Author Tessa Hadley's new novel "Late in the Day" is a beautiful study of people — four established adults who have known each other for decades, Christine and Alex, and Lidiya and Zachary. They’re not exactly Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, but they are close. The problem is, when we first meet Zachary, he has just died. WGBH News' Henry Santoro sat down with British novelist Tessa Hadley to discuss "Late In The Day," about two-long married couples about to experience a life-changing event. The interview below is slightly edited for clarity.

Henry Santoro: Can you tell me about your decision to have Zachary die in the first chapter?

Tessa Hadley: I didn't know that was going to happen when I was first playing with the novel. I'm always playing with my next novel while I write, if you like, the novel before. And I knew I wanted these two couples, and I knew I wanted them, as it were, intertwining A with B and C with D and sometimes a different mix-up. And then it occurred to me that the strongest gesture I could give them to disrupt and change the foursome would be for one of them to die. But almost in the same moment, I knew that delivering that blow three quarters of the way through the book could be very distorting — it would be strange if I'd done something sort of lightly comic, so far. It would seem almost malevolent. So as soon as I thought that Zachary would die, I knew the book had to begin there.

Santoro: The book alternates chapters between present day and days gone by, and it's a great way for us to get to know the characters. But when writing in that style, is that like writing two books in one for you?

Hadley: Writing like that feels easy. I mean, writing isn't easy. It really isn't easy, but it doesn't feel any harder.

Santoro: Writing is one of the hardest things one can do.

Hadley: Writing is one of the hardest things one can do. I'm very happy moving backwards and forwards like that. I think that's kind of how my imagination has always worked. I can remember when I was a little girl, I used to interrogate my grandparents about their pasts, their lives, how did they meet, how many brothers and sisters. I know things about my grandparents that nobody alive now knows. I've always been curious about the past, so that comes very naturally to me and I love to infill the back story as I go along.

Santoro: How well can one get to know you from reading your books?

Hadley: I mean all too well, probably, because there is always a feeling that if you're not putting your intimate, exposed self into the book, in some sense, then you're not writing properly. But at the same time, I don't write particularly autobiographically. I don't tell the story of my own life exactly, ever.

Santoro: In his review of "Late in the Day" in The Washington Post, Ron Charles writes about this book: "It's a romantic comedy pulled by a hearse." I think that's awesome.

Hadley: I love that line, because one of my fears for the book was that it would be too sad. I don't really want to write heart-rending, although I want heart-rending to be in there somewhere.

Santoro: But you have this subtle sense of humor that you sprinkle in your writing that is just wonderful.

Hadley: Well I love to hear that that was so in this book. I was always just a little bit afraid, you know, that the subject matter was going to be so dark that it would weigh down on that. So thank you, and thanks to Ron Charles for that lovely line.

Santoro: I think that line is tremendous.

Hadley: Yeah.

Santoro: My takeaway is that no matter the grief, no matter the circumstances, there's always tomorrow to help you move on. Somebody once said to me after my dad passed, "You feel, you heal, but you never forget."

Hadley: That sounds like a sane and generous way of grieving.

Santoro: Tessa Hadley's latest book is called "Late In The Day." It's published by Harper Collins and it's available everywhere. You will not be disappointed.