Hello everyone and welcome to another informative and exciting guest post on Always Trust In Books. This is part of the Underneath Blog Tour hosted by the author. Today I have Anne Goodwin, author of Underneath, in to talk about perspectives and differences in narrative. I loved this piece and I am certain you will too. First I will be sharing a few details on Underneath and Goodwin herself. After that I will share with you the guest post entitled ‘Child, Lover, Jailer: The Three Faces of Steve’
He never intended to be a jailer…
After years of travelling, responsible to no-one but himself, Steve has resolved to settle down. He gets a job, buys a house and persuades Liesel to move in with him.
Life’s perfect, until Liesel delivers her ultimatum: if he won’t agree to start a family, she’ll have to leave. He can’t bear to lose her, but how can he face the prospect of fatherhood when he has no idea what being a father means? If he could somehow make her stay, he wouldn’t have to choose … and it would be a shame not to make use of the cellar.
Will this be the solution to his problems, or the catalyst for his own unravelling?
About Anne Goodwin
Like Steve, Anne Goodwin used to like to travel, but now she prefers to stay at home and do her travelling in her head. Like Liesel, she’s worked in mental health services, where her focus, as a clinical psychologist, was on helping people tell their neglected stories to themselves. Now that her short fiction publication count has overtaken her age, her ambition is to write and publish enough novels to match her shoe size. Underneath is her second novel; her first, Sugar and Snails, was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize. Anne lives in the East Midlands and is a member of Nottingham Writers’ Studio.
Catch up on her website: Annethology or on Twitter @Annecdotist.
The Guest Post!
Child, lover, jailer: The three faces of Steve
When I wrote my soon-to-be published second novel, Underneath, in three voices representing different aspects of the same man, the potential parallels with different models of the psyche did not occur to me. It was simply that splitting my narrator, Steve, into three segments made sense for the story I wanted to tell. Although my three faces of Steve don’t map directly onto Sigmund Freud’s concepts of id, ego and superego, or Eric Berne’s parent, adult and child, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I happened upon this tripartite structure for a novel about disturbance and mental health.
The reader knows from the start that the narrator is keeping someone captive in a cellar: he addresses her directly in short self-justifying accounts prefacing each of the six parts of the novel. As you might expect, Steve the jailer is the most disturbed and disturbing of the three voices despite, or perhaps because, of perceiving himself as reasonable, and as much a victim as the woman languishing behind the bolted door. When, on the second page, we encounter an altogether different personality, an ordinary man meeting an attractive woman in the canteen at work, I hope the reader will wonder how the one became the other.
The counterpoint of Steve the jailer is Steve the child (or Squirt according to his bullying older sisters). These scenes from childhood – flashbacks rather than memories, related in the present tense in simpler language as if in the here and now – give a flavour of the vulnerability from which he’s detached as an adult. The emotional insecurity of his early childhood, with a depressed and distant mother, makes him susceptible to reacting badly to perceived rejection as an adult.
Most of the novel is narrated by this adult Steve as he begins a new job as an operating theatre orderly, buys a house and persuades his new girlfriend to move in with him. There are hints of disorder as he goes about his ordinary life but Steve locates these firmly in other people. There’s his elderly mother suffering from dementia and failing to recognise him when he visits her in a nursing home, which Steve initially passes off as a joke. Then there’s Liesel: attractive, intelligent and unconventional, but with her own vulnerabilities, which Steve seems more able to acknowledge than his own, especially when the approach of Christmas reminds her of her mother’s suicide. Where will this lead, and function will the cellar serve?
At first sight, the cellar is a place of playful innocence where Steve enjoys watching Liesel “spinning like a toddler playing aeroplanes” and envisions her using it as an art studio. He looks forward to making love down there but Liesel, at least initially, is reluctant. However, that doesn’t stop Steve from imagining it as the venue for enacting more elaborate sexual fantasies with Liesel’s friend, Jules, co-opted into the game (p31-32):
“She’d played me like a wind-up toy, pressing my buttons to extract what she needed. And I was cool with that. I’d do whatever it took to join her team. Despite my years of travelling, I sensed that Liesel could lead me to places I’d barely imagined.”
“.… Liesel eyed Jules coolly as she sipped her beer. Was that what she wanted? A threesome on the kilim? It would be a new departure for me, but I wouldn’t rule it out if Liesel were up for it …”
Would Jules be as eager as Liesel or would she require some persuasion?
Presumably, that would be down to me. Liesel, the Dominatrix, giving the orders; me, her henchman, carrying them out. I reached for my pint while I thought through how best to entice Jules back to the house for a teambuilding session in the cellar.
Moments later, Steve realises he’s allowed himself to get carried away on the basis of a misunderstanding, but the seed has been sown for what eventually takes place in the cellar. But will Liesel, as Steve implies here, be the instigator or is he simply projecting his own warped desires onto her? Or is this to be a shared delusion, a folie à deux for which they’re both responsible? Or will this be a red herring for a different scenario altogether? Of course, I’m not going to tell you. You can only find out by reading the book.
About Anne Goodwin
Anne Goodwin writes fiction for the freedom to contradict herself and has been scribbling stories ever since she could hold a pencil. During her career as an NHS clinical psychologist her focus was on helping other people tell their neglected stories to themselves. Now that her short fiction publication count has overtaken her age, her ambition is to write and publish enough novels to equal her shoe size.
Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret, was published in July 2015 by Inspired Quill and shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, about a man who keeps a woman captive in his cellar, is scheduled for publication in May 2017.
Anne juggles her sentences while walking in the Peak District, only to lose them battling the slugs in her vegetable plot. As a break from finding her own words, she is an avid reader and barely-competent soprano in an all-comers choir.
Find out more at: http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/about-me.html