Monday, 23 June 2014

Author Interview: Julia Crouch

One of the most popular features this year has definitely been the publisher feature weeks where the aim is to try and blitz through a backlog of reviews, although am going to be honest today and admit I might struggle this week as had a bit of a reading slump recently so only read a couple so far, as well as featuring authors and promoting books.  

My first guest is bestselling author Julia Crouch whose latest book The Long Fall was published last week, welcome Julia.  

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book The Long Fall?
Set partly in 1980’s Greece and partly in the present, in London, the story is about how the past has a habit of catching up with you. 

I’ve spent a lot of time wondering how you go on living a life if you are basically a decent sort of person but you have been responsible for the most atrocious act ever. 

One of my characters, Kate, has a perfect life – she runs a charity, has a rich banker husband, perfect daughter, lovely house. But all is not as glossy as it may seem, and gradually her life is taken apart, piece by piece. 

Where did the inspiration come from to set this partly in Greece?
I love Greece and whenever I get a chance I’m out there. On a superficial level, the idea of having to go to Ikaria (the island where the 1980 story is largely set) to research was very attractive. And I was actually in Athens and the islands in 1980, in my year off, when I backpacked aroud Europe on my own. It was a very intense time for me and I kept a diary, which I have plundered for The Long Fall – for the setting and mood, and some of the events – but not all, I hasten to add! I have even lifted passages verbatim.

My eldest son, Owen, has a Greek girlfriend, Eva, who, along with my Athenian friend Gabi, has been really helpful in helping me find Ikaria and with the Greek detail/translations. Ikaria was the perfect island because it’s supposedly where Daedalus buried his son Icarus after he fell into the sea when he flew too close to the sun – a perfect guiding metaphor for what goes on in the book. Also, it is still relatively untouristed, rocky and wild. My decision on the island was sealed when I was talking it over with Simon Trewin, my agent, and he said he had backpacked there himself as a teenager in the early 1980s – a very strange choice back then!

When writing stories featuring a dual timeframe, do you have to be disciplined with plotting to keep the story on track? 
Whatever time frame you are working in, you have to be disciplined with the plot! In fact the dual time frame just added some glorious opportunities for things to reach out of the past and grab my protagonists. The challenge was that people change as they age, but they still have to be recognisable as characters. However, I use different viewpoints for each timeframe – the 1980 section is written as a diary, the present day is in close thiird, so these different perspectives allowed some leeway with this.

Do you take some time out to relax after completion of one novel before starting work on a new one? 
I’m contracted to write one a year, so there’s little hope of that! However, I do need to flush the old one out before starting on the new. After The Long Fall, I spent some time working on a ‘short ‘ story for Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival – There Are Other Kinds O Stories Too, You Know, Celia Fairweather. It actually turned out to be over 20,000 words long. Some ‘break!’ Also, as a little diversion this year, I put on (with Emlyn Rees and designer Ray Leek) the three day crime writing festival Dark & Stormy. 

There’s also the weird dual personality you have to adopt around publication time. Your head is full of your current work in progress, but you have to talk and write and live your novel that is just coming out. 

Do you have a set daily writing routine? 
I like to get up early and do a run (I’m training for a half marathon at the moment). This is important as I spend the rest of the day sitting on my backside. Then around 8am I sit down and ‘warm up’ by checking in on news, social media, emails. By 9 I’m ready to start, switch on Mac Freedom for hour long intervals to write. I usually aim for 1500 words/day when I’m drafting, but the festival set back my wordcount so I’ve upped that to 2000. I write quickly, so on most days I’m done by about 2pm and then I do admin, blogging, etc. 

Would you ever be tempted to write something completely different, if so what would your preferred genre be? 
I’m actually currently working up some ideas for a YA book, and it’s a love story with a difference, aimed at boys. 

I’m interested to see if I can stop it turning out badly for at least one of the characters...

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Set yourself a writing time and target, put it in your diary and sit down and write. You can’t write unless you actually write. 

When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
In the last couple of weeks leading up to me having a book ready for anyone to see it, I will have been working on it for about 18 hours/day, 7 days/week. My reward is not to do that! And to read, and read, and read.

Where would your idyllic location for a writing retreat be? 
The little hotel studio I had in Ikaria was pretty close – a desk at a window that looked out onto the Aegean, a pool nearby for breaks, and not too remote – there were other lovely yoga type people staying in the other studios. I can’t do remote locations at night time. I get far too scared. I think that’s one of the reasons I write what I write.

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