An undoing button. This is exactly the premise of Heather Child's latest book, The Undoing of Arlo Knott. The protagonist, Arlo Knott has a unique ability to turn back time - seconds, minutes and even days. This enables him to go back in time and continuously change the past until he gets the outcome he wants whether that's changing careers or relationship dynamics. However, there are always consequences. As he strives to unravel the consequences, so begins his 'undoing'. A brilliant page-turner and striking concept, the book will leave you hooked as it thoughtfully explores the very human themes of guilt, loss, shame and love.
I've been lucky enough to interview the author, Heather Child, on her inspiration behind the book and wanted to share the author Q&A below. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.
Q: The Undoing of Arlo Knott is a thought-provoking book on how an 'undo' button on life events that we regret can be hugely addictive and quite complicated and doesn't always provide the answer to all our questions. What inspired you to write this book and were there any truths from your own life reflected in this book?
A: I do make a lot of mistakes, and I think this inspired the concept of the book: a character who can just ‘undo’ things, who literally has the power of hindsight. Regret is such a powerful emotion – you just have to Google ‘top deathbed regrets’ to see how it haunts us, even the fear of it. I wanted to find out if a life free of mistakes would be wonderful or dangerous.
Q: What impact would you like the book to have on your readers?
A: In a way, it’s an argument in favour of messing up, so it would be great if readers went away feeling better about their mistakes! It also aims to open up thinking about the nature of errors and decision-making, with metaphors drawn from diverse areas – from medieval legends to quantum physics.
Q: What has been the response from your fans so far?
A: Generally really positive, with a few qualms here and there about the main character since he does go to some dark places before setting off towards redemption. The Guardian called the novel ‘a triumph’, which just about bowled me over.
Q: You have also written another book, Everything About You, which is Science Fiction and very different to The Undoing of Arlo Knott - it's been promoted as Black Mirror meets Gone Girl which very much piques my interest. Can you tell us a little about that book?
A: It’s about a woman whose virtual assistant – like a Siri or Alexa – knows everything about her, and is supposed to give her whatever she wants. The book examines a near-future where the internet knows everything about us, from birth, and asks what that might mean for our relationships and free will.
Q: What other exciting projects have you got lined up?
A: I’m working on a third novel which will be about narcissism and populist politics, set in the world’s first ‘instagramocracy’. Watch this space!
Q: Where can people find out more about your work? (include website and social media profiles)
Q: What's your favourite book?
Hard to pick one, but I have a soft spot for Jonathan Coe’s What a Carve Up, in which he gathers together all the baddies of the Thatcherite years into a country house and systematically... well, I’ll say no more!
Q: If you were to have a literary dinner party with three of your favourite literary people, who would you choose?
A: Jorge Luis Borges, Jane Austen and Susanna Clarke (because Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is such an impressive novel and I can’t wait for her next one).
A cross between A Time Travellers Wife and Sliding Doors, about multiple choices and paradoxes, it's a thought-provokingly clever book, that's the perfect quarantine or holiday read.
Heather Child lives in Bristol, UK. Her two novels Everything About You and The Undoing of Arlo Knott are published by Orbit (Little, Brown). Alongside writing, she has had an eclectic career in charity marketing and communications and currently works in sustainability.
You can find out more about her novels, including discussion questions for book clubs, at www.heather-child.co.uk or follow her on Twitter at @Heatherika1
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