Claustrophobia is the taut, compelling story of a young Perth wife who sets out to protect her husband by stalking his ex-lover, but unexpectedly falls into a passionate affair and a world of lies. In a novel that possesses the dark wit, psychological insight and narrative momentum of a Patricia Highsmith, Tracy Ryan captures the disturbing elements that sometimes lurk beneath the surface of a marriage. The realities of obsessive attachment and social isolation are explored through a deft and thought-provoking look at a complex personality and a plot that twists its page-turning way into our psyche.
Tracy Ryan was born in Western Australia and grew up there as part of a large family. She has taught literature, creative writing and film at various universities in Australia and in England, and worked as a bookseller, editor and translator. She has also lived in Ohio in the USA. Her poetry has won many awards. Claustrophobia is her fourth work of fiction.
Transit Lounge Publishing
Author: Tracy Ryan
Question: How would you describe Claustrophobia in five words?
Tracy Ryan: Domestic noir, psychological suspense novel.
Question: What inspired the story of Claustrophobia?
Tracy Ryan: I asked myself, "What if someone found a letter that suggested the last ten years of their life had been other than what they thought?" And the storyline arose from there.
Question: Why did you decide to set the book in Perth?
Tracy Ryan: I grew up in Perth, so I know it fairly well, but also it seems to me to suit stories about social climbing, criminality, and claustrophobic self-control and obsession. People from Perth will know what I mean! Despite growth in population, it's still a very isolated city and one in which the past will always come back to meet you in some way.
Question: How difficult is it for you to ensure you've captured the disturbing psychological elements of marriage?
Tracy Ryan: I think that's for the reader to decide. In any case, this is about one particular fictional couple -- everyone's marriage in real life is different. But I think readers can imagine the deadlock some couples get into.
Question: What research was involved in writing Claustrophobia?
Tracy Ryan: I read a lot of traditional novels with similar themes, and did some fact-checking because memory can play tricks with you!
Question: Can you talk us through your writing process?
Tracy Ryan: It varies depending on the book. Usually I have to go into a small, confined space with no noise around, and spend quite a bit of time just jotting or making mud-map type of plans... Once I have done a lot of this, long-hand, I will start writing directly onto the computer. But the initial thinking-on-paper has to be done by hand; then it seems to take off.
Interview by Brooke Hunter