Author Q&A:
Emma Glass

Rest and be Thankful
(Bloomsbury, £10.65 hardback, £7.91 ebook)

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Laura is a nurse in a paediatric unit, exhausted, on the verge of burnout and the end of a relationship. Her dreams seem to haunt her even when she’s awake but she remains tender with her charges and grateful for her colleagues’ kindnesses. Glass’s first novel, Peach, was longlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize. Her second novel is short, adventurous and ultimately shocking.

What were the challenges of writing this novel after the success of the first?
I began writing Rest and Be Thankful a few months after Peach was published. The story had been in my mind for some time but I needed a bit of space before I felt able to write again. I’m sure many writers going into their second novels have similar thoughts and concerns that their next work won’t be of the same quality, will seem too familiar to a reader, or won’t have the same impact, but I had to push all of those doubts aside in order to tell the story I wanted to tell.

There’s a lyrical, hallucinatory style to this novel, as there was with Peach. Is that how you describe the world best, or is it driven by characters who are traumatised or exhausted?
I write in a style that I feel most comfortable with. In Peach the language came first, then the characters and the story, and writing this novel came about in a similar way. As a sufferer of sleeplessness, I found myself drawing on my own experiences of exhaustion to project Laura’s feelings. She is a nurse who is on the verge of burnout, she sleeps very little and when she does, her dreams are vibrant and overwhelming to the point where she is not sure if she is asleep or awake.

Is there something novelists share with nurses, getting right up close to the visceral realities of life?
I feel privileged to share moments of people’s lives that if I was not a nurse, I would never get to experience. I feel that nurses get a unique insight into love, pain and grief, all of which should be valued and respected. As a novelist, I endeavour to tell the stories of those who are unable to speak or are unable to put words to their feelings and experiences.

If you were as tired as Laura, how did you write it?
Writing is as an essential part of my life. It is as important as eating, sleeping and exercising. Writing is my way of letting off steam, so I make time to do it. It may mean that I have less time to see friends or watch television, but it makes me happy and it helps me have a creative outlet for some of the more challenging experiences I face on a daily basis as a nurse.

From Joni Mitchell to Maggie Nelson and Picasso, artists continue to be inspired by the colour blue. What is the significance of the colour for you and in this book?
There’s a line from a Joanna Newsom song, “I am blue, I am blue, I am blue and unwell, so we’ll bolt like a horse”, which makes me think about the creeping energy that the colour blue has. Blue is so often associated with sadness, but I feel that it has a compelling energy and in Rest and Be Thankful it has a driving effect on Laura, through water, through the different stages of the darkness that she sees. In nursing, the colour blue denotes seniority: the darker the blue, the more authority you have and ultimately, the more accountability. Laura is supposed to be protected by her “light blue” status, but staffing and demand means that she has even more work, more responsibility, which wears her out and wears her down.

Do you have plans for a third novel, and if so will you continue working as a nurse?
I’m hoping to start writing my third novel soon. At the moment, the story and characters are starting to take shape in my mind, but I don’t feel ready to start writing just yet. I love my job. I feel that if I wasn’t a nurse, I wouldn’t feel as inspired to write as I do. I hope to keep nursing for as long as I can be useful and make a positive difference to people’s lives.

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