Interview with Author – Matson Taylor
Conducted By Louise Cannon (Lou)
The Miseducation of Evie Epworth was bestselling in both the Radio 2 Book Club and Richard And Judy Book Club.
Set in Yorkshire and London between the 1960’s and 1970’s. There is humour and poignancy to be had in both books.
Matson Taylor and his creation of Evie Epworth hit the bookshelves and caused quite a stir with witty and charming writing in both books
1. What or who inspired you to write?
Many things! I’ve always been a reader and just about every book I’ve ever read has fed into me wanting to be a writer. I think reading Kate Atkinson’s books, in particular, drew me to writing – I love the way she writes – there’s a real sense of fun but at the same time every sentence is beautiful – tuned and balanced to perfection. I wanted to see if I could write a book that combines humour with moments of restrained lyricism just like Kate Atkinson’s. Other authors who inspire me and push me to write better include Virginia Woolf, Sue Townsend, Alan Bennett, and Sarah Winman.
2. The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is set in the 1960s and All About Evie, in the 1970s, what inspired this to be your timeline?
I’m a design historian and -like all historians- talk a lot about decades. I realised that quite a few of my students see decades as monolithic blocks of 10 years with everything staying the same until, on the 1st of January at the start of the next decade, everything changed. It’s not like this of course! Decades take a few years to ‘grow up’ – they need time to shake off the previous decade and develop a character of their own. So I thought I’d write a novel about the ‘coming of age’ of a decade and combine it with the coming of age of a young woman (Evie). I chose the 1960s because everyone feels like they know the 60s – we’re all children of the 60s and very aware of the all the music, fashion, films etc of the decade. And then in the second book I wanted to look at the the end of the 60s and the start of what comes next – and 1972 is really when the sixties ended! It’s the death of the idealism of the 1960s – quite a sad messy time… The new decade wasn’t quite sure where it wanted to go and it’s only really when the new generation came of age that the seventies arrived in all its glam, colourful, glittery glory.
3. The series could have gone either way – humorous as it is now or focusing on the more serious with Mrs Pym, was the humour and balance between the two intentional?
I wanted to write a funny book about serious things and combining the humour with emotional heft was always my intention for both books. I think books need both in order to make them balanced and enjoyable. I’ve had lots of wonderful compliments about how funny the books are but there’s also some pretty dark themes in there too: grief, death, guilt, the importance of liberalism and tolerance… People often tell me they laughed out loud AND cried when reading the books – and that’s just what I want!
4. All About Evie is still as humorous as the first, but shows a bit more fashion of the 1970s. How much did your job as a design historian at the V&A influence you in your writing of this?
It’s a huge influence. My job as a design historian has given me the tools to research material culture – when I started writing the first novel I was very confident writing about ’things’ (the fashion, food, interiors etc) because it’s my day job – I was much less confident about making up a story! The museum’s a great resource too – in fact, in the final chapter of the 1st book, Evie is wearing a Mary Quant dress – initially it was a generic 60s dress but, while I was writing, the V&A had a Mary Quant exhibition so Evie ended up wearing one of the 1962 dresses from the exhibition.
5. You’ve written about the 60s and 70s, so can readers expect more of Evie Epworth to be written, perhaps in the 80s and beyond?
Absolutely! I always planned the Evie story as a trilogy so there’s a final Evie book set in 1982. But before I get to that, I’m writing a stand-alone book (ie non Evie) – it’s set in the mid-to-late 70s in Rome and is the story of two broken people brought together by the universe to fix each other…