23 March 2010
Author Interview: Julia Llewellyn
1. Tell us about your latest book in a sentence.
Love Nest is about four groups of people in a housing chain, buying each other's properties, and the reasons behind their moving house.
2. Love Nest follows a group of people whose lives are intertwined in various ways. How long does it take to sit down and sort out how all these people are "related" to each other before you begin writing?
I'm actually very bad at sorting out anything before I start writing. I tend to just write and see where it takes me. I think I spent about a day with a pad of paper, scribbling down ideas for the characters I wanted to write about. I was intrigued in particular by the idea of an infertile woman wanting her sister to donate her an egg, as a friend of mine was undergoing egg donation. I also wanted to explore the character of a woman whose husband was recovering from cancer who found, contrary to popular belief, that suffering hadn't made their relationship stronger but had destroyed it.
3. I've read both Love Nest and The Model Wife, so clearly you enjoy writing about relationships and dynamics within those relationships. Where do you get the inspiration for these relationships?
I get inspiration from everywhere, a bit from friends, though you have to be careful not to upset them, more just from reading newspapers, magazines, a lot of fiction and non-fiction. I'm a readaholic, if I'm not reading I get withdrawal symptoms.
4. Love Nest is set in the world of magazines, rock stars and stately homes. What sort of research goes into a book like this when there are several topics covered in the book?
Before I wrote books, I was a journalist for several national newspapers for 12 years, so I was lucky enough to travel all over the world, interview many celebrities and have all kinds of adventures, which gave me plenty of research material. I still do some journalism so I have lots of opportunities to dabble in all kinds of fields. I just wrote an article about professional dominatrixes, so an ex dominatrix will make an appearance in my next book.
5. Who were your favourite characters in Love Nest? I loathed Lucinda and loved Karen because of what they both stood for - do you have any similar likes and dislikes?!
I don't have a favourite character, it would be like having a favourite child. I usually like all of them, however loathsome some of them may appear there's usually a reason why they're like that. Lucinda doesn't behave brilliantly but she's very lonely, in a strange country and comes from a disastrous family background, so I can see where she's coming from. But I can see why most people would prefer Karen, she's a down-to-earth type, put in an impossible position and like most mums she always has to put everyone else's needs ahead of her own.
5. How long does it take you to write a book? How many drafts do you go through before you're happy with your books?
It takes around a year for me to write a book - mainly because my publishing contract demands one a year. If it changed to once every four weeks, or once a decade, I'd probably change to suit that. But I do go through four or five drafts before I'm even remotely happy with the finished product and even when I see them on the shelves I'm always wishing I could have done things differently.
6. What do you do when you're not writing books?
I have two girls aged five and two, so that takes up most of the time. I swim whenever I can because a writer's life is far too sedentary and without exercise I seize up. I try to make time at least twice a week for coffee or dinner with friends, so I have something to write about rather than my family.
7. What authors do you enjoy reading yourself? Do you have an all-time favourite book?
I love novels published by Persephone, who republish forgotten works of women's fiction in elegant, grey covers. Dorothy Whipple, who was a very popular novelist in the 1930s, is a particular favourite. My all time favourite book is probably Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, the Lucinda/Nick plot in Love Nest is a vague nod to it, Hardy's heroine Bathsheba is vain like Lucinda and messes around with various men without considering the consequences.
8. What is your favourite thing about being an author?
Only that when I'm reading fiction I can classify it as work! Being an author is hard work and often lonely, with only the characters in your head for company. But it's lovely to go to a bookshop and have my daughters pick up one of my novels and shout "Mummy wrote this."
Thank you so much Julia!