In conversation with... Charlotte Levin

Hi Charlotte! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the paperback publication of If I Can’t Have You! Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: Thanks Silvia! Yes, it’s about Constance Little, an emotionally damaged young woman, struggling to cope with the loss of her mother. When she begins an intense affair with Samuel, the new doctor at the medical practice where she's a receptionist, she's finally found the love and security she craves. But for Samuel, it is just all a bit of fun, and when he ends things, Constance is unable to let it go. The novel is a letter to Samuel, an explanation of her increasing obsession and unravelling. Although it has thriller elements, it's not a typical psychological thriller. There's some dark humour too! It's been described as Eleonor Oliphant meets YOU, which I think is a good summation.

Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing the book or did it take an unexpected turn as the characters grew on the page?

A: I didn't plot the whole book, but I did like to outline around three chapters ahead. I also knew where my first plot point was going to happen. And I had scenes that I knew I wanted to write but had no idea where they may go. It happened organically. Which is concerning as it means I don't have a specific formula for my next book!

Was If I Can’t Have You your working title? Either way, how did you choose it?

A: No, it was originally An Explanation of Love, and my publishers changed it to If I Can't Have You. I wasn't sure initially, but it was the right decision. It would be weird if it was called anything else now.

If this novel was going to be turned into a film, who would you cast in the roles of Constance and Dr Stevens?

A: I’ve had this conversation with friends, and I’m so out of touch that I don’t know any of the people they say! I think Jodie Comer would be a great Constance, but I don’t know about Samuel. I need to find out who is a younger version of Hugh Grant or someone like that.

Without giving too much away, can you tell us about a scene in the book that you love or that was particularly difficult to write?

A: There are a couple of favourite scenes in the book. One when Constance goes to a pub knowing Samuel will be there, so she pretends to be out with friends. Another is at the birthday party of her boss. But later in the book, there's a flashback scene about her mother dealing with cancer which was incredibly difficult to write as mum also died of cancer. But it's the scene of which I'm probably most proud.

Is there anything that didn’t make it into the final version of the book?

A: Far too many things to list here! I did numerous drafts and a lot of cutting. I realised that in my early drafts there were so many bus journeys! There was also one scene in A&E which I'd written like an actual evening in the hospital. She saw a triage nurse and everything! So lots of that had to go.

If you are already working on your next writing project, would you mind giving us a little anticipation of what we are to expect?

A: I am doing, yes. I haven’t worked out how to pitch it without giving major things away. It’s about a grieving mother who is involved in a train crash and is hailed a hero after saving a child. It’s along the similar lines of good people doing bad things like with If I Can’t Have You, but less of the thriller elements.

What are you reading at the moment?

A: I’m listening to the audiobook of The Dutch House by Ann Patchett and really enjoying it.

Due to the popularity of social networking websites, interacting with readers – be it via Twitter, Facebook Instagram etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?

A: Well, firstly it definitely disrupts my writing! I’m on Twitter far too much! I use it to tweet about my book, but I mainly use it just for fun. And have done for some years now, well before being published. The support I’ve had about my book has been so lovely. I think it’s obvious when someone is only on there to publicise themselves, and people don’t respond well to that. So I make sure I use my account for both.

What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: To discover what you do well and do that. There’s no point trying to emulate other authors, as what will set you apart is your voice.

Thank you for your time!

A: No, thank you!


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