Natasha Farrant answers questions about her book Some Other Eden. Find out more about Natasha and her books on AuthorsPlace.
In Some Other Eden, is Marshwood based on a real place?
My parents owned a cottage in West Dorset for many years, and we grown-up children were all heartbroken when they sold it a few years ago. I had one particular favourite walk, up from the village on which Chapel St Mary is based, over the top of the old Roman fort and back down to the valley on a footpath which ran alongside the drive of a magnificent, gloomy, romantically isolated old house. I always thought that one day I would live there, and I suppose, thanks to Isla and Bella, in a funny sort of way I have. But since I never set foot inside, the interiors are all imagined, as are the woods in which Isla runs, the private lake etc. And the garden is completely different.
Who were you rooting for – Isla & Jack or Isla & Richard?
Isla and Richard, definitely. They have their problems and have wandered away from each other, but they share so much. They just needed a wake-up call to make them remember.
You explore a lot of themes in Some Other Eden – marriage, betrayal, family relationships. Which one was the most important to you?
Marriage. What happens after the happy ever after of the wedding. What words like partnership, sacrifice, compromise, betrayal actually mean. André Gide once wrote “familles, je vous hais!” – families, I abhor you – and I think most of us know in our heart of hearts where he was coming from. Marriage is a crazy idea, really. To sleep, eat, go on holiday with the same person, for the rest of your life! Arghhhh! And yet somehow, if people are very stubborn and a little bit lucky and willing to accept compromise, it works!! The older I get, the more I realise the same is true of family life. Ultimately, Louis and Jack are just distractions in Bella and Isla’s lives. Reality – rather less romantic but definitely more long-term and ultimately more satisfying – is with their husbands…
Louis has a small part in your first novel, Diving Into Light. Why did you decide to bring him back in Some Other Eden?
Because I love him! I don’t think I have ever been so much in love with one of my characters. He intrigued me in Diving, and he just flew off my keyboard. Also, I have been compared to Mary Wesley, and I remember loving the way her characters wandered in and out of her novels, creating a sort of sequence and a whole world for the reader to immerse him or herself in. That is what I want to do with my novels: create that possibility of immersion for the reader.
When did you first start writing?
I have been writing sporadically since leaving university, but only started in earnest after my second baby was born. I wrote half a novel which was basically a rant about how nobody understood what it was like to be a new mother. Then I got bored with that (not surprisingly!) and wrote a first draft of another novel. I got lots of lovely feedback from publishers, but nobody wanted to buy it. When I wrote Diving Into Light I told my husband that this was my last shot at getting published. Luckily Transworld bought it, as well as Some Other Eden. Luckily, because I really don’t want to stop!
How does the process work for you – do you write in big chunks or little and often?
Both! At certain times of the year, like now, my scouting business leaves me very little time for writing – to say nothing of the children, who are back at school and need a lot of attention in the evenings. I like to think that I write all the time, but in my head. I always carry a notebook with me onto which I “download” all those stray thoughts whenever I can – sometimes it’s whole pages, sometimes just ideas or bits of conversation. When things are a little less crazy at work I am more disciplined and split my working days half and half. I also usually write a couple of evenings a week. It always seems rather miraculous to me that actual books come out of this process, but they do!
What advice would you give first time writers?
Keep at it. Believe in yourself. Re-read everything you’ve written, over and over, out loud if you can. Overcome the fear of showing your work to other people. Ask for constructive criticism. And always, always remember the old maxim: show, don’t tell.
Who are your favourite authors?
Tolstoy, for his breadth of scope, his philosophy, his characters. George Elliot – I sobbed out loud on the 94 bus when I finished The Mill on the Floss, and Middlemarch is up there with War and Peace as a Desert Island Book. Edith Wharton, for the elegance of her devastating plots. P G Wodehouse for his wit and because he stopped me feeling homesick as a teenager whenever I was away from home. The poetry of Charles Baudelaire for his terrible, beautiful vision of humanity. Amongst writers for children (children’s publishing being my day job), Meg Rosoff is achingly, awe-inspiringly good, and I love, love, love the books of Eva Ibbotson and Hilary McKay.
What are you currently reading?
I have just finished reading The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden. It was recommended to me by a publishing friend who said “I think this is what you are trying to do with your writing”. I loved every page. I finished it on a plane and almost threw the book across the cabin shouting “by God she’s right!” It’s funny, clever, endearing and absolutely shattering. I’m about to order all her other books.
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