Wednesday, 2 June 2010
Author Interview: Adèle Geras
I had the great pleasure of asking the wonderful Adèle some questions. She kindly answered every one. Here is what we have to say:
Me: You were born in Jerusalem and then spent your childhood living in many different countries. Can you identify any ways that this has influenced your writing?
Adèle: I think that it allowed me to write about places and people that not many British children’s writers write about. There’s not much about Jews, for instance, except as Holocaust victims or in books about the Second World War, so books like The Girls in the Velvet Frame and My Grandmother’s stories (both out of print) were a bit unusual. Also there aren’t many books set in British North Borneo like my novel Other Echoes.
Me: I love the ITV Morse spin-off drama Lewis. Oxford is such a beautiful city. Can you share three lessons you learnt while you were studying for your degree there?
Adèle: That education is wasted on the young! I spent 85% of my time on stage and far too little time studying. Still, I had a whale of a time and loved every minute. Another thing I learned was: the importance of one’s friends and the third was probably down to my Spanish tutor Robert Pring-Mill, who taught me to love a few Spanish 17 century writers I’d never have got to know if it weren’t for him.
Me: How has writing changed for you since you became a full-time writer in 1976? Have you noticed any changes to the publishing industry? Enormous changes in the publishing industry which is now a money-making concern in a big way.
Adèle: When I started, it was all much more low-key and considered a kind of off-shoot of mainline publishing. In those days, books weren’t expected to make humungous amounts of money and before Harry Potter, publishers seemed to be okay with that. Nowadays, everyone is looking for the NEXT BIG THING...vampires, or whatever. I just go on writing the books I want to write and I’m fortunate that there are publishers who are still happy to bring out my work. But it’s an entirely different climate now from when I started out and even from 5 years ago.
Me: Troy is such a magnificent book. I have to say I was in awe of your ability to use language so that reading prose felt as beautiful as poetry. What made you decide to write about Ancient Greece? Is mythology a particular passion?
Adèle: Thanks! Yes, I’ve always loved these stories from my earliest childhood. I have a book called Tales of Troy by Andrew Lang which I’ve had since I was six. Then I studied Virgil’s Aeneid Book 2 for O level and that’s the story of the sack of Troy. It’s an amazing tale and I really wanted to see it from an entirely different perspective from Homer.
Me: I’ve been trying to decide which character I most connected with in Troy but it is really hard. If I had to make a choice, it would be between Iason and Polyxena. But I love how all the characters have a fatal flaw. Is this something you set out to do?
Adèle: No, I didn’t, to be truthful! It’s always amazing how much readers see in a book which the author doesn't know about.
Me: You’ve written books for children, teens and adults. What is your favourite target audience to write for? And does this reflect in your choice of books to read for pleasure?
Adèle: My ideal reader is an intelligent 14 year old. That’s because at that age, you can read adult stuff but you’re still enough of a child to need a driving narrative, characters you can identify with and so on...I love teenage books but adult books are also good. The protagonists are generally older and the books are longer but any 14 year old would be fine with my adult books. As for what I read, I do read a lot of young adult books mostly by pals of mine but also adult books in large numbers.
Me: Can you tell us what you are currently working on?
Adèle: I’m coming to the end of an adult novel, my fifth.
Me: Would you ever consider writing in a book team? If so, who would your ideal writing partner be and why?
Adèle: Not a team, no, because writing is a supremely SELFISH activity. But I have written books in a series called The Historical House with my friends Linda Newbery and Ann Turnbull. We have done two books each and consult with one another throughout the writing process while keeping our independence. That worked very well.
Me: And finally the question I like to ask every author, what is your favourite type of biscuit and why?
Adèle: (Yes, I love dunking biscuits in my tea). I have recently lost about 4 stone in weight and my universe no longer contains biscuits but in the spirit of the question, I used to be addicted to the Chocolate Chip cookies you can buy at Upper Crust outlets in railway termini! Heavenly bliss! I used regularly to buy two for every trip. No wonder I needed to lose that weight, eh?
Adelè, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I agree about education. I think nowadays I would be a much more diligent student if I went back to school. I would still try to wheedle my way out of PE though!