Jenni Fagan on “the Girl with a Shark’s Heart”: NPR Interview

"I was interested in developing in a character . . . who's uncomfortable to be around sometimes but that you're very compelled by."

Jenni Fagan talks with Jacki Lyden of NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered about her novel The Panopticon, a dazzling debut by one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists featuring an unforgettable young heroine, Anais – a “girl with a shark’s heart.”

Fagan reveals that there’s an autobiographical element to her book. “There’s certain elements of this book that do resonate with my upbringing quite strongly and I was able to authenticate the book because of that,” she says.

“I don’t think I would have been able write it in the same way if I hadn’t grown up in the care system for 16 years. Well, I’m 35 now and I’ve moved about 32 times, and a lot of that was before the age of 16, and it was very, very, very dislocating.”

About Anais, Fagan admits, “she’s a contradiction of things. And that’s what I was interested in developing in a character, you know, somebody who doesn’t just fit neatly into boxes, somebody who’s uncomfortable to be around sometimes but that you’re very compelled by. And I’m always fascinated by writers who manage to do that with protagonists, and I think it’s very interesting.”

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Don’t miss this interview! As one commenter on NPR.com said:

“I was *liking* the novel, reading it, until today’s interview – hearing her voice reading it and bringing a new depth of heart to it – place of heart, pace of heart. Now I’m loving it.”

LISTEN to Jenni Fagan’s interview with Jacki Lyden, host of NPR Books.

READ an excerpt of Jenny Fagan’s brilliant debut novel The Panopticon.

About Jenni Fagan, author of The Panopticon

JENNI FAGAN was born in Livingston, Scotland. She graduated from Greenwich University and won a scholarship to the Royal Holloway MFA. A published poet, she has won awards from Arts Council England, Dewar Arts and Scottish Screen among others. She has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, was shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize, and was named one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists in 2013. The Panopticon is her first novel. Visit the author online on Twitter @Jenni_Fagan.