A: Of the four leading protagonists I've created for my novels, Ben is the least like me (Anna in The Cryptographer is probably the closest). But if I was ever like him, I suppose it would have been at that kind of age - late school age, 18 or so. Without a doubt I was more capable of violence at 18, shyer and more fearful, and I remember how unnerving my dreams often were, then (I used to have terrible nightmares, and would sleepwalk; both petered out in my late 20s). And Ben is younger than I am, so it may be that I was putting something of my younger self into him...but not much. Ben was a conscious attempt to get away from the self-centered protagonists of the first three novels.
Q: Along the same lines, the conception of Nessie seems in some ways to parallel the Spartan practice of exposure of defective infants by the fathers. In both cases, the choice of the mother was to some extent eliminated from the equation. Was that a deliberate parallel?
A: The violence was a conscious link, the passivity of the mother not. That doesn't mean you're wrong, though. I try not to analyse everything I write, and I do believe the book ends with the reader. Looking back at the passages, I think you may be right.
Q: Ben is a difficult protagonist to like; however, in this, he is very human, and he does become more sympathetic as the story progresses, particularly in comparison to some of the other characters. Was he a difficult character to write?
A: He was hard. I wanted to create someone quite unlike myself, for a change, and - also - Ben needed to be an innocent, and unheroic, and needy, and lonesome (what people over here unkindly call a 'Johnny-No-Mates'). And he has committed a violent crime, one for which he has never been punished under the law, though he punishes himself. A protagonist like that is always going to lose some readers early on, but I hope those who stick with Ben feel rewarded. He does change (he doesn't believe people change, but he changes all the same). By the end he is a kind of hero... well, he seems so to me. He acquires the strength of character to do something. I found myself liking him more and more as I wrote him, and I tried several times to find him a way out of his situation.