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Lessons From 100 Interviews

By Jess Scaffidi Saggio, Katie Farr, Iona Fleming, Lucy Powell, Ayman Sabir


From fantasy novels to literary romance, translated works to non-fiction, we’ve interviewed a wide array of authors here at The Publishing Post. To celebrate our 100th issue, we’re looking back at some of our favourite interviews to discuss what we’ve particularly enjoyed and what we have learned over the years about the writing process.

 

One of our recent favourite interviews was Sylvie Cathrall’s A Letter to the Luminous Deep.  What we found particularly interesting here was Cathrall’s approach to writing an epistolary novel; namely, finding out the process she underwent to capture the voices of her characters. Whilst she admitted that putting a physical pen to paper was not something she could replicate for the whole book, she found writing by hand helped “immerse” herself in the “epistolary structure.” Weaving such a complex narrative thread together is a difficult task to achieve in epistolary novels and Cathrall’s technique of applying different writing styles to her characters and placing letters side by side shone valuable insight into her complex writing process.

 

Another favourite insight from the fantasy genre came from David Towsey’s Exploring Equinox. A lesson we learned here was how Towsey’s approach to writing changed as a singular author, versus his time spent as one part of the fantasy authorial duo, D.K Fields. He said that it was “quite an adjustment,” referencing the planning stages of the novel being the stage that most impacts the other writer. However, the overall process was still filled with positives for Towsey.


Our interviews with Florentyna Leow and Eva Asprakis unveiled similar themes, which we loved hearing about. Both Leow and Asprakis detailed their lived experiences growing up and living in more than one country, and we consequently learned what it means to exist “between” cultures. Asprakis believes her way of “moving between places and people” provided her with an “innate sense” of how to empathise with different aspects of Cypriot and English culture without comparing them with one another. Similarly, Leow told us about how the experience of relocating from London/Kyoto to Tokyo acted as a “catalyst” in helping her understand her sense of self. Both Leow and Asprakis had similar experiences in the writing process. Leow would “jot down ideas,” leaving them be until an “urge to create reared its head again”; Asprakis wrote the first draft of her novel from a place of “so much anger,” when “it all came out”. What this showed us is that the writing process is not always a linear path of sitting down and writing all at once, but rather, it often ebbs and flows.


Sairish Hussain’s Hidden Fires is also a favourite due to the novel's beautiful historical story about the partition between India and Pakistan. What resonated with us the most was the writer’s desire to provide a “counter-narrative to those prevailing stereotypes” that depict British Muslims as one particular group. Moreover, Hussain structured her novel as a “good introduction to the partition” because of the reason that she, amongst many others, never learnt about the partition at school.


In the literary romance genre, our interview with Claire Daverley regarding her novel Talking at Night gave us her perspective on working in publishing whilst also being a writer. Daverley’s experience was a positive one, with her work in publishing allowing her to “pay the bills” whilst pursuing her lifelong dream of being a writer. Being in a digital marketing role allowed Daverley to maintain some distance from the process, which may be key for any budding writer pursuing a career in publishing to get “the best of both worlds.”


Similarly, in our article exploring Ma is Scared by Anjali Kajal, we gained a fascinating insight into the translation process from the book’s translator, Kavita Bhanot. Translating Kajal’s short stories delving into themes such as motherhood and the northern Indian caste system, Bhanot had to balance her commitment to “stay true to the original story” with her awareness of “the limitations of translation itself”. Deeply aware of the potential pitfalls of translation, such as the risk of “fetishising Indian words,” Bhanot argued that translated texts “should be read through a critical lens.”


Returning to the romance genre, Niamh Hargan’s The Break-Up Clause is cherished by us. We love Hargan’s use of third-person narrative, a departure from the common first-person in romance novels. She believes a “close” third-person narration lets her “dive into a character’s point of view.” Another highlight from her novel was her depiction of the ways women are treated within the workplace. Hargan created “subtle ways” in which women are treated unfairly to “give a sense of what the reality is behind an environment that can look very glossy from the outside.”


Our interview with Patti McCracken on her non-fiction book The Angel Makers is another favourite for the fantastic writing process behind long-form fiction compared to fiction. The book, about early twentieth century poisonings in rural Hungary, required detailed research. McCracken’s journalistic background helped her investigate overlooked details, where she otherwise “would have been subconsciously ignoring something.” By providing an accurate portrayal of the “emotional truth” of these events, McCracken made sure to represent the humanity of the women involved, raising important questions around bodily autonomy which are relevant and “timely” today.


We also appreciated the depiction of contemporary society through dystopian fiction in Stephanie Feldman’s Saturnalia. Set over one night, the novel draws on the debauchery of the ancient Roman celebration of Saturnalia, creating a modern world of secret societies and magic. Like McCracken, Feldman questions today’s world by portraying a society rife with danger, questioning the possibility of generosity in an uncertain future.

 

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