Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Curious Arts Festival - author event - Meg Rosoff

by Maryom

Looking at the events programme beforehand, I'd intended arriving at Curious Arts mid-afternoon on Friday with plenty of time to catch Deborah Moggach ... but you know what they say about the best laid plans, and it turned out motorway traffic had other ideas about how I should spend Friday, so my first 'book event' was on Saturday morning - Meg Rosoff talking about her latest novel, Jonathan Unleashed, to Rowan Pelling.

Meg Rosoff is well known as a writer of fiction aimed at teens and YA, and after a string of Carnegie, Whitbread, Guardian, Branford Boase and Costa short-listings and prizes she was recently announced the recipient of this year's Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, but her latest book marks a move to a more 'grown up' audience. She insists it wasn't because of a dare to write a rom-com, but grew out of the first line which popped into her head fully-formed; "Jonathan came home from work one day to find the dogs talking about him" - obviously someone coming home from work is an adult, and the story just evolved from there.

Jonathan has been left in charge of his brother's dogs for six months, and quickly comes to see them as more than mere canine companions. All of us pet-owners give our animals credit for feelings and desires they probably don't possess, but Jonathan seems to take this a step further believing the dogs to suffer from anxieties and yearnings for freedom brought about by living in the city.
Meg herself sees no difference between writing for the different age-groups. What she's interested in is character rather than plot, particularly people struggling to find themselves, looking for more out of life than is offered by their current situation - whether that's Pell Ridley running away from home and her wedding in The Bride's Farewell, or Jonathan himself, trying to be a round peg in a square hole, stuck with the wrong girlfriend and in the wrong job. Jonathan Unleashed draws on the time, 15 years (!), that Rosoff spent in advertising before taking the plunge and becoming a writer - although she describes this novel as her 'revenge' on the advertising industry she's happy to acknowledge the fact that a marriage with both partners involved in creative work is tricky, as some-one needs to be the bread-winner and mortgage-payer. She gives her literary influences as Catch 22, The World According to Garp, and Lucky Jim, and the same quirky kind of humour showed through in her reading from Jonathan Unleashed.

Somehow (who knows?) I'd got an idea that Meg Rosoff was a very serious person, but she didn't prove to be - she's funny, sceptical of success and describes herself as dark and twisted; the sort of person I could imagine chatting to for hours.

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