About Alice Thompson
Alice Thompson, the former keyboard player with post-punk eighties band, the Woodentops, was joint winner with Graham Swift of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction for her first novel, Justine. Her second novel, Pandora’s Box, was shortlisted for The Stakis Prize for Scottish Writer of the Year. Her other novels are Pharos and The Falconer. Alice is a past winner of a Creative Scotland Award. She lives in Edinburgh.
Alice's website is at http://alicethompson1.wordpress.com/
See information about Alice, and read a critical perspective, at the British Councils' Contemporary Writers website.
Read an entry about Alice's work in the Literary Encyclopaedia.
Praise for Alice Thompson
'Reminiscent of the dislocation and dream-infested landscape that inhabits Auster's work ... Alice Thompson has bent the detective novel to her own will and produced something rather exciting.'
Louise Welsh, Scottish Review of Books
'Alice Thompson ... grabs hold of the detective fiction tradition, flings it in the air, lets it crash to the floor, and jumps on it till it's in smithereens. She then reconstructs it into something that doesn't yet have a name ... The Existential Detective is unsettling, unsettlingly erotic, and somehow sadly beautiful. Thompson is fast becoming one of the most original and formidable writers in the English language today.'
The Sunday Herald
'Haunting, strange, Kafkaesque, poetic mystery set in Portobello.'
Ian Rankin, via Twitter
'There's folk and fairy tale in this, some whimsy, some Angela Carter-style sensuality, combined with an earthy realism, and a thriller-style plot... Thompson's writing is, as ever, the kind that demands full attention – important details are embedded in lyrical description or insinuated into an apparently innocuous observation. This is not a book that is kind to readers – you have to buy into the world its author has created, accept its own very special laws – and that requires effort. But it's effort that is ultimately rewarded: I doubt you'll read another book quite like it this year.'
'The world she creates is claustrophobic and hypnotic, recognisably a dream but also rational on its own, admittedly skewed, terms... Many novelists bore readers to sleep. Wake up to The Falconer.' The Sunday Herald
Rosemary Goring in The Herald (August 11, 2008) on Alice Thompson's Edinburgh International Book Festival event with John Burnside:
'Each sends a shiver down the spine, Thompson with her elegant prose and eerie imagination ... Thompson uses the supernatural as a way of looking at evil — "a lot of what goes on in the worl is unreal, or surreal, so depicting it in a surreal way makes sense" ... Thompson and Burnside both write like angels.'
‘Cunning, clever, unbelievably casually complex – this is it: the intellectual future of British writing.’ Ali Smith, The Scotsman
‘Elegantly spare ... radically different in plot, style and language ... Thompson is one of the more original and idiosyncratic new voices in fiction.’ Patricia Nicol, Sunday Times
‘Thompson writes with a detached clarity that is liquid and sensual.’ Rosemary Goring, Scotland on Sunday
‘Ingenious ... Pharos rejects the classic ghost story for an impressively disorientating opening out of its generic rules.’ Times Literary Supplement
‘Our reading is deliberately made uneasy and uncertain ... but the elegance and accuracy with which Thompson uses language is formidable.’
‘Light and dark, life and death, good and evil: these are the themes of Pharos, a strange, highly original tale full of evocative images.’
An interview with Alice Thompson
When did you first begin writing, and what inspired you to do so? Have any specific books/authors served as inspiration for you?
I started writing stories from an early age, six or seven and I think it was really about escaping from the confines of my room. I was a severe asthmatic as a child and spent a lot of time in bed. Writing was something I could do. But I would say my love of reading inspired my writing: fairy tales especially.
Can you tell us something about the inspiration behind The Falconer? And about what you were trying to achieve, what ideas you were trying to convey?
The Falconer started with my love of the landscape of Scotland. But also became an exploration of why we go to war; when a war might be justified and when it might not. I also wanted to pay homage to the wonderful romantic mystery stories of the 1930s and 40s such as those of Daphne du Maurier.
Like my previous novels, The Falconer is imagistic; using symbols and dreams as a way of imparting story and atmosphere. Falconry is used as a metaphor for fascism. I was also struck by how the Nazis used nature in its most sinister form - paganism formed a part of their militiaristic ideology. The beast that lives in the glen is a symbol of our darker side. Petrification in the novel - things and people turning to stone - seemed an interesting representation of emotional repression. The glen is a place of metamorphosis which finally works its magic on Iris, the repressed heroine.
How do you go about creating your voice on the page?
I don't so much create my voice as pare it down to the bone, draft after draft until I get the novel my unconscious wanted me to write from the start. How and when do you write? It depends on the stage of the novel. First drafts are written anywhere, anytime, in cafes, on the bus, in fields. I like to write, say, eight or nine handwritten pages a day. Later drafts, involving my Apple Mac (with which I have a love/hate relationship) are more organized, taking place on the living room table. I don't judge the first draft at all, just cover the blank pages. Self-criticism only comes later. For it can be brutal.
What do you enjoy reading? What are you reading that you can recommend at the moment?
My real loves are the greats: Shakespeare, the Brontes, Henry James, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Scott Fitzgerald, William Golding and Iris Murdoch. All symbolists, actually, in their own way. I'm also a huge fan of Agatha Christie. She stymies me every time.