Today I'm pleased to be taking part in the Liberty Silk blog tour with an interview with the author, Kate Beaufoy. Liberty Silk is on my summer reading list and I can't wait to dive in!
Can you tell us about your book?
Liberty Silk spans three generations - the 1920s, ’40s and ’60s - and three continents. It’s a love story, a detective story - and much of it is a true story, inspired as it was by letters written by my grandmother Jessie Beaufoy nearly a hundred years ago (you can read an ‘interview’ with her on www.katebeaufoy.com). The Liberty silk dress of the title was in my dressing up box when I was a little girl, and somehow it survived intact. There is an image of the dress - and of other heirlooms that belonged to Jessie and appear as narrative devices in the novel - on the Liberty Silk Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/libertysilk/
What was your inspiration for Liberty Silk?
As well as the inspiration I got from the letters, another huge influence on the novel was my passion for glamour - especially of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. Since I was a child I have been a big fan of both eras - I used to spend every Sunday afternoon watching old black-and-white movies, and I devoured biographies of designers, film-makers and movie stars. As a student, I started to collect Vogue magazine until their combined weight literally brought a shelf down, and much of my library space today is taken up with books on film and fashion of the interwar period.
What has been your greatest experience of being a published writer?
When I hit the bestseller list with my first book as Kate Thompson (my name before I adopted the nom de plume Kate Beaufoy), I spent three days in London doing publicity for my publishing house (that’s when I realised that being a bestselling novelist isn’t just about sitting in front of a computer screen laughing and crying with your characters!) On my way home to Dublin via Gatwick, I gazed openmouthed around the concourse at all the WH Smith outlets, with the novel prominently displayed at the front of the shop as their Book of the Week. I was so proud that I badly wanted to tug the sleeve of the complete stranger standing next to me and say, ‘I wrote that!’
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Don’t talk about the brilliant novel you would write if only you had the time. Where do think Marian Keyes/Cathy Kelly/Jojo Moyes found the time? Don’t pick a book from the Top Titles section in the bookshop, flick through it and say, ‘I could have written that’, because you probably couldn’t (it has taken most bestselling authors years and years to get there). This is harsh advice, but it’s the best you’ll get. Keep shtum and write your own book. Then, when you finally see it displayed at the front of WH Smith, you can say to yourself - with justifiable smugness - ‘I wrote that!’
What was the first book you ever bought yourself?
As a child, our house was full of books. I had my pick of them all, and I was constantly being given presents of books - especially by my grandmother: Jessie used to send me great big parcels of them. But I think the first one I ever bought was Finn Family Moomintroll, which introduced me to the entire series of magical books by Tove Jansson. When my daughter, Clara, was a tiny girl, it used to give me the most glorious pleasure to revisit that world when I read them to her as her bedtime story.
What was the last book you read?
Tana French’s The Secret Place. I was given a proof copy, so I had a sneak preview of a book that won’t be on the shelves until August. But please look out for it! I’ve been a fan of Tana’s since her first novel was published about six years ago, and this is as good as crime fiction gets. Stephen King is a huge fan, and the Washington Post has dubbed her ‘one of the most talented crime writers alive’. The Secret Place is a multi-layered book, dark, smart and exquisitely written. I have no doubt that it will get the big screen treatment.
Finally, what are you working on at the moment?
I have a deadline to deliver my new novel at the end of August, so it should be on the shelves this time next year. It’s called Another Heartbeat in the House, and it is set mostly in the 1840s. Its initial inspiration came from a derelict hunting lodge that I found quite by accident, near where I have a holiday shack on the west coast of Ireland. The house and its history haunted me, and then a heroine walked into my head, almost uninvited. Her name is Eliza Drury, and all I initially knew about her was that she worked as a governess for William Thackeray around the time Vanity Fair was published. I am now consumed by the story she has to tell.
I hope you enjoy Liberty Silk, Jenn, and thank you so much for having me as a guest on your blog. It has been a pleasure answering these questions!