1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, what do you see?
Myself! I write for me.
2. Your first two books were both aimed at adults. Had you always planned on writing a novel for teens as well?
I think I’ve always been heading that way. Both my adult books have a number of child and teenage characters, and the teen love story in my first novel, DIVING INTO LIGHT, touched a lot of readers. My novels are all very much character led, and my characters tend to announce themselves to me of their own accord – not created so much as discovered. I had known for a long time that I wanted to write about Oradour, the village on which my fictional Samaroux is based, but I was struggling with how to approach the story. As soon as my imagination uncovered Arianne, I knew it would be a book about teens and for teens. The all-consuming immediacy of young love struck me as both a brilliant contrast and a parallel to the equally devastating whirlwind of war.
3. In addition to being an author, you're also a literary scout. Could you tell those readers who haven't heard of literary scouting before what the job involves?
Ha! Seriously, I spend half my life explaining my job. Basically, I am paid a monthly fee by publishing companies in France, Germany, Israel, Italy and Spain to find books written in English for them to translate into their languages. The most high-profile recommendation I made was TWILIGHT to my French clients. I read it way before it became a bestseller and fell in love with it. My clients went on to sell five million copies. I also do similar work for a film production company based in Portland, Oregon, looking for books for them to turn into animated movies. It’s a lot of fun. I’m lucky to work with some of the best and nicest people in the business. In fact, most of them are now also my publishers!
Sounds like a very cool job!
4. Two of my favourite books of 2012 have been set in the Second World War, The Things We Did For Love and Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity. Are there any other novels set in this time period that you'd recommend to people who enjoyed The Things We Did For Love?
Well, they could read DIVING INTO LIGHT, my first novel! And one of my all time favourites is Eva Ibbotson’s A SONG FOR SUMMER. Those are both “adult” novels. For slightly younger teens, I always recommend Ian Seraillier’s THE SILVER SWORD. I gave it to my daughter last Christmas. It was first published in 1956 but I think it was reissued last year, and she loved it. Judith Kerr’s WHEN HITLER STOLE PINK RABBIT is also firmly etched in our hearts. These are specifically books about the war in Europe, which fascinates me, probably because I am half French and grew up hearing stories of the Occupation.
5. As I mentioned in my review, I got through most of a box of tissues reading The Things We Did For Love! Did you cry when writing it?
A bit, at the end… And also a bit at the beginning… I don’t want to give anything away! Mainly though I cried when I visited the actual village of Oradour sur Glane, where the massacre I describe in The Things We Did For Love took place. It has been preserved as a museum and is one of the most moving places in the world. I defy anyone not to be affected by it.
6. Some sections of The Things We Did For Love are narrated by someone whose identity is hidden until near the end. It's an unusual, but hugely effective, technique. What made you decide to use it? (If you can tell us without revealing the identity of the character, that is!)
I wanted to give the story a dimension which lifted it beyond itself – without being pretentious, I wanted it to feel more universal. My narrator gives a glimpse of what happens after the massacre . One of the most horrible aspects about the events which happened at Oradour/Samaroux was its randomness. In the novel’s closing pages, the narrator places them in a greater context, suggesting that these things could have happened, and do happen anywhere and that they are somehow – terribly – part of the cycle of life.
7. If you could host a literary dinner party, which six authors or characters would you invite?
Barbara Kingsolver. She’s one of my favourite contemporary writers, and I love that she always writes about difficult subjects she feels passionate about. Antoine de St Exupéry, who wrote The Little Prince. He was very handsome, always broke and always borrowing money from his friends so he could throw parties he then invited them to! Lovely Eva Ibbotson, who sadly died last year. I’ve learned so much about plotting and character from reading her books, which always make me feel like I’m wrapped up in a huge snuggly duvet. Pierre Bezukhov from War and Peace, a huge, bumbling, clumsy man but so kind and such a desperate, genuine, sincere character. I think he’d get on really well with all the others. I’ve always had a weak spot for Scarlett O’Hara, the spoilt, stubborn, brave heroine of Gone with the Wind. I think it’s inevitable that Pierre will fall in love with her. And Eoin Colfer, because he’s charming and funny and will make everybody laugh.
I love Eva Ibbotson - a really fabulous author! Great choices.
8. Do you listen to music when writing? If so, is there a soundtrack to The Things We Did For Love?
I listen to classical music when I write, very loudly, on my iPod. The Things We Did For Love was written to Brahms 4th Symphony, Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto, Purcell’s Dido And Aeneas, with a bit of random Coldplay thrown in.
9. If you could ask any other author a question, what would you ask and who would you ask it to?
Scott Fitzgerald. I would ask him how he makes his novels so restrained and so utterly devastating. I just finished re-reading Tender is the Night and The Great Gatsby back to back and I’m still recovering.
If pushed, Gatsby might be my favourite novel of all time... Just picked up a new copy as mine was practically falling apart through being read too much!
10. What's next for Natasha Farrant?
I’m being funny! My next novel, AFTER IRIS comes out with Faber in July. It’s a contemporary story about a hopelessly dysfunctional family trying to recover from the death of Iris, the narrator’s twin. It’s told as a sequence of film transcripts and diary entries and everyone who has read it laughs out loud then starts crying. Think SAFFY’S ANGEL meets LOVE AUBREY, with a dose of Noel Streatfeild. There’s a love story, inevitably, but mainly it’s a book about families. For girls from 11 to 110!
Sounds fab! I'm a huge fan of Noel Streatfeild's. Best of luck with it - really looking forward to reading it.
Natasha Farrant can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and at her website.