Galaxy Craze: 'I wish I hadn't written the sex scenes'

Galaxy Craze has taken nearly a decade to follow up her well-received debut novel. And the actress-turned-writer is still far from happy with the result. Matt Thorne can only wonder why

Way back in 1999, Galaxy Craze – a former actress who'd appeared in films including Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives and the thriller A Kiss Before Dying – published By the Shore, a beautifully controlled novel about a 12-year-old girl named May caught between warring parents. The novel was so assured and the prose so engaging that it seemed inevitable that this would be the start of a long and successful literary career.

Most notably, Craze, who was born in London but moved with her mother to America at 10, seemed able to combine an American and English literary sensibility: By the Shore was an elegant and precise novel about the British seaside that could be appreciated by a global audience. But for the past nine years Craze has been silent, until finally returning this year with a sequel, Tiger, Tiger, that picks up May's story two years later, describing what happens when her mother falls under the influence of a manipulative Californian guru. The first thing I have to ask her when we meet for lunch is: what took you so long?

"I don't know what happened," sighs Craze, who is in her late-30s and is neighbours with the band Sonic Youth. "Wait, you gotta admit, don't you, my first book's better than my second? Tell the truth." No, I tell her, this one's better. The prose is stronger, the characters are more developed, and her depiction of how May copes with being taken to an ashram is totally convincing. I liked it a lot more. "You did? You're kidding," she says, in genuine disbelief. "I could use children as an excuse but they had nothing to do with it. When I wrote By the Shore, that book felt like it was coming to me out of the air. I had no distractions. I remember not even returning a call from this boy I had a mad crush on.

"But then, when I tried to write my second book, I tried to imitate the same surroundings. I went back to my mother's house – we weren't getting along – and I was writing something that wasn't good. I wrote half a novel and threw it away. Then I wrote a whole novel – a completely different story – and right before I got married in 2002, I sent it to my editor. She edited the manuscript and sent it back, and I was looking at her changes and thought, 'This isn't good, I'm going to start over.'"

Hang on, I ask her, how did your editor feel about this? "She was having another baby and I didn't want to bother her. I didn't want to be a needy writer. I never called her." OK, I say, but this was years of your work you were about to abandon; surely you needed a second opinion? "She didn't seem too upset. She said, 'Oh, there's a lot of beautiful writing that will be lost.' But I just felt like her changes were too much effort for that book. And I'm lazy, I didn't want to do the revisions. If it wasn't good enough, there's nothing that's going to make it so."

Surely all writers have to do some revisions? Were there no edits with Tiger, Tiger? "I think my editor got to the point where, it's nine years later, and she just said, we accept it. But there was tons of revision. Even after I'd handed it in I kept rewriting, changing structure. My editor wasn't into the idea of the ashram; she told me, that's what people wrote about in the 1960s. It was incredibly difficult to portray it in a way that's not stereotypical. It's impossible to capture a guru and make people understand why their followers would give up their independence and their money to them."

Novelists are often experts at evasion but, as should be clear by now, Craze is incredibly honest. I ask if she felt any anxiety or depression during this period. "Those were not happy years of my life," she confesses. "I never went on vacation. Even if I went away for the weekend I would bring my computer – and of course, get no work done." Writers often say no time is wasted, that even dead projects can help your development. But Craze didn't feel this way. "I wish I could have those years back. To be honest, I don't think this is a great book, but I just thank God it's done."

Craze thinks she was suffering from difficult second-novel syndrome and from now on things will be easier. I'm sure this will be the case, but readers shouldn't pay too much attention to Craze's self-doubts about Tiger, Tiger; these are the misgivings of a perfectionist. And of someone who dislikes drama for drama's sake.

Some of the reviewers who have praised Tiger, Tiger have drawn particular attention to the sex scenes in the book, as Craze depicts May falling for the charms of a manipulative older girl named Sati. But now she thinks that including these scenes was a mistake.

"I wish I hadn't written the sex scenes; I feel like they were too much for the book. I was doing it because it was fun to write, and I thought books should have some sex. My first book, people would say it was beautiful but very quiet. I guess I didn't know what they meant because I felt there was a lot going on when I was writing it, so with Tiger, Tiger I was trying to be not so quiet."

I sense that part of the reason Craze is down on the book is that, though she's had some good reviews, it had a quiet reception in the US. "It got ignored compared with the first book. Places that have given my first book a great review didn't even review this one. Part of that has to do with the times, my publisher said, but you can't blame it all on that."

Well, maybe not, but Craze, who loves writing about England and finds romance in the countryside and architecture of her birthplace, is likely to find greater acceptance for her book here. It's already being warmly reviewed, and the novelists she is closest to in tone – Esther Freud, Helen Dunmore, Julie Myerson – are British. Maybe Americans just don't get nostalgia about toy shops (the title is the name of a toy shop Craze remembers from childhood), British food (an obsession of Craze's transferred to May) and novelists who refrain from judging their characters.

For Craze, as a reader and writer, the prose is of paramount importance. A friend had recommended Stephenie Meyer's teen vampire novel Twilight as a page-turner to read on the plane, but, she says, "It's not a page-turner for me as the writing is so bad. Books that people tell me are such great stories are not great stories to me if the writing isn't concise and poetic or doesn't have its own voice. When I was younger I was more invested in the idea of writing a bestseller but now I realise that's not so important."

Both By the Shore and Tiger, Tiger depict a child trying to deal with the midlife crises of the baby-boomer generation, and although May is such a compelling character that Craze could return to her in future novels, she says she's done with these characters and with writing about childhood. Now she draws inspiration from her marriage (she's married to the novelist and documentary producer Sam Brumbaugh) and her children, and wants to write about being an adult and how this generation is turning out to be different from the one before.

It seems as if her doubts about her book are balanced by happiness in her personal life, which came as something of a surprise to her. "It was always a choice: career or kids. But you can mix it up. You don't have to be a type-A personality, a superstar in your job; you can have an OK career and be happy." Not a sentiment you often hear from novelists, unless they're pretending to be self-effacing, but as Craze puts her wellingtons back on and traipses off to meet her family, I realise she's utterly sincere.

The extract

Tiger, Tiger, By Galaxy Craze (Cape £12.99)

'... Most of the people left the room, but a few remained, still sitting on the floor, like the last guests at a party. The candles had burned low, the incense had turned to strings of ash. A small flame on a candle flickered inside a red glass. When I hear the word "loneliness" ... I think of that room'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements