Private: I’m a Sucker for a Synesthete

Whitbread-shortlisted novelist Shena Mackay talks to The Telegraph about her book Heligoland, whether she should hang her coat up, and how she sees “words in colours”:

For Mackay, Heligoland is “pearly grey” because she is synaesthetic, seeing words in colours. H is grey and words tend to take the colour of their first letter. Her own name is yellow. When she tells me she’s a crossword fan I come over queasy: “Don’t they end up as hideous tartans?” “Oh no,” she laughs, “it’s not always like that. You can choose to see the colours. The words have associations but they don’t always intrude.” Gemstones feature frequently in Mackay’s prose spectrum. Her adjectives feel carefully selected from an attic jewelbox vocabulary: rhinestone, amethyst, obsidian, eggshell. Old treasures dusted off and restored to sparkle. There is such visual exactness in Mackay’s work I wonder if she would rather have been a painter. “Yes. Perhaps,” her lips curl, rueful, “but I think my talent lay in… language.”

(Via Sarah Weinman.)