In conversation with... Juliet West

Hi Juliet! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of The Faithful, which I loved! Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: The novel is set in the run-up to the Second World War and it’s a love story that follows the lives of Hazel and Tom, who are teenagers when they first meet in 1935. They come from two very different families, but there is an instant connection between them. This was a turbulent time for British politics, and Hazel is drawn into the dark world of the British blackshirt movement, just as Tom is breaking his ties with the party. Let’s just say their romance turns out to be far from straightforward as the years pass and their lives take different paths...

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 had very little plot in mind. Just the setting – the Sussex coast and London – and a handful of characters. I didn’t know that the novel would turn out to be a love story, but Hazel and Tom took hold as the central characters from quite an early stage. 

What kind of research did you have to carry out for this novel? What aspect of it did you enjoy the most?

A: I went on various research trips including to local libraries in Sussex, the British Library and the Imperial War Museum in London, where I trawled through old newspapers, books and photographs, and listened to sound recordings. At Brighton University I was able to access an archive of cine film shot in the 1930s – this was just fascinating and gave me so much detail in terms of fashion, seaside settings, suburban landscapes etc. A great deal of research was also carried out at home on the internet!

If this novel could be turned into a film, who would you cast in the roles of Tom, Hazel and Lucia?

A: I’d cast Lily James as Hazel, Tuppence Middleton as Lucia and Richard Madden as Tom. Although the camera would have to take a few years off each of them to fit the teenage/early twenties years.

Without giving too much away, can you tell us about a scene in the book that you love or that was particularly difficult to write?

A: I would never claim to love anything I’ve written – I’m far too self-critical. I will admit to being quite fond of the second to last chapter, which is set in a Soho nightclub. It was one of those scenes that wrote itself. I usually re-write endlessly, but this chapter flowed almost without a scrap of effort on my part. I wish those magical moments would happen more often…

Is there anything that didn’t make it into the final version of the book?

A: Oh, just the odd 40,000 words I deleted from the first draft. Painful, but it had to be done. 

Due to the popularity of social networking websites, interacting with readers – be it via Twitter, Facebook Instagram 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 do love Twitter, but I try to ration my time on it and turn off notifications so that I’m not distracted while I’m working. I’ve made some great friends via social media and learnt a huge amount, but this has to be weighed against the negatives, chiefly the fact that social media is a horrendous time drain! 

What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: Accept criticism (from those you respect), and accept it with good grace. Act on sound advice and be grateful that someone has taken the time to read and comment on your work. If you can see criticism almost as a compliment, you have won half the battle.

Thank you for your time!

A: Thanks so much for inviting me onto your blog. I’m delighted you enjoyed The Faithful!
Have you read my review of The Faithful? You can find it here, together with a chance to win a copy of the book!

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