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  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

Grief, Adolescence and Expectations in Talking at Night by Claire Daverley

By Victoria Bromley, Eleanor Bowskill, Zarah Yesufu and Hannah McWhinnie


A classic will-they-won’t-they romance for fans of Sally Rooney and David Nicholls. Having built a career in publishing, Claire Daverley is a new voice in the literary scene, but Talking at Night captures its own space in the market. Rosie and Will meet as teenagers, but as an aspiring Oxbridge student, Rosie is hesitant to fall for the town’s bad boy who would only distract her from the life already laid out for her. But it’s the result of one tragic night that keeps them apart despite their urge to be together.


Photo Credit: United Agents/Emma Shaw

Daverley began by saying she’s “always wanted to be a writer” and that books were her first love. Whilst ambitious, she was also realistic and knew that she would need a career “to pay the bills,” and publishing allowed her to work with books. She found that working in publishing was “an interesting parallel with being a writer,” and not being involved in acquisitions or editorial meant that she wasn’t getting “too close to the process,” and her job wasn’t distracting her writing. Instead, working in a brand-facing, digital marketing role meant that she was working with books that had already been published, and for Daverley this was “the best of both worlds.”


Talking at Night is a page-turning romance with the ultimate question: do Rosie and Will end up together? Daverley admitted that she didn’t actually know the fate of their relationship while writing the novel. It seemed to be “cooler” and “more realistic” for them not to end up together, although she was open to seeing where the story would lead her. Throughout, she wanted to give “that little bit of hope” of a happy ending.


Tensions between the pair peak at various points throughout the novel. Most notably, in one of the earlier chapters, desperate to find something to hold him at a distance, Rosie tells Will he is “the wrong kind of person” for her. In an attempt to protect her brother’s secret, Rosie needed something that Will would believe, that he could accept as true – and telling him he was wrong for her did just that. For Daverley, this works because the teens “know each other on a deep level.” They connect, talk and see one another in a way that other characters in the novel can’t quite comprehend.


While writing, it was Daverley’s intention that Will and Rosie would be “right” together. Their separation was just “a matter of timing” and “terrible luck” amid all of the things they go through. The fact that their romance never quite comes to fruition is painful for both of them. Daverley thinks that Rosie seeks comfort in steadiness because of Josh’s death and sexuality, which isn’t revealed to Will until much later. But the lie she tells Will is a “consistent belief he holds” for most of the novel, because he doesn’t yet have those “missing pieces” that Rosie has been harbouring for so long.


Being surrounded by twins in her personal life, Daverley wrote Josh and Rosie as twins because she had been told that the dynamic is “so much more than just a sibling.” The high-emotion storyline is partly because of this bond. Being close to her brother, “it came very naturally to write about a brother who is also a good friend.” It is a writer’s strength to write about what they know. However, Daverley says it can also be valuable to write the unfamiliar and “lean into your imagination,” because if we only wrote on what we knew, “the world would be a very boring place.”


There is a stark disparity between Will’s and Rosie’s upbringings. Rosie “wants for nothing materially” in her comfortable nuclear family, whereas Will lives in an untypical setup and understandably has “abandonment and rejection issues.” However, Daverley explains that Will experiences “consistent love” from his grandmother – “she is his home,” whereas Rosie lacks this “consistent whisper of support.” Ultimately, Rosie “doesn’t know love in the way that Will does,” and this is where they diverge but are similar; rejection and love play crucial albeit alternate roles in their upbringings.


Rosie’s relationship with her mother is “one of the most complex” relationships throughout the novel. Mrs. Winters “is one of the most villainous characters in the book” for the way that she influences Rosie’s strive for perfection, which is detrimental to her health and wellbeing. From Daverley’s perspective, this mother-daughter dynamic felt so real because, as women, we are “conditioned” to act in certain ways and maintain unattainable standards in society. Yet everything Mrs. Winters does “comes from a place of love,” and from wanting Rosie to be “the best she can be.”


Even less observant readers will soon notice that the novel is void of quotation marks. The lack of dialogue punctuation feels fresh and progressive but is no doubt controversial, as some readers may struggle to adjust to the change. Daverley was aware that a lack of these little marks is often perceived as a “trope” of sorts. Writing from an early age, it was something she had always done – not least because she knew it could be done, as seen in modernist fiction. For Daverley, a lack of punctuation made her work feel much more immediate. The first draft was “a process of getting the characters out of her head and onto the page.” She was “in conversation” with them in her brain, and wanted to bring this “sense of intimacy” to her work.


This stylistic choice is also reflective of the time in which Daverley wrote her novel. Within the claustrophobia of the COVID-19 lockdown, it was the “small joys” which were important, and immersing herself fully into the world of her characters was natural, because Daverley “didn’t want to be telling a story,” but rather “wanted to be completely somewhere else with these characters,” and not using quotation marks allowed for a sense of fluidity. It was instinctual not to clutter her writing with quotation marks, and when it came to the editorial stages, she preferred to keep it this way.




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