M: What inspired you to use Crete as a setting?
|Julie Mayhew, author of Red Ink|
Julie Mayhew: I first got interested in the Greek Islands after visiting Skiathos. I discovered a writer called Alexandros Papadiamantis while I was there. He wrote these gorgeous short stories about islanders being hypnotised into a life at sea, and this got me thinking about how living on a island shapes who you become. I wrote about Skiathos in my BBC Radio 4 play Stopgap – in that play the island is a place of escape, but I could also see how you might want to escape from an island too.
When I first visited Crete I stayed in the melon-growing areas and saw the truck that I describe in Maria’s Story – the one piled high with fruit with no tarpaulin holding the fruit in place and that image stuck with me. Because Crete is a place of myths – in particular the story of the Minotaur - and because Red Ink is a book about family myths, the book almost couldn’t have been set anywhere else.
M: Red Ink is full of fruit: lemon scents, rolling oranges, pomegranates, seeds and of course, watermelons. Can you say a little bit more about this fruitiness?
JM: I work really visually when I’m writing, pinning up pictures of characters and settings, and fruit is just such an evocative image. It’s exotic – we can’t grow much of it here because we don’t have the sun, so although fruit is familiar it’s suggestive of somewhere else at the same time. Also fruit is the perfect image for the book and its themes of legacy and mothers passing things on to daughters. The fruit you get depends on the seeds you sow and how you treat the seedlings as they grow.
M: Red Ink and 'the story' start off: "This is the recipe." What is your favourite recipe (or dish), and more importantly, what is its 'story'?
JM: My favourite recipe is: put on your coat, walk to the fish and chip shop, bring back cod, chips and mushy peas, dowse in salt and vinegar, then eat. I’m a good cook, I’m told, and I used to enjoy it, but after having children, I sort of lost interest. I suppose it’s because children reject a lot of what you cook and you end up chucking so much of it in the bin. It’s soul-destroying! Also I think, at heart, I’m really like Maria and would prefer to just cook everything from a tin or a packet or a microwave tray. My kids would probably prefer that too! Unfortunately, I have too much of a healthy conscience to give in. Except for the fish and chips, of course.
You can read M's review of Red Ink here.
Red Ink is now available in paperback.