On the first page of Silver and Salt there’s an epigraph taken from Browning. My novel began a long time ago, with a short story called the Glass-Bottomed Boat. When I wrote that story (a comic tale about a family holiday in Greece) I had no idea it would one day lose its comic thread, and grow into a novel. Partway through the auction for my first novel, when one of the bidders offered to buy two books rather than one, I was asked to produce a synopsis for a second novel overnight, and thought about The Glass Bottomed Boat.
Once the book-deal was done and the first book out, I turned to that overnight synopsis. I took a large piece of paper and wrote down some names and images (‘there will be fireflies, and tea-lights’) in a loose sort of circle with interconnecting lines. Throughout the writing I kept a list of epigraphs, which grew, shrunk, grew. They each, in different ways, captured something of the story I wanted to tell. Three kept appearing in the draft more than any of the others. They were:
(i) ‘I feel even more surprised, perhaps, at remembering something apparently indifferent.’ Freud, Screen Memories
(ii) ‘Did this thing go on?’ F Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night
(iii) ‘And she is with me: years roll, I shall/ change,/ But change can touch her not.’ Browning, Pauline
I wrote the third on a piece of soft card and placed it on the wall above my desk. When the pages were going to press, the other two were cut. Those lines from Browning said it all.