Sunday 6 January 2013
The Next Big Thing
Twelfth Night and the festivities are officially at an end. Another retreat behind closed shutters, then, (here's the first) for some renewed hard work on the new book. But there’s just time to answer the questions posed by The Next Big Thing, which gives writers a chance to open up their current manuscript.
I was tagged by Vanessa Couchman, a freelance writer living in France. She also writes short stories which have been published in anthologies and is currently writing a novel set in Corsica. A member of Writers Abroad, she blogs with brio as Vanessa France at Life on La Lune. If you love south-west France, its history, architecture and daily life, you’ll be entranced.
Here goes with my answers:
What is the working title of your next book?
The Night Flight.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I happened across a poignant newspaper story about the excavation of a crashed plane in a field, and the archaeology involved to discover more about it. It was almost certainly a World War II plane – but who were the crew on this fatal flight? Some seventy years afterwards, time is running out to solve many such mysteries across Europe as the war generation passes away; the witnesses too, most of whom were children at the time.
Although I began the novel with this scene in mind, it probably won’t make it into the book. The story that evolved from this first idea took on a life of its own and placed the characters in different settings so that this scene became an awkward complication. But I reserve the right to change my mind.
What genre does your book fall under?
Romantic suspense with a strong sense of place and well-researched history.
Which actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Let's pencil in Olivier Martinez as the Resistance hero and Rosamund Pike (cool, intelligent English toughness) as the young garden designer, unnerved by the unexpected darkness of the world she has entered. And we can always find something for Dan Stevens.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
On the Mediterranean island of Porquerolles, the restoration of a garden is key to the secret lives that cast a long shadows over the present.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I am extremely lucky to be represented by Stephanie Cabot at The Gernert Company in New York and by Araminta Whitley at Lucas Alexander Whitley in London. The novel will be published by HarperCollins in the USA and Orion in the UK.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I’m not there yet but as a general rule of thumb it takes me about a year - excluding breaks for consultation with agents and editors - before the first draft is ready for submission.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
William Boyd’s Restless, Sebastian Faulks’ A Possible Life, Rachel Hore’s A Gathering Storm.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I have long been fascinated by stories of clandestine daring in World War II. Our part of Provence was a big Resistance stronghold where complicated networks operated across isolated farming communities, many in liaison with British agents and pilots, a courageous partnership that is far from forgotten today. The poet René Char wrote some of his most beautiful and heartbreaking prose-poems about the fine line between life and death in those dangerous times, and a memoire La Nuit d’Alexandre (his code name was Capitaine Alexandre).
But my novel – structured in three distinct parts – is set in wartime London and Sussex too, showing another side of the operations and other lives intersecting with these events. Secrecy was all, along with the immense difficulties involved in communications and maintaining contact.
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
One of the three sections centres on a character from The Lantern, Marthe Lincel the blind sister with the gift for perfumery. What really happened to her at the perfume factory in the lavender fields of wartime Manosque, omitted from Bénédicte's narrative?
My picks for The Next Big Thing:
Essie Fox is the acclaimed author of The Somnambulist and Elijah’s Mermaid, both dark Victorian novels. Before her success as a writer she worked as an illustrator, which clearly shows in her wondrous blog, The Virtual Victorian, Essie Fox’s Facts, Fancies and Fabrications.
Helen Smith is a novelist and playwright who lives in London. She is the author of cult bestsellers Alison Wonderland, The Miracle Inspector and Being Light. She’s a shrewd observer who makes being very funny look easy. Here’s Helen's writing blog.
Ann Sharples is a writer and artist in Spain and is the author of the Violet Jelly books for readers aged 8-10. Her Wordstitcher blog is a delight, full of gorgeous photos and well-chosen words.
Karen Wojcik Berner has been a writer, editor and magazine editor for twenty-five years, and puts up fantastic posts about grammar on her Bibliophilic Blather blog. As a defiantly indie author near Chicago, she is the author of the sassy Bibliophiles series about a fictional suburban Classics Book Club.