I absolutely loved The Glittering Art of Falling Apart and named it as one of my top reads of 2015, so I am delighted to take part in the blog tour. On this stop of the tour, I have a guest post from Ilana Fox detailing how she researched this fabulous book.
HOW I RESEARCHED THE BOOK - ILANA FOX
Despite hanging out in Soho with my grandparents in the 1980s, I don’t really remember much about it, so I had to rely on speaking with lots of people who’d been there and done that to truly capture the essence of Soho at that time.
Everyone I spoke to was incredibly generous with their time and I am touched that they trusted me with their stories. I would never name them, but the people who helped me write this book were the people who used to go clubbing in Soho in the 1980s, people who still battle heroin addiction on a daily basis, and the women who used to sell their bodies (if not their souls) in Soho at that time.
I also spent a lot of time with Soho residents - the real locals - who have seen their Soho being regenerated inch by inch, and I read more about Soho than one could think possible. If anyone’s looking to read an out-of-print book about Soho, I probably have it and you’re more than welcome to borrow it!
As a child of the 1980s, it kind of freaks me out that a novel set in this period is now considered ‘historical fiction’, but because it’s historical I wanted to get it absolutely right. There were some points I needed to get right for my own obsessive attention to detail; countless people who I don’t know on Twitter helped me when my questions got more and more obscure - from telling me their old Basingstoke phone number in the 1980s, to if one had to put the coins in a phone box before or after a call was connected, to what people drank when they went out dancing.
Of course, THE GLITTERING ART OF FALLING APART is a novel, and is absolutely fictional, but the London in which it's set - the London from the 1960s to the present day - is very much real. Anyone who's ever lived in London sees ghosts of themselves in the areas in which they once lived, in the pubs they once drank in, and in the alleyways in which they got up to no good. This is a novel about that London; the London that is created from all of our memories
While I was writing the novel - over the course of three, very long years - Soho changed markedly, not least because of the Crossrail development (which saw one of the music venues I spent a lot of time at during the 90s, the Astoria, demolished completely). Change in cities is unquestionably inevitable, but rather than building around what has come before, developers are scrubbing and scouring at layers of history to make way for new-build, luxury apartment blocks. In doing so, Soho not only loses its memories and its glitzy, grubby beauty, but it also loses its people: the local traders, the musicians, the lovable reprobates and the raconteurs.
It’s really hard to stop this sort of change (although a fantastic lobbying group, Save Soho, is doing its best and I support them whole-heartedly). However, if we can’t prevent places like Walkers Court from being redeveloped, I hope that novels like my own - ones set in Soho - can capture some of the spirit that is being stamped upon and wiped away.