Friday 21st February 2020
Q1) The first book you ever loved
I adored anything by Roald Dahl, which will be no surprise to anyone. He told such fantastic stories. Each of his children’s books fizzes with magic and captures the injustice of being a child in an adult’s world. Like most little-girl bookworms, I felt an affinity with Matilda, (though I lacked her skills in maths and telekinesis) but my favourite was probably Danny The Champion of The World. The gypsy caravan and paraffin lamps are vividly imprinted in my mind’s eye, more like a memory than something from my imagination. I also loved Dahl’s Rotten Rhymes, and Quentin’s Blake’s illustrations— they were such a wonderful team. I know David Walliams has attempted similar things for the current generation of kiddies, but those aren’t just big shoes to fill — they’re magic ones!
Q2) The book you've read more than any other
For work, the first four volumes of Kick-Ass! We reprinted them all with edits one Christmas and I think I nearly gave myself an ulcer stressing. Carrie by Stephen King is probably my most read personally. It’s King’s debut, and a masterpiece that I don’t believe he has ever topped, though I enjoy so much of his work. I read it in first year at school and then again as an adult. The second time I was blown away by King’s portrayal of life as an outcast teenage girl, and had I done a blind read of the book I might have guessed a woman wrote it. There is perhaps a tide of fellow feminists who disagree with me there, but I thought it was brilliant. There is a great audiobook version on YouTube read by Sissy Spacek which is also exquisite, I’ve listened to that a couple of times too. Unfortunately I can’t absorb fiction audiobooks unless I know the story, because I need to see the words written down to conjure any images. That’s how my brain works. I have no idea how people listen to audiobooks while running or peculiar things like that. When I’m writing is the only way it works differently, it’s like scenes of a film playing out and I write it down.
Q3) A book that you despise
Despise is a strong word and I honestly don’t know if there is any book I dislike that much....although, saying that— I was deeply disturbed by a group of short stories by Ian McEwan. First Love, Last Rites. I love reading horror and violence (and work in very violent, graphic books) and don’t normally flinch, but I found that book very upsetting. It details some rather grotesque child sexual abuse and murder scenes, among other unsettling content and detestable, unforgivable protagonists, and I didn’t read on after the first few stories. It disturbed me so much I remember feeling very strange about the book’s presence in our house afterwards. I told my Mum and the next day she’d checked it out herself, agreed and threw it out! It’s not to say it wasn’t well written — and clearly effective — but it definitely set me too far on edge. I often think of a few lines from it that burned into my mind and shudder. So despise is not the right word, as I understand it has its merits, but it haunts me.
Q4) A book full of beautiful writing
I LOVE My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent and Evie Wyld’s All The Birds, Singing. Daisy Johnson, too, with Everything Under. I love descriptions of nature with a supernatural or mystical vibe. I also recently finished Elif Shafak’s 10 Minutes…, it is so vivid and brilliant. I love a brutal and beautiful book, one that will stroke your hair, then smash your teeth in. Ugly things described in beautiful ways, prose that’s poetic and pains you. I enjoyed Grief Is The Thing With Feathers, though it is very short.
Q5) The book you've been meaning to read for years, but haven't
Probably something obvious - To Kill A Mockingbird. It’s on my shelf but I haven’t been excited to read it. After a while of people going “Omigodyouhaven’t read TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD?!” the draw to read it dwindles. Also, I feel strange about them publishing that poor woman’s unfinished work after her death. If someone published stuff that I hadn’t edited or meant for public consumption after I died I would go full Poltergeist on them.
Q6) The book you're reading currently
Currently in the stack are: Evie Wyld’s The Bass Rock (a proof copy from my friend Millie, who is a bookseller and kindly snuck me hers!), Three Women - Lisa Taddeo, The Things We Say in The Dark - Kirsty Logan (another gift, from my lovely friend Alex) and Where the Crawdags Sing. The latter Millie sent me with the note ‘I prescribe this book’ as I was feeling a bit down at the time, and she’s right that it’s great to get lost in.
I flit between all of them at the moment. I like reading more than one book at once, jumping back into whatever story it is, and it makes them all last longer.
Q7) Your favourite short story
It’s another Stephen King. I always forget the name of it (and I always think it’s called Lucky Strike, as I know it’s about cigarettes!) but it’s called Premium Harmony. It’s a perfect example of brutality from the author. There are no pig’s blood showers or resurrected cats or possessed cars in this one, just the true suffering and tragedy in everyday human life. I think I gasped and cried when I read it the first time. It’s the way he describes the mundane surroundings, the tiny details and conversations around the horrific events. I think it’s brilliant, but won’t be for everyone...I just read it again there and wonder what people will think about that being my favourite!
Q8) Your all-time favourite novel
It’s still My Absolute Darling. I think he captured the landscape, the longing, the torture of his protagonist so well. The villain is so perfectly crafted. I loved Emma Cline’s The Girls too — she should also have come under the beautiful writing question. I love books about women, and this means that my favourites tend to be written by them. It’s not a hard and fast rule by any means (see Tallent and King) but I love female-driven stories. I’m a big fan of Karin Slaughter’s books, too. I think she’s incredible -- her writing is absolutely brilliant. There is so much to love out there, but I’m not someone who pushes to the end of a book if I’m not enjoying the story or don’t like the writing -- I have a half-read library at home. I end up keeping all the books I don’t like or finish, because the rest I give away saying YOU HAVE TO READ THIS. So my shelves are not an accurate representation of my tastes, it’s quite the opposite. ●
Rachael Fulton is a writer, journalist, and comic book editor who works for Mark Millar at Netflix. She’s won the Elle Magazine New Writer’s Award, a MIND media award, and a caber-tossing competition judged by nuns (not on the same day). She’s working on her first novel.