Blog tour: The Favour

Welcome to the blog tour for The Favour by Laura Vaughan. Set between Italy and the U.K., this novel took me to all the places I love in the company of a fascinating group of characters. I can’t wait for you to learn more about it so do keep reading and enjoy this conversation with the author herself…

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

A: Thank you! It’s an exciting but nerve-wracking time! My protagonist, Ada, feels she is destined for a life of privilege, and when her wealthy godmother gifts her an expensive gap-year Art History course in Italy she seizes the chance to ingratiate herself with her charming and entitled fellow students. When tragedy strikes, Ada is determined to use the secrets she uncovers to her own advantage … but is she in over her head? It’s a story about falling dangerously in love with art and beauty, and the corrosive effect of playing a part so well you even fool yourself.

Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing the book or did it take an unexpected turn as the characters grew on the page?

A: I had Ada, the various settings and the murder victim ready in my head, and had to make the rest of it up as I went along! Which is a stressful way of writing a book but also a lot of fun, as it means you’re going on the same journey of discovery as your readers. I didn’t even know one of the three most significant characters was going to be a major player until I’d got 6,000 words under my belt!

Why the choice of Italy as the setting for your novel? How important is location for you?

A: Landscape (both rural and urban) is a huge source of inspiration for me. Italy was a natural choice for a story about the seductive powers of beauty and luxury and art; it’s a gorgeous country that outsiders have always associated with sensual pleasures, and perhaps the shadow of corruption too. The perfect setting for a tale of gilded youth gone awry…

If this novel was going to be turned into a film, who would you cast in the role of Ada?

A: Saoirse Ronan is wonderful at suggesting all sorts of turbulent emotions going on under a surface of polished calm. I don’t know how she manages to exude stillness and intensity at one and the same time, but it would come in handy for portraying Ada.

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 loved writing about Venice, a city know I well, but which is so obscured by history and cliché it’s pretty much impossible to describe in a fresh or meaningful way. So that was a challenge, but one I really enjoyed. There’s a description of Ada walking past at cruise liner in the city towards the end of the novel that comes close to what I was aiming for.

All crime writers relish digging into the darker aspects of human behaviour – the back-stabbing, plotting and betrayal. So I can’t lie: the events immediately leading up to the murder were a lot of fun to envisage, especially as it takes place in such a decadent setting. And the final confrontation was a devil to write but incredibly satisfying, too.

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

A: I changed the final pages of the ending several times. There was a lot of back-and-forth with my agent about what we wanted for Ada, how much we should reveal, how much we should leave to the reader to work out for themselves … I looked at the first draft the other day and I was like, man, what was I thinking?!? (This is proof of the magic a good editor works.)

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: It revolves around a contract relationship between an out-of-work actress and a gay actor who’s about to hit the big time and so employs a fake girlfriend to hide his sexuality. Needless to say, somebody ends up dead. Despite the set-up, it’s not a story about celebrity, as such. I’m more interested in exploring a variety of dysfunctional relationships between deeply damaged individuals, and the gap between our private and public selves. That’s where things get murky!

What are you reading at the moment?

A: The Guest List by Lucy Foley. I usually have a crime novel on the go, and I am in awe at how good at writing the different voices Foley is. Then I’m dipping into Emma before bed, because I re-read an Austen at least once a year. Finally, Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera has just come in the post. My in-laws are from Pakistan, and my dad’s family had a long history with the Raj, but I – like most of us Brits – still know shamefully little about our imperial past. So this will be a rare foray into non-fiction.

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 like to engage with fellow writers and readers online but I am sadly squeezed on time and energy these days, most on account of wretched home-schooling! (AAARGH.) I ain’t gonna lie: social media is not my fave. Like a lot of writers, I’m a bit of an introvert … but I would still choose IRL for my interactions every time.

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

A: Hope for the best, expect the worst; take both compliments and criticism with a strong pinch of salt.

Thank you for your time!

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