Thursday, October 25, 2018
Never give up...
Q: Ooh, Odette? The World War II spy? Or Proust?
J: Er, no. Swan Lake.
Q: The Tchaikovsky ballet? So did you go to Russia to research it?
J: Actually, the book's set in a university town in East Anglia in 2018.
Q: So it's, like, real fiction?
J: Well, one of the main characters turns into a swan every day, so, yep.
Q: How did you get the idea?
J: I had this recurring dream about looking for my Swan Lake book, and it was never there, so I thought I might write it...
Q: Maybe I should get it for my 9-yr-old daughter. She's mad about ballet.
J: Well, it's not really suitable for 9-yr-olds, and there's no actual ballet in it.
Q: If there's no ballet, what's it about?
J: Outsiders. How we treat them. How they respond to us. How we change each others' lives. How much responsibility do we have to look after other people?
Q: And it's for which age group?
J: Adults, though could probably be enjoyed by the young adult market.
Q: But who's it aimed at?
J: Anyone who fancies crossing Swan Lake with Bridget Jones and A Christmas Carol. Some will 'get' it, some won't, and that's fine. [Evoke Marmite HERE if desired.]
Q: How come it took you 26 years?
J: I started it in 1992 and have been rewriting and updating it ever since. Maybe it just needed the right publisher - one who didn't mind dealing with something not quite like anything else out there. For 25 years they all minded a lot. Meanwhile other things came along, first Korngold, then Fauré, then the Independent; and life happened, as it tends to, so I was dealing with three cancer deaths in my immediate family, trying to keep my head above the freelance waters, then getting married, moving house, and writing four other novels on contract, plus Ghost Variations, which itself took 5 years while more life happened... And finally Unbound said, 'Great, bring it on.'
Q: But why did you keep trying?
J: I couldn't let go of it. I couldn't just leave it there. There's something in that book that holds all I wanted to be and say before my parents and sister were ill and dying and before the domino effect that had on daily existence. It contains something that's innocent and hopeful and human. And finally I want to get it back in some way, or at least find I didn't entirely lose all of it in the onslaught. It's changed over the years, of course, on every rewrite, but the essence of that search is still there. As Solti would have said: never give up.
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