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Tue, 09 Dec 2008 11:38
Adele Geras was born in Jerusalem in 1944. She has been an actress and singer and a teacher of French in a girls' school before becoming a full-time writer in 1976. She has published more than ninety books for children and young adults. Her first novel for adults, Facing the Light, appeared in 2003. Adele has lived in Manchester for 38 years. She married to Norman Geras and has two grown-up daughters and two grandchildren.
Mark Thwaite: What gave you the idea for Made in Heaven?
Adele Geras: I was speculating idly about what would happen to a marriage if the wife, say, had an affair which involved meeting her lover only once a year. On every other day of the year, she’d be right there with her husband and children. How would that work? Could it work? At the same time as I was thinking this, I was consciously looking for a story to tell which would be completely different from my first two adult novels. I don’t like being typecast, rather priding myself on being uncategorisable as a writer, but a reviewer had pointed out that my first two adult novels had in them old ladies looking back at their past in some way. That made me decide that this one was going to be firmly based in the present and any old ladies would be subsidiary characters. The subject of weddings was in my mind because our younger daughter was in the process of planning her own.
MT: How long did it take you to write it?
AG: About ten months, start to finish. It was a very easy book to write and I really enjoyed the time I spent on it.
MT: You were born in Jerusalem and before you were eleven you'd lived in Cyprus, Nigeria, and North Borneo. Do your early wanderings affect/inform your writing?
AG: I suppose they must have done, though it’s hard for me to see how directly. I do have, in my books, children abandoned, sent away etc by their parents. I deal with separation and exile quite a lot, especially in my children’s books and also in something like Hester’s Story but I never felt abandoned in the least and loved my time at boarding-school. And it’s good to have other parts of the world which are familiar to you.
MT: How do you write Adele? Longhand or directly onto a computer, straight off or with lots and lots of editing?
AG: I used to write in fancy notebooks, by hand, lying on the sofa. But since my Troy (published in 2000) I’ve written everything straight on to my laptop and now I couldn’t do anything else. I love it. I write a first draft straight off, at the rate of about 1500 words a day, if it’s going well. I scarcely ever do more than about two and a half to three hours actual writing a day. Then the finished text goes to my agent and editor, who come back with comments and these are so much more easily incorporated into the book( if I agree with them!) than they would be if I did everything by hand. The computer is marvelous for editing.
MT: You also write children's books. Indeed, you've published more than ninety books for children and young adults -- are they easier or tougher to write than your adult novels?
AG: I think every book has its own problems and no book prepares you for what you’re going to have to deal with in the next. There’s a sense in which children’s books are much easier simply because they’re SHORTER, but the work is the same. You have to inhabit the world of your characters, whether you’re dealing with a fat black cat, or an elderly ex-ballerina. And bear in mind that the younger the age of the child hearing the story, the more likely it is that your work is going to be read aloud, many times over. Not much prose for adults has to stand up to the same amount of wear and tear.
MT: Ninety is a huge number of kids' books -- do you have your own personal favourite amongs those?
AG: A little over 90 by now! Though of course some of them are extremely short. It’s like asking a mother which child she loves best, but I always choose Troy and Ithaka. The same Gods appear in both, but otherwise the only connection between them is Homer…The Iliad is the inspiration for Troy and The Odyssey for Ithaka. However, (and I say this till I’m blue in the face and no one takes much notice…still, I shall say it again) neither book is in any way a retelling of Homer.
Also: the TRUE answer to which book is your favourite is always…must always be…THE NEXT ONE….the one whose possibilities still lie before it.
MT: What were the principle challenges of writing Made in Heaven and how did you overcome them?
AG: I wanted it to be an easy book to read without being either simple- minded or empty. I wanted a cracking good pacy story, but I did want it to be well-written…well, that goes without saying. I didn’t think of it as challenging. It was one of the easier of my books to plot and work out and as I say above, didn’t cause me any problems along the way.
MT: What do you do when you are not writing?
AG: I read all the time. Voraciously, widely and fast. I go to the movies, watch too much tv and chat to my friends. I email people a lot. I read blogs. I cook, and go to the theatre and I used to be a fanatical knitter….I do less of that now, but still enjoy it. If taking naps were an Olympic sport, I’d get the gold. I walk….I do walk, but that’s it as far as sport is concerned.
MT: Do you have an idea in your mind of your "ideal" reader? Do you write specifically for them?
AG: No, not at all. Not even when I’m writing for young children. I write entirely for myself. I have to fall in love with the hero, cry when it’s sad, laugh when it’s funny, be spooked when it’s scary and then there’s a chance that you might be too….or someone might be. Once you start considering the readers, you’ve had it, I reckon. But I do try to ensure that as many people as possible might like my novels by deliberately including protagonists of all ages in my adult novels….see the ‘old ladies’ referred to in question 1. These ladies have daughters and granddaughters and I try to appeal to several generations in my books.
MT: What are you working on now?
AG: I’m happy to say I’m on holiday till at least July, doing a bit of lying fallow after four adult novels in four years. My next adult novel is called A Hidden Life and appears in hardback from Orion in August ’07. I now need time to regroup, as it were. But the project I’m going to be working on next is a teenage book for David Fickling Books about Dido: another classical story.
MT: Who is your favourite writer?
AG: I have lots and lots. Jane Austen. Charlotte Bronte. George Eliot. Charles Dickens. Also: Ruth Rendell and her alter ego Barbara Vine; Margaret Atwood; Carol Shields; and a whole host of others. For children: Maurice Sendak and Philippa Pearce. And many more, most of whom are my friends: Anne Fine, Linda Newbery, Jean Ure, Ann Turnbull, Sally Prue and on and on….
MT: What is/are your favourite book(s)?
AG: My favourite children’s book is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
My favourite adult’s book is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
MT: Do you have any tips for the aspiring writer!?
AG: Read and read and read. When you write something…anything…read it aloud to catch horrors of all kinds, unintended rhymes, repetitions etc. Develop a thick skin. Don’t give up hope. Try the internet…
MT: Anything else you would like to say?
AG: I do hope everyone who reads Made in Heaven enjoys it as much as I enjoyed writing it. And goes on to read others of my books.
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