of the depression she suffered in her teenage years1. She went on to do an MA in Creative Writing.

In the year between the publication of Elizabeth Is Missing and her journey writing her next book, Healey’s life changed substantially. She got married and had a baby – she wrote whilst her daughter was new born. On this subject, she said it was stressful, but her experiences hadn’t changed her perspective as a writer, instead they had given her nuggets of ideas she could use in her book.

The author had wanted to include teenage depression in this book without referring to her own experiences; she didn’t want to write about the illness from a teenage perspective. She thought it would be interesting to write from the mother’s point of view, and inform that point of view with the teenager’s thoughts and feelings.

Looking at social media, which plays a part in the book, Healey pointed out that the exploration she wanted to do was easier when written from the perspective of someone to whom it was alien, and so she chose the mother, Jen. She was interested in the idea of Jen looking at daughter Lana’s online accounts and thinking there would be information there that would help her understand her.

Between readings – Whistle In The Dark is written in short chapters/vignettes – we also heard about the inspiration for Elizabeth Is Missing: one of Healey’s grandmothers suffers from dementia; sparking the idea for the book, she had asked if her friend was missing. The rest of the content was inspired by Healey’s other grandmother, who doesn’t have dementia.

Healey doesn’t write chronologically; she stated that this works for her but it is inefficient. Finishing books is difficult. She prefers as characters ‘ordinary people’ who have great things happen to them than characters who start the book in a great position.

After a very welcomed ice cream from the Purbeck van (they warrant a shout-out because they were lovely in general, and on the last evening gave me a serving of my favourite for free), I popped into Jamie Reid’s discussion about Patrice des Moutis, an insurance businessman who was a compulsive gambler in the 1950s to 1970s. With a backlist including a couple of books about horse racing, Reid is well-read on the subject of gambling as a whole. (His book on des Moutis is Monsieur X.)

Reid spoke of a man hounded by the French government and the media, who would have found it easier to do what he did (he was also a gangster) because of his looks and charm. His wife came from a respectable background and was uneasy at first by the idea of gambling but then starting putting bets on for him. Of gambling in general, the writer said that online gambling poses huge problems for society, that it’s too easy to spend more money when you’re doing so on a phone. The change from deciding yourself to letting a machine choose for you is sad.

A photograph of bülow performing at Curious

Whilst the children got bedtime stories, the evening’s entertainment for adults began with comedy and continued with some fantastic music in the Gorse tent. I stayed for the first set performed by bülow, lowercase intentional, who I’d describe as somewhere between Katy B and Dua Lipa vocally and, at least live, not too far from Ellie Goulding. (Studio recordings sound more like Lipa and Anne-Marie.)

For the first afternoon at the festival it was spot on. Enough things happening to ease you into the weekend and get you excited about the rest of your time at Pylewell.


1 Healey was almost sectioned for depression. She had made a number of suicide attempts and her doctor had recommended a hospital; she was turned away because it was for adults (Walsh, 2018).

Online References

Walsh, Rowena (2018), Author Emma Healey draws on history with depression in new book, Irish Examiner, accessed 1st August 2018.



August 2, 2018, 7:18 pm

It sounds like this festival was a lot of fun and informational too, with bookish themes and live entertainment. Glad you had a good time! :-)

1 Comment


Comments closed