Emma describes the genesis of The Mathematics of Love.
‘I want you to spend twenty minutes writing something
with the title Watch,’ said the novelist Mary Flanagan,
taking her own watch off and putting it in front of her on the
table. We were
in a writing workshop on the Greek island of Skyros, many years
ago. Before she had finished setting the exercise I had seen a
in a red coat, standing on a watchtower against the same kind of
terracotta and dark green Mediterranean landscape that we were
sitting in. It was Wellington’s war, I knew: he must be in
Spain. But what was he watching? A woman, bathing in a river.
never set out to write historical fiction: it’s just
that history keeps being what I want to write about. Years
for a story-within-a-story
for a new piece, I remembered my soldier. His coat became green as I
transferred him to the Rifle Brigade, and the dusty plains
of Extremadura became the
misty, pine-hung Basque country. And his name became Stephen
Fairhurst. At first I
wrote only his letters, which told his past to an anonymous correspondent.
But I came to know so much that he didn’t write – of his
past life in war and his present life in peace – that I realised
I had to find a way for him tell his whole story.
And yet I couldn’t
let go of the image of someone else reading his letters, someone living
their own story while piecing together his, someone for whom
his history comes to have meaning. One of the things I’m most
interested in as a writer is how people are changed by what happens
to them. What
kind of person would find their life utterly changed by understanding
story of war and love and the pain of loss?
Anna Ware was born – young,
cynical, cross and lonely – and because
another thing I’m interested in is how layers of history exist
in one place, I pushed her off to live in Stephen’s house,
in one of the landscapes of my own childhood: Suffolk, in the long,
summer of 1976.
And where does my great-great-great grandfather come
into it? I needed a link to Tom Wedgwood, the pioneer of photography,
but he died thirteen
early, in 1806. However, his brother-in-law was Robert Darwin,
doctor father. I can’t tell you how without giving too much
away, but in The Mathematics of Love, although he’s
never named, you’ll
find out where and how I used Robert Darwin to make that all-important