Wednesday 10 June 2015

Laura Barnett - author interview

If you're a regular reader of the blog, you may have noticed that a couple of weeks ago I reviewed  Laura Barnett's debut novel The Versions of Us. Following a chance meeting in 1958, the lives of Eva and Jim play out in three possible ways, but which leads to greater happiness and fulfilment? It's a little like Sliding Doors, a little like Kate Atkinson's Life After Life. I loved it, so was delighted to be able to ask Laura a question or two about it......

Firstly, where did the idea for Versions of Us spring from?

Do you know, I’m really not sure! I woke up one morning just over two years ago with the seed of the idea planted in my mind. I’d written two novels, neither of which was quite right, and had been thinking about what to write next. That morning, I hit the snooze button on my iPhone over and over again, and lay there imagining writing three different versions of the story of one couple, from beginning to end. With hindsight, I suspect I was inspired, in part, by the fact I’d only recently got married, and was thinking about how easily my husband and I might never have met.

It's easy to spot the similarities with the film Sliding Doors, but to me there's also a certain something shared with Kate Atkinson's Life After Life; have you seen the film, or read Atkinson's book and did either influence you in any way?

I have seen Sliding Doors a few times - I was about fourteen when it first came out, and I loved it, not least because my friends and I often spent our evenings down by the river at Hammersmith, where some of the film’s key scenes were shot! And once I’d had this idea about telling multiple versions of the same love story, I watched the film again to see how the writer and director had tackled the challenge.
It’s interesting, too, that you feel my book shares something with Life After Life - Kate Atkinson’s book came out when I was about halfway through writing the first draft of The Versions of Us, and I didn’t read it until I’d finished. It’s an incredible work of fiction, and reading it gave me a lot of confidence in trying to pull off such an ambitious structure - but I wouldn’t say it influenced me, as such. We writers have to be careful to keep our own voices distinct from those of the other authors we admire. 

Of the three story-lines, do you have a 'favourite'? Mine, as I've said on Twitter, is version two, though I'm not sure why as it certainly doesn't always seem the happiest.
How did you go about plotting and planning everything? Did you write the three stories separately, then interweave them, or progress each at the same time?

It’s fascinating to hear that you feel a particular affinity with version two - every reader seems to have their own particular reaction to each version! I’m afraid I don’t have a favourite - each version presented its own particular challenges and pleasures, and I kept changing my mind about which one I was most enjoying as I wrote. I did so consecutively, chopping and changing between the three versions: the structure of that first draft was more or less exactly as the novel still is now. It just felt right to me to weave the three versions together from the start.

And...that dreadful question all authors get asked ...what next? Are you already planning/writing another book and, if so, could you tell us something about it?

It’s not a dreadful question at all - thank you for asking it! I am indeed already writing another book. It’s called Greatest Hits, and it’s about a female singer-songwriter - in my mind, she’s somewhere between Kate Bush, Stevie Nicks and Joni Mitchell - looking back over her life and her music. I’m really enjoying getting under the character’s skin, and considering what it is to make a life as an artist, a woman, and a mother.

 Thank you so much for taking time out to chat, Laura, and best wishes for your second novel. I, for one, will be eagerly awaiting it!

1 comment:

  1. I'm even keener to read this now! Oh, where do I squeeze this in???!