Saturday 7 July 2012

A Chat With Ellen Sussman

Ellen Sussman's second novel, French Lessons, tells the story of three language tutors in Paris and their students over the course of the day. You can see my review here and Ellen has very kindly agreed to answer a few questions of mine.

When did you realise you wanted to become a writer?

Believe it or not, I decided I wanted to be a writer at age 6! I remember climbing onto my older brother's bureau and picking books off of his bookshelf. I'd write down the titles and then make up stories to go with the titles. I never changed my mind about that career choice, despite years of rejection letters. I must be the most stubborn person or the most determined!

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to publication?

I published many short stories in literary and commercial magazines over the years, but I didn't achieve real success until I published my novels. French Lessons hit the New York Times bestseller list -- my dream come true! It was certainly not an overnight success but rather years and years of hard work.  

What was your inspiration for French Lessons?

I'm going to provide a link for that story: 

Who has been your favourite character to write to date?

I think I'm partial to Josie, probably because she is the product of pure imagination. Riley was based on me and my experiences living in Paris for five years. (But I never had the hot French tutor!) Jeremy was based on my husband and our experience travelling in Paris. In both cases Riley and Jeremy because their own characters, very different from their inspiration. But Josie was invented out of thin air. And I felt freer creating her character because of that. 

If you were stranded on a desert island and had only one book (conveniently) about your person, what would you like the book to be (bearing in mind you may be stranded for months on end with nothing else to read)?

Oh man, is that tough. I'd want an empty journal -- a large one. I'd want to create my own fictional worlds to keep me entertained and to keep me company.

Finally, what are you working on at the moment?

I've just finished a new novel, The Paradise Guest House. It's about a young American woman who is caught in the terrorist attack in Bali in 2002 and returns to the island a year later to find the man who saved her. 

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Ellen.

The French Lessons Blog Tour will continue until 12th July

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