so, anyway, some background... i was being interviewed by claire armitstead at the edbookfest. during which she said that whilst reading the red house she kept thinking about those old tile puzzles, the ones you used to get in party bags c. 1975, a 3 x 3 grid containing eight tiles which you moved around to complete a picture, this being made possible by the missing square.
(i see mostly them online now - and there is one, a picture of a leopard, which is part of the basic mac dashboard package - but i'm never tempted to do them. it was the crappiness of the construction, the cheapness of the materials, the way the tiles got slightly stuck, which was an essential part of the appeal).
i felt a lurch when claire said this, a) because before writing the red house i'd given up on a novel called the missing square, the central image of which was precisely one of those tile puzzles, and whose organising conceit was that certain spaces or absences or holes may make a little world imperfect, but they are precisely what enables that little world to change and generate new images and meanings... b) stranger still, i suddenly realised that far from giving up on this image it had remained a model for the central structure of the red house, which is a story about the eight remaining members of a family and a ninth member (a stillborn daughter) who is still having a profound effect on the family despite, or because of, her absence.
just to prove how central the image of the tile puzzlewas to the missing square, i was trawling through the mac folder where i'd dumped everything associated with the abandonned novel, and stumbled on these covers ideas (the back cover image is a picture of me and my sister as children):