Friday, August 26, 2011

interview with Deborah Lawrenson

Since I am so very  impassioned about Provence, and have so enjoyed reading Deborah Lawrenson's The Lantern (see my last blog of August 19), I wrote her to set up an interview, and here it is!

Deborah Lawrenson Q&A

What kinds of thing do you most enjoy talking about, in relation to your book?  I loved every one of the descriptions in The Lantern, by the way. 

Thank you very much! I enjoy pointing out that The Lantern is also, on one level, a novel about reading and books and words. I’ve had a fair bit of criticism for being “too descriptive”, for using too many different adjectives, but as you so insightfully wrote in your review, the narrator Eve is a translator: words, and the precise choice of them, matter to her.

Eve is a shy bookworm, whose comfort zone is reading. But her isolation, coupled with mounting uncertainty about Dom, only sends her to books that exacerbate her dread, until she is not sure whether she is imagining the worst because she is influenced by the stories she is reading, or whether she is more accepting than she should be because she is seeing real life through the gauze of literature. Also, just as there are always echoes of the past life of old houses, there are always echoes of earlier stories in literature. In The Lantern, there is a clear line that stretches back through Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, and Jane Eyre, and further back to the Bluebeard legend.

In your other writing, have you been so remarkably (and persuasively) detailed in your descriptions? I recognize Provence: big deal for me. Will it be so for the readers who do not live there part of their lives, as I do??

Evocation of the landscape was also an important aspect of my previous two novels: The Art of Falling (evoking northern Italy) and Songs of Blue and Gold (set partly on the Greek island of Corfu). All three novels are romantic in the widest sense, and I try to write a recognizable “Spirit of Place” to make the setting come alive – and win theempathy of a reader who knows those places already and can identify with them, or alternatively to make the setting so lush and appealing that it draws in those readers who don’t know the backdrop but soon wish they did.

What gave you the idea for the murder/detective/police part? Was it originally part of the book? 

I always intended for there to be a murder/detective story aspect to the novel, an earthly mystery that could and would be solved, in contrast to another, rather more unearthly puzzle for which there was not necessarily a rational explanation. So yes, the meeting of the two apparently unrelated past and present strands of the story was always planned as a shocking but all-too-real intrusion into the dreamy, other-worldly rural idyll at Les Genévriers.

Was it L'Occitane and Manosque that gave you idea for the Marthe Lincel part? where did that inspiration come from?

It was indeed. I often use L’Occitane products, and one day I realized that there was a line of Braille on all their packaging. I found out that the company has been involved for a long time in projects to help young blind people, even running courses in perfumery. The loss of one sense and the subsequent need to compensate by enhancing others gave me the idea of writing a “sensory novel” which luxuriated in descriptions of all five senses – so that, for example, the visual descriptions might be vivid if heard by a blind person, or the scent descriptions vibrant through the sight of words on a page.

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