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Friday, 28 May 2010

An interview with Eliza Graham

Eliza's new book, Jubilee, published by Pan, has the same publication date as mine. What's more Eliza started her writing career with Macmillan New Writing, so it seemed like a good chance to congratulate her on her new book and find out a bit more about her writing process, now she has three books already under her belt.

It's the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, and Rachel and her aunt Evie are celebrating with the crowds on the village green. The scene is tranquil, but Rachel and her aunt can never forget what happened exactly twenty-five years ago. On that day, Evie’s young daughter Jessamy vanished. She hasn’t been seen since.

Soon after, news comes of Evie’s sudden death, and Rachel must return to the village to deal with her aunt’s estate. The extraordinary story she uncovers there will change everything. It is a story of departure and return, of atrocity and betrayal, of unrequited love and the dreadful legacy of war.

Hello Eliza. Tell us a little bit about the process of writing Jubilee. How did the process differ from the writing of your other books, and how was it the same?

Jubilee's gestation occurred over a shorter period of time than that of the other two books: in part because I had a contract with set delivery dates this time round. So it felt more intense and pressurised, which was hard at times, but that's how it has to be to fit a book into a publisher's schedule. I'd been mulling over the theme of a lost child for some years, though, so I had ideas to draw on. And we'd actually helped organise the Golden Jubilee party in our own village, which helped with detail. This time round I didn't need to go anywhere else to research settings: it was literally on my doorstep, as my location. the Berkshire Downs, is also my home.

Every writer thinks their work is unique. Have you ever been compared to another writer and if so, who and why? What is the book you most wish you had written?

People have sometimes said my writing reminds them a little of Elizabeth Jane Howard's, which I find thrilling and flattering because I adore her books. I'm not sure what it is in my writing they see that's the same: it's hard to assess your own novels objectively! I'd love to have written any of her books. Or any of Anita Brookner's. Or, perhaps surprisingly, any of John le Carre's Smiley novels. In yer dreams, Graham!

Your book features two jubilee celebrations. What made you want to write about them and how important do you think these sort of celebrations are to English life?

I remember the Silver Jubilee party from childhood. Mainly because I won a prize in a bicycle race! When we helped organise a Golden Jubilee party it was quite a revelation: people came along and offered help whom we'd never met before, even though where we live is a small community. The party drew people out. I found that moving. Certainly celebrations like Jubilee parties work very well in bringing people together. You don't have to be a fervent Royalist to see that the continuity of the Queen's life is very reassuring to many people. It was so interesting hearing older people talking about watching the Coronation: it came at a point when they were still recovering from some very tough years and represented such a lot of hope. I'm fascinated by the tension between continuity and change in people's lives, and that's probably one of the common themes of my three novels.

What inspires you to write? Is it an idea, a character, a theme, or something else?

Usually it's a strong emotion: fear or loss or isolation. Then I 'see' the story cinematically. I try and let the emotions and images build a head of steam before I attempt to write about them. I write best when I feel that I'm going to burst unless I try and express myself.

Thanks very much Eliza, wishing you every success with Jubilee.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Dee, for interviewing me! I look forward to running my interview with you on my blog next week.