Tuesday 13 March 2012

The Things We Did for Love Blog Tour: Interview with author Natasha Farrant.

Please welcome Natasha Farrant to the blog today as part of the blog tour for h The Things We Did for Love a story of heartbreak and betrayal set in occupied France during World War II.

Read on for more on Natasha's inspirations and influences and also for news of an exclusive writing competition in which you could win an iPad!

The Things We Did for Love is inspired by the horrific real-life events in World War II.  How difficult was it to write about such events and why did you decide to do so?

I have been obsessed with both World Wars since I was a teenager:  descriptions in history lessons of trench warfare, of concentration camps and gas chambers, of bombed cities, all made a profound impression on me.  I just couldn’t understand how human beings, with their capacity for love and compassion, could also allow such nightmares to take place.

THE THINGS WE DID FOR LOVE is based on events which took place in a village called Oradour-sur-Glane, which was destroyed by the Germans towards the end of World War 2. The village has been left exactly as the Germans left it, and it’s devastating. I couldn’t stop crying the first time I went there.  I walked through the ruined streets and in my mind I wanted to imagine away all the reminders of the massacre which took place there to see the village as it was before.  Writing about it became a way of trying to make sense of what had happened, and also of all the questions which had haunted me since those history lessons at school. With so much conflict in the world I do think it’s important to reflect on what war really means to people actually who live them,  and for me books do this far more effectively than news bulletins. 

War is fascinating for writers because it presents such opportunity for extremes – cruelty, heroism, despair, courage – as well as notions of good and evil, right and wrong.  It’s interesting to explore how, far from being defined, the line between these is often terribly blurred.  That is why the love story is such an important part of THE THINGS WE DID FOR LOVE, and also why the act of sacrifice at the end comes from such an unexpected quarter.  They offer hope and redemption. 

 The most difficult challenge for me was to construct a new story while staying true to real life events.  No reason was ever given for the massacre at Oradour.  Real life is often inconclusive and muddled, but it’s difficult to get away with this when you are writing fiction.  Readers, quite rightly, expect resolution.  They expect a story to make sense.  So I constructed reasons, characters, a story, whilst trying to keep to the real life timeline.   Above all, I wanted to be respectful, not to sensationalise or sentimentalise events but to present them  in as powerful and sober way as possible. 

What kind of research did  you undertake while writing The Things We Did for Love?

I visited the excellent Centre of Remembrance at Oradour several times and read a number of books about France under the occupation.  My favourite by far is Joseph Kessel’s L’Armée des Ombres (The Army of Shadows), but Irène Némirovsky’s SUITE FRANÇAISE is also brilliant (and available in English).

There is a lot of strong YA/Crossover historical fiction on the market right now. Can you recommend any books of this type that fans of The Things We Did for Love might also enjoy?

I’m really looking forward to reading Lydia Syson’s A WORLD BETWEEN US, which Hotkey Books publish in July, described as a sweeping love story set in Spain during the Civil War.  Teresa Breslin’s REMEMBRANCE, set in World War I, is a classic, and I love Meg Rosoff’s HOW I LIVE NOW.  For something lighter but just gorgeous, my favourite children’s writer ever Eva Ibbotson’s A SONG FOR SUMMER, set in England and Central Europe during World War 2, is a delight.

What were some of your favourite books as a teen? Did any of the authors you read back then inspire you to become a writer?

We didn’t have the wealth of YA literature then that we do now, but nonetheless I read voraciously as a teenager, mainly books I found on my parents’ bookshelves.  I loved almost anything by Daphne du Maurier – Frenchman’s Creek always springs to mind. I adored PG Wodehouse, and used to take his books with me whenever I was sent on a language exchange, to stop me feeling homesick!  And Jilly Cooper, who taught me a lot about navigating the challenges of life as a young adult.

I can’t say that any one author inspired me to become a writer.  What inspired me was more the fact that I always found the world of books so much more fascinating than everyday life. 

What are your top three tips for aspiring authors?

1.   Show, don’t tell: your readers want to see your characters in action, they don’t want you to tell them what happened.  So: “Livia was sad because her boyfriend said he didn’t love her any more” becomes: “
“We’re over.”
“But why?”
I don’t love you anymore.”
Livia started to cry.”

A silly example, but you see my point.

2.   Take your time. When you’ve finished, put your writing to one side.  Do something else.  Forget about it.  Come back to it a few days later, re-read. Cut, sometimes drastically.  Re-write.  Set aside.  Come back to it… Etc. 

3.  Read.  Read all the time, and ask yourself what makes some books exciting, others dull, why some books about a sad subject make you cry while others leave you cold.  Learn from other writers.

 What are you working on next?

Something completely different! A contemporary story, told in diary format, about a family recovering from the death of a child.  It’s sad but also very funny and slightly mad.  I love it.


The Things We Did for Love by Natasha Farrant published by Faber & Faber is available to buy now, £9.99 hardback, Ebook £6.99

To celebrate the launch of The Things We Did for Love by Natasha Farrant Faber & Faber have launched a writing competition with some great prizes on offer! All details available here:  http://www.facebook.com/thesparkpage?sk=app_128953167177144

1 comment :

  1. WELCOME, NATASHA!! :) <3

    I had no idea that this book was based on WWII! It's so cool that you're mentioning trench warfare now because I'm just learning about that in history class now! It's probably my worst subject LOL but it's so interesting! And I love your faith in the good of humanity -- sometimes I can hardly believe that human beings can do that kind of stuff either.

    Awesome interview, you two! :)


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