Writing and pottery coexist for Macneal. “Writing is so intensely mental that I often find I can’t do it for long periods of time,” she says. When she’s had enough, she’ll revert to her studio – a slate-grey shed with big patio doors at the end of her garden – and throw. Pottery is a more physical outlet – mechanical, almost, allowing her mind to wander. “I need it to be quiet when I’m writing, and very tidy.” Her studio, on the other hand, can be chaotic, and she listens to audio books as she works: Vanity Fair by George Thackeray played on repeat while she was writing The Doll Factory.
Writing a novel can feel like an endless, sprawling task. “Unlike a mug,” says Macneal, “which is more tangible in the short term.” Still, sitting across from a tower of her freshly printed hardbacks, it seems the wait has been worth it. “I threw everything that interests me into this book,” she says, “to the extent that I didn’t know whether it would find a publisher because it was so whacky and offbeat.” More than that, it’s a thrilling novel that weaves together themes of art, love and obsession. Speaking of which, we hear a tapping and find Monty pawing fanatically at the door. “Oh, he’s found a fly,” says Macneal. “That fly won’t live long.”
The Doll Factory is published in the UK by Picador and by Emily Bestler Books/Atria in the US on 3rd September 2019.
Words by Chloë Ashby.