5 Dec 2014

Degrees of Losing by Shan Purcell

Casey has hyperthymesia, a rare condition which means that she has perfect recollection of her past, a burden which imprisons her in her memories. There is no joy in the present, no thought of the future; only the inescapable past playing constantly in her mind.
Then one day she meets Joe, a man without a past. Or is he?
Together they find a present, which has the potential to save them both but also forces them to confront a future that challenges their love of life and each other.
Degrees of Losing is a story about love and loss, memory and time, and what it means to be somebody.
Do dreams ever inspire your writing? What did you last dream about?
I don't think I've ever dreamt anything that I've then used in my writing but before I started writing Degrees of Losing, I spent a month planning, thinking and daydreaming really about the characters and what would happen to them in the story. In terms of my actual dreams, I tend to have a lot of recurring themes. One that I've had again recently is being in Australia on holiday, missing the return flight and panicking about not being able to get back to the UK.

When did you first start writing? And when were you first published?
I started writing when I was five or six years old and continued to do so throughout my teenage years, primarily poetry. At university, I started a creative writing degree, during which time I had a couple of poems published, but then I switched to a psychology degree. I didn't really write anything after finishing university (about 15 years ago!) until this book.

What is it about 'chick lit' that appeals to you the most? Do you read other genres?

I like the humour and emotion that you often get in chick lit, although I would have to say that I prefer chick lit that has some sort of darker edge to it rather than the really soppy stuff. I like all genres that focus on characters and their journeys. Books I've particularly enjoyed are Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones and Peter Carey's The Chemistry of Tears.

Can you tell us a little about your latest book?
It is the story of a young woman with hyperthymesia which means that she can recall every little detail of everything that has ever happened to her. She feels very burdened by her condition as she constantly dwells on the past and all the minor things she's done wrong or that others have done to her. The book is really about her journey in trying to find a way to let go of the past, live in the present and plan for a future. But at the heart of the book is also a real love story.

What inspired you to write it?
With a background in psychology, I am very interested in the differences between people, their motivations and their world views. It seemed interesting to me to consider what life would be like for someone that has too much memory or someone that doesn't have one at all. It's amazing how much of who we are, how much of our sense of self is in fact linked to our memories.

Who designs your covers?
A company called Orbital Design in Lancashire, England. I have used them extensively in my professional career so I knew they would produce something that I was happy with.

If your latest book was made into a film, who would you cast?
Casey is a brunette, early 20s and is a bit of a vamp but also has a dark, destructive side. Mila Kunis would be great. For Joe, it was actually Nicholas Cage who I partly modelled him on in my mind but the age difference might look too extreme. Someone like Jake Gyllenhaal would be a possibility.

What's your favourite 'chick lit' book that made it to the big screen?
I thought The Time Traveller's Wife was beautiful and incredibly moving. The movie didn't quite capture the same level of emotion for me as the book, but that is often the case.

What were the last two books you read?
The Fault in our Stars by John Green and This is How You Lose Her, a collection of short stories by Junot Diaz.

Name one female author you think deserves to be better known.
There are a lot of great female writers in the UK. I loved Maggie Graham's Precious Little.

Where do you write?Sat on the sofa in the conservatory on my laptop with my dog asleep beside me.

Tell us a random fact about yourself.
I've got a pierced tongue.

Who would play you in the movie about your life?
Someone like Carey Mulligan but she'd have to put on 20 pounds.

Tell us an interesting fact about where you live.
I live in Manchester in the UK, a city famous for football and rain.

What are your (writing) plans for the future?
I'm back in full-time work and my job is quite high pressure so I won't be writing anything again for a little while.

Tell us one thing that's on your bucket list.
Travel around South America.

Name one of your all time favourite songs.
Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straits. It's a simple song but there is such pain in the lyrics.

What do you listen to whilst writing?
I don't listen to anything. I need silence in order to concentrate.

Who (or what) did you want to be when you were a kid?

From the age of 10 I wanted to be a psychologist or social worker.

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