Another Place; a Q&A with Matthew Crow.

Matthew Crow's 'Another Place' (published August 3rd), is his latest novel that follows the beautiful, genre-defying and much-praised 'In Bloom' (2013). 

'Another Place', takes us to a strange and sad seaside town, where one girl is trying to put herself back together, and another girl has gone missing. 

The story centres around sixteen-year-old Claudette Flint, who is released into the care of her dad after a stay in hospital with depression. She is told that to continue getting better she must set small goals for each day, larger ones for each week, and one significant thing to aim for. Meanwhile, the close-knit community of her town seems to be falling apart in the wake of the sudden disappearance of one of her school mates - and secret friend - Sarah. Everyone knew Sarah; and at the same time, nobody knew her at all. But Claudette can understand her in ways that others didn’t. She soon decides what will be her one overarching aim in life: finding Sarah. 

Hi, Matthew! Thanks so much for doing this Q&A with me. I recently finished 'Another Place' and am so excited for everyone I know to read it, too.  
There are so many things I wanna know about this story and your writing process...

Firstly, where did this story come from? 

The character, Claudette. The same way all my books do. I had the idea for Claudette- her voice, her temperament, and maybe one or two little lines of hers here and there. And the rest sort of built itself around that. I decided early on that I wanted to use Claudette to write about mental health issues, as it is something I’ve always found interesting. Plus, having been on various cocktails of antidepressants since I was a kid, felt it time for some fucking cashback to be quite honest. Then the sense of location came through very quickly, too. The idea of a seaside town that had been ravaged by changes in times and tastes and left to rot- much like the ones I grew up in and around. The mystery aspect came about last and very gradually. I wanted Claudette to be released into a version of her world that wasn’t quite hers. Like the sort of dream houses you get sometimes, when you open a door that was never there before? So initially the book was going to be purely the story of her recovery set against the backdrop of a police investigation/ media deluge; mainly to further the feeling of displacement, the idea that even your home isn’t your home anymore for a while after depression has ripped through your foundations. But the more I wrote the more the external horrors came to the fore, and before long it seemed to be a fifty-fifty split between what happened to Sarah and what was happening to Claudette, and how the two things wove around one another. 

Was it different writing this novel, compared to your other books?

Writing about something that’s at once very personal and yet at the same time universal was quite strange. Depression can sometimes feel like your child, in a way. It sort of waltzes in, ostensibly smaller than you are, and yet it takes over your life; how you conduct yourself; where and when you can carry out your duties; how you see the world and how you’re certain it sees you. Moreover, I’m pretty sure that every person believes, in their heart of hearts, that their depression is the definitive one; the version from which all other maladies should be judged. This obviously isn’t the case. So after the first draft I had to backtrack and make sure I wasn’t writing too much in absolutes, if that makes sense? Changing sentences to “My depression….” instead of “Depression…” when describing it. Otherwise writing it was much the same; coffee and cigarettes and a lot of missed nights out. 

What made you choose to write from a young female perspective?
It wasn’t a political decision or anything like that. Like I said, I always start with a character. Just the one. And this one happened to be female. 

If you were instructed to make small goals for each day, as Claudette was, what would they be? (Mine would be to put my phone down for longer than 5 minutes...maybe)

I think mine would be to read three-to-five chapters of a book each day. I’m a very compulsive person, but also occasionally a dismissive one. And so I read the way I do everything in life- smoking, drinking, eating, socialising. I either blast through four books in a week, or I just don’t bother, sometimes for months at a time. I’d like to have more balance in that department and plod along at a steadier pace. So, a manageable amount of reading each and every day, I think. 

And finally...
Early on in the book, you casually mentioned female masturbation. Claudette says that on one particular day she had simply planned to: 'spend the day in my own bed, reading passages from books, half-heartedly masturbating and picking at junk food'.

Just wanna say, THANK YOU. This is something I am passionate about – not just the act of masturbation, but getting female wanking normalised and the concept of it out into mainstream media. YAY! Oh wait, this wasn't a question. It was just a thank you. Oops! 

Oh god don’t get me started! It fascinates me- the disparity between the two, especially in print, where it’s either not talked about at all, or treat as something shameful or- just as nauseatingly- sacramental and significant. Why do you think that is? Is it genuinely that we’re so thick we see something internal as hidden and shameful, whereas something external as par for the course? Anyway, thanks. I spend most of my time with tough broads with no filters, so it’s unthinkable to me that a person doesn’t a) use a good, quick wank to clear their heads, scratch an itch or simply occupy themselves during the adverts, or b) chat about this stuff freely. There was tons more of Claudette wanking in the first draft, but I ended up having to rewrite an entire narrative strand that had hit a brick wall, so out with the bathwater went the baby, more’s the pity. Anyway, I’m in entire agreement. More throwaway references to wanking in teen fiction, please!

Thanks so much for your thoughtful questions, it’s been a blast! 

You can find Matthew's excellent 'Another Place' in these places:


posts you've really liked.