About the Author ~ Carol Topolski
Carol Topolski is a practicing psychoanalytic psychotherapist. Her many previous roles include music festival organiser, advertising executive, teacher, nursery school director, director of a rape crisis centre and refuge for battered women, probation officer and film censor. She lives in London and has two grown up daughters and one granddaughter.
Exclusive Amazon.co.uk Interview with Carol Topolski
What is Monster Love about?
Monster Love is about Brendan and Sherilyn Gutteridge, who live an affluent life in a Manchester suburb accessorised by all the objects success can buy cars, houses, clothes but who neglect their child and leave her to die. The story is told in mostly first person accounts by the couple themselves and by those who have been around them in the past and over the course of the childs brief life and death. The evil coiling beneath their surface gloss slowly slides into view and a complicated, three-dimensional picture of two damaged individuals emerges. My ambition was not to exonerate them, but I needed to know why theyd done what they did; why it had seemed so essential to them to rid themselves of their daughter; why they considered her annihilation an act of self-defence.
What inspired you to write it?
I wanted to explore what lies behind the kind of tabloid headlines that scream PERVERT! BEAST! MONSTER! when someone is accused of a heinous crime. Its the kind of shorthand that shuts down thinking and persuades the reader that the remedy is simply to lock the accused away, lose the key and watch society magically return to a state of grace. Killing a child especially your own ranks high in the hierarchy of unconscionable acts, so I embarked on an archaeological dig in the Gutteridges history, hoping to disinter whatever had caused them to kill their child. In my professional life, in different guises, I have struggled to discover what froths behind masks and make sense of things that often appear senseless.
Who are your literary influences?
Whilst my own writing is very character driven, I admire writers who not only situate me in the skin of their characters, but can tell a story. I want to be able to give myself over to a book, so Philip Roths magnificent biography of 20th century America, "American Pastoral, "I Married a Communist" and "The Human Stain" picked me up, held me entranced whilst I read it and put me down, changed. 19th century English writers, too, evoke the emotional theatre of their characters lives in the course of epic, thrilling stories Charles Dickens, of course, George Eliot, Arnold Bennett as do the Russia greats: Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy in particular. I find, however when in the throes of writing that I can barely read not from any fear that I might imitate another author, more that I need to inhabit my own unfettered mind.
If you could recommend just one "must-read book" to anyone, what would it be and why?
Blindness by Jose Saramago, a Nobel prize winning Portuguese writer. In the course of writing of a people struck by a plague in his inimitable, difficult, eccentric style, he explores the notion of community, the nature of exclusion, of identity, the tentacular hold of implacable governments and how friable civilisations veneer really is.
What top tips do you have for anyone looking to write their first book?
Take your time, both in the preparation and the writing of your book. Sit with your characters as though youve invited them in for a leisurely meal. Know how theyd feel if they cut their finger, what fruit they like, what holiday they took when they were seven, what smell disgusts them, what weather inspires them. Even if you use nothing of that on the page, that knowledge of their emotional geography brings them to life. Prepare to be surprised, to be shocked, when writing; when a storys going well it will write itself in mysterious ways. A character who seemed essential when the days writing began may well be dead by nightfall. Let that happen. Your first draft is your raw material which will need shaping, polishing, diminishing, aggrandising. Be bold in what you cast out. Take Quiller Couchs advice to "murder all your darlings": if you rock back on your heels in admiration of a phrase or a paragraph, its probably indulgent and needs to go. Know that what seemed remarkable two weeks two months ago may have become pedestrian when you look at it again. Enjoy yourself.