BackStory: Five Questions with Caroline Greene
Author of The Writer’s House
What inspired you to write ‘The Writer’s House?’
It was actually inspired by a visit to Shaw’s Corner – the country home of George Bernard Shaw. When he lived here he was already something of a celebrity, both for his writing and for his part in the Fabian society, campaigning for social justice. It’s a lovely house and must have been a beautiful place to write – as long as you had plenty of help from other people who could sort out everyday domestic life for you. But the piece is not about his household specifically. (Shaw was a vegetarian, for a start, so the butcher’s boy reference wouldn’t have applied to him, unless as an extra way of making the housemaid’s message stand out…)
Who are your favourite historical fiction writers (flash or otherwise) and why?
Daphne du Maurier’s mesmeric House on the Strand combines science fiction and historical fiction to perfectly draw you into the past. Wells Tower’s story of Vikings, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, is mind-bogglingly good and makes you laugh amid the horror. And recently, I loved Eleanor Anstruther’s
A Perfect Explanation. She is so skilful in recreating real events through imagined scenes which give insight into characters who are trying hard not to tell anyone anything.
How much research did you do while writing and editing this piece? Did you discover anything that surprised you?
Although it was inspired by a real place, I wanted the general idea to relate to any Great Writer who had – or has – been greatly enabled to get on with their creative life by others. But I was surprised to see how extremely small and narrow is Bernard Shaw’s bed. I thought he would have taken up more space.
If you could live for one year in any historical period, when and where would it be, and why?
Mid-way between 1599 and 1600, to see the first performances at the Globe on Bankside. Living conditions might have been a bit rough then, but how fabulous it would be to jostle amongst the first groundlings to see Shakespeare’s plays. I worked for a few years at the current Globe. It’s a magical place.
How important is historical accuracy to you in your own writing?
This is a tricky one. I feel that accuracy, whether historical, or relating to people and places generally, is important for authenticity. And yet you can be inhibited if you get bogged down in research. I think a layered approach is probably how I go about it, trying to write what I want to say, then checking out details at an editing stage.
Caroline Greene is an English Language teacher who has also spent many years as an editor of non-fiction, an occasional features writer, and a fund-raiser for education projects in the theatre. Her work has appeared in the Fish Anthology, Flash Magazine and the Bath Flash Fiction Anthology (Volume Three).
Detail of photograph © Michael Garlick (cc-by-sa/2.0).