Kate Pullinger was born in Vancouver, and now lives in London. She is the author of several novels and collections of short stories. She collaborated with Jane Campion on the novel of the film The Piano, and has written for film, television and radio. She teaches creative writing and new media at De Montfort University.
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A Conversation with Kate Pullinger, author of The Mistress of Nothing
This Q&A contains plot spoilers
In your Author's Note, you mention that this story is inspired by real people and events. How far does the novel deviate from actual happenings? Where did you choose to embellish or change things to suit your authorial needs?
I was inspired to write the story of Sally Naldrett after reading Katherine Frank's wonderful biography, Lucie Duff Gordon. The episode with Sally is a tiny part of Lucie's eventful and fascinating life. But Sally struck me as a strong character herself and I knew right away that I wanted to try to tell her side of the story. The novel sticks very close to the established facts up to the moment that Sally leaves Lucie's household; for instance, she really did give birth on the Nile on Christmas Eve, she and Omar did marry subsequently, despite Lucie's objections. However, no further records remain of Sally, apart from the fact that she did return once to ask Lucie for money. So from that point onward I was free to imagine Sally's life; since there is no record of her death in England, I felt I could assume that she stayed in Egypt. And that led me into imagining ...
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