Hi everyone! I’m so excited to have Liz Jensen here today for an interview! I read The Uninvited not too long ago and absolutely loved it. No joke, it’s a favorite of mine now.
You can find my thoughts on the book HERE.
Title: The Uninvited
Author: Liz Jensen
Published: January 8, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
A seven-year-old girl puts a nail gun to her grandmother’s neck and fires. An isolated incident, say the experts. The experts are wrong. Across the world, children are killing their families. Is violence contagious? As chilling murders by children grip the country, anthropologist Hesketh Lock has his own mystery to solve: a bizarre scandal in the Taiwan timber industry.
Hesketh has never been good at relationships: Asperger’s Syndrome has seen to that. But he does have a talent for spotting behavioral patterns and an outsider’s fascination with group dynamics. Nothing obvious connects Hesketh’s Asian case with the atrocities back home. Or with the increasingly odd behavior of his beloved stepson, Freddy. But when Hesketh’s Taiwan contact dies shockingly and more acts of sabotage and child violence sweep the globe, he is forced to acknowledge possibilities that defy the rational principles on which he has staked his life, his career, and, most devastatingly of all, his role as a father. Part psychological thriller, part dystopian nightmare, The Uninvited is a powerful and viscerally unsettling portrait of apocalypse in embryo.
Hi Liz! I just have to get this out of the way… Thank you! Thank you for writing such a fantastic book. The Uninvited is definitely a favorite of mine.
-ahem- Now that that’s out of the way…
Please describe The Uninvited in 10 words or less.
A ghost story about possessed children attacking adults.
This story was frightening. How did you come up with idea for The Uninvited? How long did it take you to write it?
I wanted to challenge the classical Western notion of a haunting, which involves dark mansions and creaky doors and people from the past with unfinished business in the present. I was sick of all that, so instead I imagined a new, brightly-lit way to scare people – in particular myself. To me, the idea of little people doing terrible things in the modern world is already merciless. Add to that the fact they don’t understand what they’re doing, and they’re in thrall to a force that seems unstoppable, and it becomes more terrifying still.
I spent six months circling around the idea, then two years writing it.
The main character in the book has Asperger’s Syndrome, what made you decide to write it from his point of view?
It was a very practical decision. For narrative reasons, the person investigating the epidemic of violence had to be super-rational. Hesketh Lock has two reasons to be skeptical about supernatural beliefs: firstly, he is an anthropologist who has studied them from a scientific perspective, and secondly, he’s an Aspie. So he’s just about the last person on Earth who would believe in the spirit world as manifested in the novel.
I found his Asperger’s easy to get into, and I also rather admired it – to the point of feeling a little envious of his ability to stand back and see patterns where others can’t. Hesketh doesn’t see his mental type as a handicap at all. He likes being who he is. I enjoyed being him enormously. And like quite a few women readers, I fell a bit in love with him.
Ah yes, I fell a little in love with him too.
I love how you incorporated the myths and superstitions of each country Hesketh travels to. Was this something you were already familiar with or had to research?
Having lived in Chinese and Scandinavian societies, I was already aware of the cultural archetypes, but part of the joy of writing a novel is widening your knowledge. So I did quite a bit of background reading on traditional beliefs all over the world, and used some of that in the book. It was a fascinating journey.
Do you have a favorite part of The Uninvited? Was there a part you enjoyed writing the most?
My favorite part, which was also the part I had most pleasure writing, is when Hesketh picks up a Swiss woman in his hotel and has sex with her. That scene, and the aftermath of their encounter, was wickedly enjoyable. It’s always a fun challenge to write sex from the male point of view, but Hesketh’s reactions and thought-processes aren’t typical of other men, so there was an extra twist to the fun. He’s socially at a loss, so there’s a disconnect between what he and his partner expect from the exchange. In a fairly grim book, it’s one of the few humorous passages. But I think you need a mixture of light and dark in any story – so I make no apologies for including it.
I loved the interaction with Hesketh and the Swiss woman!
Are there any authors that inspire you?
Too many to count. But among them are JG Ballard, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Margaret Atwood, JM Coetzee, Michael Cunningham, Cormac McCarthy, David Mitchell, Lorrie Moore, Anne Tyler.
Now that it’s a new year, what were some of your favorite books of 2012?
Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker
Black Box – Jennifer Egan
Dog Stars – Peter Heller
The Sisters Brothers – Patrick de Witt
John Saturnall’s Feast – Lawrence Norfolk
Girl, Reading – Katie Ward
Boy 21 – Matthew Quick
Thank you so much for answering my questions, Liz!
Liz Jensen was born in Oxfordshire, to an Anglo-Moroccan librarian mother and a Danish violin-maker father. She studied English at Somerville College, Oxford and worked first as a journalist in Hongkong and Taiwan, then a TV and radio producer for the BBC in the UK.
In 1987 she moved to France where she worked as a sculptor and freelance journalist, and began writing her first novel, Egg Dancing. This was published in 1995, after her return to London, where she wrote Ark Baby (1998), The Paper Eater (2000), War Crimes for the Home (2002), The Ninth Life of Louis Drax (2004), My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time (2006) and The Rapture (2009). She is currently working on her eighth novel, a ghost story.
Liz Jensen’s work has been short-listed for the Guardian Fiction award, nominated three times for the Orange Prize, developed for film, and translated into more than 20 languages. She has two sons, and shares her life with the Danish writer Carsten Jensen, best-selling author of We, The Drowned. She divides her time between London and Copenhagen. -Pulled from LizJensen.com