Monday, 21 July 2014

"Who Are You?" Q&A with author Elizabeth Forbes

Hello fellow book-lovers!

I am excited to bring you a Q&A this week with Elizabeth Forbes, the author of Who Are You?. After I read the book I just had to know how she ended up writing it, so I did just that! If you want to know more about the book, you can read my review here, and you can check out the Goodreads page for it here
Here is the Q&A:

Where did you get the ideas for the characters from, and were they based on real people?

I have a son in the Army and as a result I have always been drawn to soldiers’ experiences in order to try and understand the sorts of pressures he is under or indeed might come under. After his first tour in Iraq I sensed a change in him; I waved goodbye to a boy and welcomed home a young man – a cliché, I know, but it was true. The sense of duty and commitment in our Armed Forces is really inspiring, but we have to accept that what we expect our young men and women to do in our name is sometimes at the breaking point of, or beyond, human endurance. I heard Jake Wood the author of Among You: the Extraordinary True Story of a Soldier Broken by War, being interviewed on the radio and decided to read his book. Jake has suffered from severe PTSD and thankfully is on the way to recovery, although he may never return to the man he was before.  I started to research the effects that serving on the front line could have on some men; and it became apparent that those most susceptible to PTSD had suffered some kind of childhood trauma. Although it is important for me to stress that Jake had no such childhood trauma, nor is he anything like Alex. All the people in the book are completely fictional, but they are based upon the ‘what if….’ premise, that is to say how people might react to certain situations, given their own uniquely individual personal set of circumstances.

What was more difficult, writing the first sentence or writing the last?

Writing the last sentence is the hardest, definitely. The first sentence came straight away, and didn’t change in any of the redrafting. But the ending was tough because it was difficult to know where the book should end and whether it should be unrelentingly sad, or with a glimmer of hope. Maybe a little bit of both is a good thing.

How long did it take you to write Who Are You?

I started writing Who Are You?  at this time last year, straight after Nearest Thing to Crazy was published. I was lucky to have Paul Swallow at Cutting Edge Press willing to read the novel in progress, and so I had a firm idea of whether he was happy with the way the story was going; and we could discuss the developments along the way. I have no doubt that this helped me in not having to do much in the way of redrafting. He also encouraged me to let the dark side flourish when I was reluctant to face up to some of the violence. But I think to give Alex a genuine and credible voice it was necessary to explore as far as possible a mind in complete turmoil, and that was never going to make for an easy ‘write’ or indeed an easy read.

When did you start showing an interest in writing?

In my late twenties and early thirties I wrote four novels, under the genre of romantic thrillers. Then I took a very long break and eventually decided to study for a literature degree which I completed four years ago. I was able to include some creative writing modules in my studies, and I know they helped hugely in finding the voice I have chosen to develop.

What authors have inspired you throughout your writing journey?

Thematically I’m fascinated by stories inspired by the idea of the mad woman in the attic, such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Yellow Wallpaper, Jane Eyre, Rebecca – even Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey – novels which explore the domestic gothic; the really terrifying things that can happen to women inside the home and within their domestic relationships. You don’t have to  be threatened by a knife wielding rapist in order to experience real terror. Sometimes the people who love you can be the people who completely destroy you. In terms of writing style I like authors who can strip their sentences right down, chuck out the adverbs and the adjectives, less is more. J M Coetzee’s prose is just brilliant in its use of language, every word is there for a reason, there’s nothing superfluous. I really admire Maggie O’Farrell and Louise Doughty. And for lyrical writing I was smitten by Andrew Miller’s Pure. Dan Powell’s Looking Out of Broken Windows collection is so brilliant and original and I think he’s currently working on his first novel and he’s really one to watch out for. And Caroline Smailes is a genius.

Lastly, do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

That’s tricky. It may sound daft, but the most obvious thing is to write. There’s nothing more encouraging than a growing word count. And try and convince yourself that no one will ever read it – at least with the first draft. If you can get rid of any self-conscious feelings that you are writing to be judged, then I honestly believe that your writing will be more honest and straight from the heart. And secondly to read as much as you possibly can – not just in your chosen or favourite genre; but dip into the classics, poetry, and be sponge-like to everything around you.

I'd like to say thank you again to Elizabeth for doing this for the blog!
If you want to purchase Who Are You? you can do that here.

I hope you enjoyed this post. 
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Amy :-)


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