Thursday, 7 May 2015

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Lydia Syson Q&A ( Liberty's Fire) Publication Day


I'm really pleased to be sharing with you the following Q&A with Lydia Syson, the author of three historical YA novels. Her new novel Liberty's Fire is being published today by Hot Key Books. 


Tell us a little bit about Liberty's Fire?

Imagine Les Mis, nearly forty years on. When the people of Paris rose to claim their rights in 1871, they were full of hope for the future – hope that was horrifically dashed. Liberty’s Fire is about four young people caught up a revolution that became a civil war, and the story takes place in palaces and opera houses, soup kitchens and cemeteries, on rooftops and in cellars, amid blossom and barricades. The book is full of music, photography, politics and passion.


How much of the book is realistic?

ALL of it! Quite seriously. Unbelievable as it sounds, there’s nothing that happens in Liberty’s Fire that either didn’t or couldn’t have happened in Paris in 1871, to the very best of my knowledge. It’s always a bit of a problem for writers of historical fiction – which I’ve written about before (http://www.lydiasyson.com/unbelievable/) - you’re drawn to the most extraordinary, incredible stories, and then people wonder if they could really be true.

Is travel an important aspect in your books?

Yes and no. I’d say a sense of place is hugely important, but I’ve not always been able to travel to achieve that. I’d already been to Spain quite a few times when I wrote A World Between Us, set during the Spanish Civil War, so to begin with I used a mixture of memory, maps, Google Earth, other people’s memoirs and then in fact we did a family housewap in the Basque country just before I was doing my final revisions and we all went to Guernica and Bilbau – though it was another year before I made it to the cave hospital. (http://www.lydiasyson.com/the-cave-hospital-at-last/) 

That Burning Summer was easy because we spend a lot of time on Romney Marsh and it’s the kind of place that gets under your skin. But for Liberty’s Fire I owe everything to an Arts Council grant – I really couldn’t have written the book without it – which allowed me both time to research and visit and revisit Paris, and that was crucial to getting all kinds of things right, from geography to atmosphere to point of view. As you might have guessed from the book, I’m a great believer in public funding for the arts.

Has your PhD influenced your writing style?

I think it’s influenced my research style more than my writing. It made me confident about using archives and academic papers and journals and following trails in footnotes, and taught me the value of tracing things back to their original source. But I can’t really do a before and after test because though I used to write stories all the time at school, I made the terrible mistake of stopping when I left. It took me decades to get the courage to write fiction again, which is why my best piece of advice to young writers is terribly simple: don’t stop!

Has your PhD influenced your writing style?

I think it’s influenced my research style more than my writing. It made me confident about using archives and academic papers and journals and following trails in footnotes, and taught me the value of tracing things back to their original source. But I can’t really do a before and after test because though I used to write stories all the time at school, I made the terrible mistake of stopping when I left. It took me decades to get the courage to write fiction again, which is why my best piece of advice to young writers is terribly simple: don’t stop!


What helps you to be creative?
Sometimes I think it’s pressure, and sometimes the opposite. I do respond to deadlines – probably because I used to be a radio producer, and if you were a second out you either ‘crashed the pips’ or ‘fell off the air’. But it’s also fantastic to be allowed space and time to write – see Arts Council Grant above! – and not to have to juggle too many different kinds of work at once. The support of my family, near and far, helps a lot. Other things that I find helpful in a refreshing kind of way include being outside regularly - running and gardening and wild camping – and other art forms, like theatre and exhibitions, which give me ideas and help me make connections.


Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?

I’m definitely more interested in meeting dead famous people than living ones, and right now it would probably be the legendary Communarde Louise Michel, also known as the Red Virgin of Montmartre. She’s not well known in this country but in France there are schools and streets and even a metro station named after her, a mark of the fact that ideas that might seem revolutionary to one generation can get taken for granted in another. I’d love to know what she thought of the state of the world now.



Author website: http://www.lydiasyson.com/ book published by Hot Key Books 7th May 2015. My book Review is HERE
Post a Comment