Friday, 8 March 2013

Friday Feature: Interview with Marie-Louise Jensen

As a fan of historical fiction, I've been meaning to read something by Marie-Louise Jensen for ages, but only got round to it a few weeks ago when I reviewed Smuggler's Kiss for The Bookbag. I was seriously impressed, and jumped at the chance to interview her. (Note: This interview has previously been published on The Bookbag.)

1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?
I see a mix of all the teens and pre-teens I've spoken to in schools over the past few years. Plus the readers who have emailed me.

2. You've written half a dozen books spanning a wide range of times and places - if pushed, what would be your favourite period in history?
How to choose between them when each era that I've written about has its own charm? I confess to a great love of the Viking era, however. Despite the violence, it was a time of tremendous adventure and women were powerful and important. Unfortunately, it's the least popular with readers.

3. On a similar note, do you see yourself as always being a historical author, or would you ever consider writing contemporary fiction?
M-LJ: Writing stories set in the past is my great love. However, I have written other things (unpublished) and have some more work in the planning stages at the moment.

4. I've just been looking at your website and seeing the details of your school visits - I wish I was still teaching in a secondary school, because I'd get the English department to bring you in! What's your favourite thing about giving talks to teenagers?
Well, thank you! Dressing up has to be high on the list! Especially the highwayman costume; that one is awesome to wear.
I think teenagers are brilliant. It was a vitally important and formative age for me personally and I love meeting young people at that same stage of life; so full of possibilities, ideals and potential. Today's teenagers know so much too. I'm always so impressed with them and come away inspired

5. BB: I loved the chemistry between Isabelle and a certain young smuggler in Smuggler's Kiss - what's your all-time favourite example of fictional chemistry?
Fictional chemistry – ah, it's the best! Well, if we are going to stick to English language books, there's Jane Eyre of course, with its passionate but flawed Mr Rochester, though I thought it a great shame he needed to be unmanned to have a happy ending. A symptom of the Victorian age perhaps. And then there's Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South – most beautifully brought to life in the BBC adaptation. Both Margaret Hale and John Thornton learn so much. And Aragorn and Arwen. I've always loved romances.

6. Do you listen to music when you write? Is there a soundtrack for Smuggler's Kiss?
I never listen to music while I write! There's too much going on in my head. I don't listen to all that much music at all. I did, however, listen to Loreen's Euphoria on repeat while I was editing Smuggler's Kiss.

7. I thought Rudyard Kipling's 'A Smuggler's Song' set the scene for your novel perfectly (and have spent far too long trying to track down a Show of Hands version of it which I'm starting to think I'm completely imagining!) What's your favourite poem?
M-LJ: In fact that is one of my favourites! Kipling's been accused of romanticising smuggling but I read it in a collection as a child and it really spooked me. It was the idea, I think, of the men passing in the darkness being too dangerous to even look at. I used to imagine the moon casting their dark and frightening shadows onto my wall as they passed by and shiver.
I always found poetry difficult, but over the years I've discovered Byron's epic poem The Corsair, the mystical poems of William Blake, Thomas Grey's Elegy and – as a complete contrast – Wendy Cope and James Berry.

8. If you could ask any other author any question, what would you ask and who would you ask it to?
Mr Tolkien, I have three extended dvds for you to watch. *ten hours later* So, what did you think?

Fab - definitely one of the best responses I've ever been given to that question!

9. If you were hosting a literary dinner party, which six authors or characters would you invite?
M-LJ: I'd like two dinner parties, please (as long as I don't have to do the cooking). Authors: Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Ann Bronte, Aphra Behn, Elizabeth Gaskell and (provided we have a handy tardis nearby so we can understand one another) Snorri Sturluson.
Characters: Aragorn (of course!), Willy Wonka (plus chocolate), Pippi Longstocking (to lower the tone), Captain Jack Sparrow and Lizzie Bennett and Aslan. I'll leave someone else to sort out the seating arrangements.

Liking the first one, and loving the second one - Willy Wonka providing the chocolate as Jack Sparrow flirts with Lizzie Bennett sounds like a hoot!

10. What's next for Marie-Louise Jensen?
M-LJ: Next from me is another Georgian tale, publishing 2014. It's a masquerade and murder mystery set around stable yards, inns and horses and is already finished. Next for me is less certain at the moment as I don't have a contract yet. I have plenty more historical stories I'd love to write. And I have some completely different stories on my mind too; I'm interested in exploring some issues arising from our current political, social and environmental situation. But any stories I write won't be as dull as that sounds!

That sounds great - best of luck with it! Thanks so much for taking part in this interview, Marie-Louise!

Marie-Louise can be found on her website and on Twitter.

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