How Kate Atkinson did it: created Ruby in ‘Behind the Scenes at the Museum’

How did Kate Atkinson create the character of Ruby in ‘Behind the Scenes at the Museum’ and thereby the central dilemma of the story? She tells all to Melvyn Bragg in an interview on ‘The South Bank Show’ [Sky Arts]

Kate Atkinson

[photo: The Guardian]

MB: What did you set out to do with the character of Ruby?

KA: I knew that she’d lost something, that for me was the spine of that book.
MB: Did you know that at the very beginning, when there’s something at her back in the womb?
KA: I went back and put it all in, it was never there.
MB: Ruby is an identical twin, her sister Pearl died at three and Ruby blotted it out of her memory.
KA: I had that sense that something had gone missing, I got to two chapters from the end and thought ‘I don’t know what she’s lost.’ What would be the worst thing I could lose, and I thought that would be me, so what’s the closest thing to me? And the closest thing to me would be an identical twin. So I went back and put the identical twin in throughout the book and that was very satisfying because it made sense.”

So that puts paid to the assumption that you’ve got to get it all right in the first draft! Atkinson makes it sound much more like fitting jigsaw pieces together, which is reassuring.

To visit Kate’s website, click here.

Read my reviews of Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life and A God in Ruins.


Kate Atkinson


‘Behind the Scenes at the Museum’ by Kate Atkinson [UK: Black Swan] Buy now

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How Kate Atkinson created the character of Ruby via @SandraDanby #amwriting