In conversation with... Louise Soraya Black

Photo by Abi Campbell
Hi Louise! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of The Water Garden! Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: Hi Silvia! Thanks so much for your good wishes and for hosting this interview on your blog. The Water Garden tells the story of a boy who mysteriously drowns in a Surrey lake and a housewife who becomes drawn to his troubled teenage friend. Woven into the narrative are the voices of other women in the family, including an RAF nurse based in Italy during the Second World War. 

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: This is my second novel and it was written in a very different way to my debut novel, Pomegranate Sky. I wrote several preparatory drafts for my first novel; by the time I was ready to write the final version, I knew everything about the story and the characters. The Water Garden was written in a more organic and instinctive way. I didn’t plan very much or look too far ahead. I mainly thought about the story and my characters, usually while lying next to my little boy in the evenings while waiting for him to fall asleep!

Was The Water Garden your working title? Either way, how did you choose it?

A: For a long time, the novel had the “holding” title of Sarah. It was never meant to be the actual title; I simply needed a file name to save the document! In 2016, I went to an exhibition at the Royal Academy in London called “Painting the Modern Garden; Monet to Matisse”. I discovered that Monet was a keen horticulturalist, and that the gardens and lake in his paintings were inspired by a real water garden that he created himself in Giverny. I was fascinated with this, as there is a lake in my novel that is fundamental to the story; it is almost a character itself. This is what gave me the idea for the title. I bought a postcard of one of Monet’s Water Lilies paintings, which I kept beside me while finishing my novel.

If this novel was going to be turned into a film, who would you cast in the roles of Sarah and Finn?

A: That would be wonderful! Hmm, this is tricky as I’ve never thought about it before. Perhaps Kate Winslet as Sarah and Alex Pettyfer as Finn...

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 love the ending and although it wasn’t difficult to write, it took a few attempts to find the right balance between realism and hope.

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

A: I tend to write in fairly spare prose, and edit as I go along, so nothing of substance was cut.

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’m working on a third novel that involves families, secrets and redemption, and weaves together a past and present narrative in Indonesia and Surrey.

What are you reading at the moment?

A: I’ve really enjoyed Scent by Isabel Costello. Set in Provence and Paris, it’s an absorbing story of past passions and a perfumer grieving the departure of her grown-up children.

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: In this pandemic situation, social media has become increasingly important for connecting authors with readers. If I’m deep into writing, I won’t be as active on social media, but I think it presents great opportunities for engagement. I enjoy Book Twitter and Instagram. Readers are very welcome to get in touch.

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

A: Read, write and persevere. It can be a rollercoaster, but keep the faith!

Thank you for your time!

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