Salford-born author Charlotte Levin has received a flurry of celebrity praise for her debut novel published during the pandemic.
If I Can’t Have You, published in July 2020, has been a hit with the likes of writer and actor Ruth Jones, author Harriet Tyce and fiction writer Emma Flint – not to mention the hundreds of online reviews calling it “addictive” and “impossible to put down”.
Levin’s novel follows receptionist Constance Little’s, dark, twisted obsession with co-worker, Samuel Stevens. After relocating to London from Manchester to escape her chequered past, Constance’s unrequited love forces her to push unimaginable boundaries – all to cure her aching sense of loneliness.
As well as this, Constance fights her internal battle with grief after the death of her mother from cancer. Levin brought her own life experience to the novel, with the development of the book acting as a coping mechanism after the death of her mother in 2015.
She explained: “It was very raw and written from the heart – but also quite cathartic.”
After growing up in Salford, Levin moved to London at the age of 19, much like Constance.
She said: “I did feel very fish out of water – I used that for Constance who feels the same. It can be quite a lonely place if you don’t know anyone.
“I really wanted her to be Northern. It’s based in London but it makes her a bit more isolated and vulnerable.”
Levin explained how the novel was formulated, with a blend of both empathy and anger for Constance a key theme which permeates throughout, saying that:
“I didn’t want it be so black and white and cut and dry… people who do bad things, aren’t usually just psychopaths, there’s a whole background and reasons why people do things.”
“There’s a bit of Constance in all of us but we don’t act on it… We can as humans recognise that and we have a bit of empathy with how she’s feeling.”
As a debut author during the midst of a global pandemic, Levin has not been able to run the usual book signings or fulfil her dream of seeing the physical edition in Waterstones book shops.
She said: “Being a debut is quite strange anyway because you don’t know what to expect but doing it during a pandemic is extra weird.”
She has found comfort and support through online groups of writers in a similar situation.
She continued: “I’ve been able to join things and do online events that just didn’t exist before – I hope this will continue.”
She is now writing her second novel, which is set in Salford. She still feels passionate about representing the North in the literary world. She said: “At one point I think it was quite radical for your book to be set in Manchester or not London – hopefully that’s changing.”
For more information on the book click here.