Thursday, 4 November 2010

Interview with Eliza Graham, Author of Jubilee

I'm so thrilled that Eliza Graham has agreed to take part in a Question and Answer session on my blog.

Her third novel, Jubilee, was published in June 2010 by Pan Macmillan and my review of her book is here

Eliza lives in the Vale of the White Horse in Oxfordshire with her husband, children and dogs.

When your 1st novel, Playing with the Moon, was published when and where did you first see it in a bookshop, and how did you feel and what did you do? I'd probably want to go round and tell everyone that that's my book!!

I first saw PWTM in the flesh at my book launch and I was rendered speechless by the sight of boxes of the book. I kept wanting to touch them. Part of me also feels a little alarmed when I see my books in 'real life'. I want to blurt out that it was only a story I made up! I always imagine people flicking through books to find bits that are wrong... People are often very kind about telling me where they've spotted my books. Sometimes they report back a few weeks later and say that the books are now 'gone' and then I wonder if they 'went' in customer bags or were simply sent back to the publisher because they didn't sell. These are questions best not considered in the early hours of the morning.

I love watching The Book Show on Sky Arts and one of my favourite parts is when we see authors in their writing area surrounded by all their little bits and bobs, and I wondered if you did your writing in a particular place and do you set yourself targets for the day?

It's not very glamorous, my writing space! I am typing these answers where I normally work: on the breakfast bar in our kitchen. I started off writing in a more bespoke writing area but then we had those two very cold winters and the kitchen was just warmer. We have also had a series of puppies, who live in the kitchen while they're being house-trained, and it's just easier to be here with them. One of them is curled up round my foot at the moment. Unfortunately being in the kitchen means I'm never far away from the digestive biscuits, too...

I don't usually have word count targets as that tends to encourage me to write words for the sake of words and often they aren't the right ones. Most often I challenge myself to get through a particular chapter or scene or transition. Even just a tricky hundred-word paragraph, if it's a bad day. More and more I think that, for me, a lot of the writing takes place in my head when I'm going for a walk or pottering around. If that part of the process is going well the words seem to get themselves written. If I'm struggling I often need to think a bit more about what I'm trying to do and perhaps bounce ideas off friends.

A recurring theme in your books seems to be the 2nd World War. Is that deliberate or it's just the way your stories have evolved?

I've always been fascinated by WW2. Where I grew up in London there were still air raid shelters and my grandmother used to tell us stories about the Blitz. It's such a rich repository of stories and themes and there's so much material available now that I've found myself drawn back again and again.

My latest novel and the one I'm planning next probably won't have that part of history in them, though.

You must have done a lot of research, particularly about the prisoner of war camps, in Jubilee. Do you enjoy that side of your work?

I love research and have to be careful that I don't get carried away and let it take over. It's much easier to look things up these days and the internet is my best friend. But I also love libraries, museums and archives. I often get the urge to visit small museums in small towns--you find interesting little details in them. I'm still trying to think of a use for some little boots I saw in an agricultural museum that were designed for sheep to wear.

What sort of authors do you read and what book are you reading now?

At the moment I am reading the last Lee Child book and then I'm going to move on to Hans Fallada's Alone in Berlin. I tend to have reading obsessions and need to read a whole series at a time. I read almost every kind of book, from Anita Brookner to Trollope to Len Deighton. The only books I don't enjoy are westerns and romances. I think I am drawn to thrillers and crime because there's such a lot of good plotting in those books and you can very enjoyably learn a lot as a writer.

Can you give us some idea of your next book and when it's going to be published?

I am touching wood as I type this answer... My fourth book is set in an apparently idyllic boarding school in Oxfordshire where the apparently serene and charismatic head has some disturbing personal secrets that start to come out. It also involves reborn dolls: particularly life-like dolls that are often mistaken for real babies. I am touching wood because you never really know what will happen with a book until you get the go-ahead from the editor. Or the cheque.

Ooh that story sounds a little scary, but intriguing! Can't wait to read the book.
A huge thank you to Eliza Graham for taking the time and trouble to give me such brilliant answers.

Jubilee is out now and is published by Pan Books.

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