Hello Natasha! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of your latest novel, The Things We Did for Love. Can you tell us what it is about?
A: Hello Silvia and thank you! THE THINGS WE DID FOR LOVE is essentially a love story set in France in World War 2 during the last months of the German occupation. I don’t want to give too much away but it is based on true events and, given the context, it is as much about heroism, sacrifice, betrayal and redemption as it is about true love.
The novel is set during World War II. What kind of research did you have to carry out? Did you complete all of it in advance so that you could then dive into the writing process undisturbed or was it more a research-as-you-go sort of process?
A: I had already done a lot of research into the Occupation for my first novel, Diving Into Light, which entailed interviewing people who had lived in France during that period, as well as reading a tremendous amount around the subject. For THE THINGS WE DID FOR LOVE I visited the Centre of Remembrance at Oradour sur Glane, near Limoges, which the village of Samaroux in my novel is loosely based upon. My first visit there a few years before was one of the most moving and distressing experiences of my life. It’s a place full of ghosts and as a writer, I couldn’t help but want to write about it.
I try to do all my research before I begin, but of course all sorts of questions keep coming up throughout the writing process, mainly concerning smaller period details. My father is very good at picking out details such as which year specific models of car were first produced in.
Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing or did it develop before your eyes as the characters grew on the page and did something that you were not expecting?
A: I always have the plot figured out, and then it always changes! The characters usually have their own agenda, and sometimes they just don’t want to obey me… The book was originally called THE ANGEL OF SAMAROUX, and the narrative voice was an angel! But one of the characters – again, no spoilers – soon made it very clear that they should be the narrator, and quite right too – it’s a much better book as a result. What I will say though is that I always knew how I wanted it to end, with the confrontation between two main characters on the market square. That bit has stayed the same since my very first visit to Oradour.
The Things We Did for Love is going to be translated in French, Spanish and Catalan. Are you involved in the translation process in any way?
A: French is the first language in which I learned to read and write, so I was very clear that I wanted to be involved with the French translation. I worked closely with Mathilde, my translator, particularly on the dialogues. I wanted the characters to sound as natural as possible. I kept saying things like, “but she wouldn’t talk like that!” I found the whole process fascinating. I think Mathilde enjoyed it too…
If you are already working on your next writing project, would you mind giving us a little anticipation of what we are to expect?
A: I just handed in the final edits of my next project! AFTER IRIS is a contemporary novel about a family trying to pull itself together three years after the death of one of the siblings. Everyone who has read it so far has wept buckets, but it’s actually also very warm and very funny. I’m completely in love with it. I hope that doesn’t sound conceited – just I feel like the characters are my own family! And in fact I had a lot of input from my own daughters while I was writing it, which makes it even more special to me.
Due to the popularity of social networking websites, it seems that interacting with readers – be it via a Twitter account, a Facebook page, a blog etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?
A: I think it’s wonderful to have such direct interaction with readers! Particularly young readers, who are so passionate and have so much to say. Reading is a conversation: authors bring their words to it, but readers also bring their own thoughts and emotions and experiences to whatever they are reading. It’s good and interesting for writers to remember this, but it’s also important to isolate yourself while you’re writing. You know, writing can drive you slightly mad – I actually think in order to be good it sort of has to, because you have to be able to completely enter the world you are creating. That’s when social networking becomes a distraction – best to save it for when you have finished and have something you are happy to share! That’s my experience, anyway.
How did your first book deal come about and what one fundamental piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
A: My first book deal came about like most people’s – I wrote a lot, sent stuff off to agents, had lots of turn downs and one “would like to see more”, found an agent who took me on, had more turn downs when she submitted my first manuscript and finally, miraculously – a book deal with yet another manuscript! It’s hard to come up with just one piece of advice, other than don’t give up! But mainly: don’t be afraid – share your work, accept criticism, use it to improve your work but stay true to yourself. Take your time to re-read yourself, edit, rework… There! That’s actually lots of bits of advice…
And lastly, is there anything that you would like to share that I haven’t asked?
A: So many things! But mainly, thank you so much for inviting me on your blog, and I hope your readers enjoy the book.
Thank you for your time!
To win a copy of The Things We Did for Love, please fill out this form. The competition will end on the 16th April.