Just some thoughts and possible questions I would have for the author of Our Endless Numbered Days, Claire Fuller.
What are the chances for such a story to be based on real-life events: a man, a survivalist, kidnapping his own daughter (although kidnapping is perhaps not the best fitting word here), deciding to cut all his ties with the rest of the world and trying to live in a little hut, up in the mountains in a thick Bavarian forest? Every now and then we read, for example, about a family who spent over four decades away from civilization, or about a hermit who avoided human contact for 27 years. Were you inspired by this kind of stories? Or was this a what if? question which you perhaps stumbled upon, found interesting enough and decided to explore through writing?
Description seems to play a very important role throughout the book, from setting the pace of the action, to sketching the mood of a scene, to offering escape in a difficult, emotionally laden situation. Does this also have to do with Peggy’s growing up, getting in touch with the world and learning about it and ultimately trying to understand what nature is by filtering it through her own words and phrases? Why do you think she waited for so many years to go on exploring? After a certain age, whatever our parents tell us we should not do, becomes a first rate attraction, something we should definitely try.
This question goes hand in hand with the previous one: Who is really the narrator? We know from the beginning that Peggy made it home again and we understand that she is the one who guides us through the meanders of the distant as well as recent past. We do not yet know that we should be happy about it but we will, soon enough. However, the narrator is more than articulated and has a thesaurus that would certainly exceed that of an eight-year-old. Even if she is now older, the only thing in the way of culture she had access to all this time was the music she played on her silent piano. There is something peculiar about the narrator, as if she were a sublimated, well read version of both Peggy and Punzel, a meta-narrator of sorts.
Do you think there might have been a chance for him to leave/live alone? He could have waited until Ute’s return was imminent or he might have left Peggy with a neighbor for a couple of days, for example. Is it possible that the act of leaving was more important for him than dragging his little daughter along. Did he do it only to take revenge on Ute? Was he so involved with himself and his feelings that Peggy’s life played no role at all? Or did he do it for Peggy? Was he thinking that this is the best possible world he could have ever offered her? I guess not since, during the forest fire scene Punzel tells us that:
For two seconds my father held my arm out over the fire – offering me up, whilst I struggled to get away from the heat. Then he let go of me and I backed away, rubbing my wrist.
We know very little about Reuben. He was there to help, that much we do know. To help you, the writer, find a way to bring Peggy back and to help Punzel find herself. He might be the action-hero of the novel but he disappears as suddenly as he appears. Is Reuben actually Punzel’s alter ego? Is he just an emanation of her own teenage desires and dreams? But his name is already scratched on the wall of die Hütte when they arrive. Is he a sort of character in an ad-hoc initiation myth, created by Punzel in order to get her out of the past, bring her to the present and show her the future? And, on a slightly different note, I have the feeling this bearded fellow must look very much like Samuel Beam / Iron & Wine. Could it be?
Needless to say, music is quite high on the list of themes informing the book. It makes life bearable, it makes time more fluid.
“Dates only make us aware of how numbered our days are, how much closer to death we are for each one we cross off. From now on, Punzel, we’re going to live by the sun and the seasons.” He picked me up and spun me around, laughing. “Our days will be endless.”
It is also, as it were, written in Ute’s DNA and, the same way she cannot control one, she cannot control the other either. Even if she refuses to teach her children how to play the piano, they both seem to have it in them and manage to find their way with the black and white keys. Is music a placeholder for humanity? Is it here to help Punzel not want to throw herself into the Great Divide? Is it here to help James in his attempt to have a bit of Ute with him? Is it here to make Ute’s character almost ethereal, as if she were… made of music?
I couldn’t imagine Ute having a mother, or any relations – she was too complete.
… says Punzel. Indeed, she seems to be complete, as if, as mentioned above, she were made of music. If there is so little place left for anything else, even in the way of relationships, how does she relate to her children and to Peggy in particular? Punzel seems to miss her dearly. She misses her cooking (which, however, in her situation is not very difficult) but also her caresses. Her affair with Oliver might be a bit too sketchy to reveal something about her. Why do you think she slept with him? What is it she needed from him? What did James had to offer her in the first place?
How do you write? How does your writing routine look like? Do you have a routine at all (I am thinking kids & Co.)? How does writing and sculpting go together? Are there occasions where you sit at your desk thinking you would rather have a hammer and a chisel in your hands which would make it possible to actually carve a story? Or is it the other way around? Or do these two creative activities manage to go hand in hand (or head near head, like the limestone sculpture on your website)?