Touch me while I’m breaking, before the pieces slip through the cracks and are gone for good.
Smile if you see, eyes focused —
Am I here?
Let go when the fissures are too broad to cross, when the sounds that emerge demand too much, and the costs too great.
All the world’s silences hit in the odd hours:
hours between the solace of escape, of sleep, of nothingness, and the return to consciousness;
hours between five of the good day, the happy day, the productive day,
and six, when it falls apart, a tiny rotting corpse and not enough tears to make it…
Of course, the first question is always…what inspired you to start writing fiction?
Prior to Sophie my record was patchy: I’d always written, and had small things published, but nothing of scale, no long fiction projects. In the mid-nineties, while I was turning out reams of promotional copy for work, I could sense something different building up inside. It felt like a noirish text, some kind of PI story, but I couldn’t get any focus, any feeling of something distinctive. In those days, though living in Scotland, I might find myself in Central Europe three or four times a year, and this must have inspired my setting, the world of Habsburg Empress Maria Theresia. …
I have to confess straight up. I am a huge fan of David Neilson and his seventeenth century heroine, Sophie Rathenau. What can I say? I’m a sucker for intelligent, courage-to-the-verge-of-recklessness, striking-and-memorable-rather-than-fashionably-beautiful women in literature and Neilson broke the mould with Sophie from his first book, The Prussian Dispatch.
Neilson has written three captivating novels and a short story in this series about a woman earning a living away from her family by investigating the matters private and not-so-private of those who hire her. The world she lives in is the Habsburg Empire, a time of dramatic and unrelenting contrast between wealth and poverty, power and helplessness, religion and the muscling of ruling families across Europe and into Asia Minor. …