Author Interview with Natasha Solomons

This week we also managed to interview the lovely Natasha Solomons. Natasha is a very popular author at TLC Books, when her first novel, Mr Rosenblum’s list, was released last year in March 2010 it was our top-selling book of the month and was in our top ten selling fiction books of the year. Not a bad effort for a début author!

The Novel In The Viola is Natasha’s second book and we are just as excited about it. A wonderful tale of an Austrian girl displaced during the onset of WWII, a Jewish girl, who takes refuge in England as a domestic worker for a family (of sorts) in a grand old home in Tyneford on the Dorset coast.

The book  gently and beautiful written and you are quickly drawn into Elise’s life and the life of the village in Tyneford. I know we have another bestseller on our hands and we are delighted that Natasha took the time to answer our questions. Even the really personal ones!

Thank you so much Natasha Smile

natasha

Can you tell the readers a little bit about yourself as a writer?

As well as writing novels, I also write screenplays with my husband. I think that means while my work is ‘literary fiction’ it is very plot driven. I visualise scenes – Kit meeting Elise on the beach while she’s in her knickers and cursing at the sea, the party scene in Vienna, Elise and Mr Rivers drinking pink gin before the last dance at Tyneford… I use these scenes to then tell the story.

My editor once told me that my books are carefully lit. In a movie that is the job of the director/ director of photography but this is the pleasure of novel writing – I can write, direct, cast, find the perfect location and even light the scene. And the fabled ‘golden hour’ at sunset can last as long as I want it to!

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I live with my husband, a writer, in rural Dorset. We love tramping across the fields and chatting through the plot of whatever we’re working on or about the books we’ve read or the films we’ve been watching. I’m basically a story-monster so my favourite pastimes involve stories in some form. Or cooking as I’m also a big fan of food. I love slow cooked stews – basically anything that’s hard to burn as I tend to forget what I’m doing half way through. I forgot some rhubarb yesterday and welded it to the bottom of a pan.

Do you have any rituals or processes for writing your novels?

In spring or summer I take my laptop down to the summerhouse at the bottom of the garden. There is no phone, no internet – just the squawk of the pheasants and the sound the of the bees. If it’s cold, I work in my study under the eaves and if it’s very cold, I write by the fire.

mr-rosenblum-hbI have to say, readers at TLC Books fell in love with Mr Rosenblum’s List, have you had very much feedback from readers?

I’ve had so many gorgeous letters and e-mails from readers. It’s been just amazing. A note from a reader who has really connected with my writing, absolutely makes my day.

You have a blog at natashasolomons.com, does that connection with your readers influence your writing at all?

I actually find that while I’m writing, I need to disconnect from the world for a while. I read and read and take long walks, as I need to allow the real world to take second place to the imaginary one that I’m starting to create. I think it would be dangerous to try and write what I believe readers to want. I have to write the stories that excite and challenge me. I need to be a little frightened before I start.

What was the inspiration for The Novel In The Viola?

I’d always wanted to write something set in the ‘ghost village’ of Tyneham, which was requisitioned by the War Office in 1943. The villagers were forced to leave their cottages on Christmas Eve. They left pinning this note to the church door:

Please treat the church and houses with care; we have given up our homes where many of us lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.’

But, they were never allowed back and the village is now a ruin. It is situated on one of the most beautiful stretches of England’s coast – but the land is still owned by the Ministry of Defence and visitors are only allowed occasionally.

While I was pondering Tyneham, I read an article in a magazine about Jewish women who managed to escape Nazi Europe by becoming domestic servants in Britain. Many of these women had led privileged lives with servants of their own and had to come to terms with their new positions. In a ‘eureka moment’ I realised that I needed to tell the story of Tyneham and the last days of an English country house, through the eyes of an outsider and a servant– a young Jewish girl from Vienna.

The novel is also influenced by books like Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’, ‘Remains of the Day’, ‘Atonement’ and of course, the quintessential ‘young girl in a country house’ story, ‘Jane Eyre.’

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If you’re willing to share… love and falling in love features heavily in The Novel In The Viola, what age were you when you first fell in love?

I pined for a beautiful boy, who looked rather like Kit. I was very young, probably only eleven, and I used to watch this tanned boy skimming pebbles on the beach. I felt so pale and plump and ordinary beside him.

Both of your books deal with new immigrants to the UK finding their feet and themselves, is it an issue close to your heart or a coincidence?

My grandparents were immigrants from Berlin, arriving in the UK shortly before WW2. I think their stories as well as those of other refugees have inspired me.

Out of all your characters, whom would you want to know in ‘real’ life?

I feel that I do know them. They are as real to me as my own family.

Finally, do you play a musical instrument at all?

I play the flute really badly. In fact, I can’t play at all if I think someone can hear me. I spent 7 years miming in the school orchestra. The oboes who sat at the next desk used to laugh at me.

Tanya Caunce for TLC Books

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4 Comments on “Author Interview with Natasha Solomons”

  1. So pleased to find this interview and hear about your new book Natasha. I am looking forward to reading it. Our copy of Mr Rosenblum eventually lost its smoky smell from the fire after a good scrubbing down with some wet-wipes – it will look much happier on the shelf next to its new sister The Novel in the Viola. What is the next one going to be about I wonder?

  2. Julie says:

    Thanks so much for this. Added to my library books list as they sound great books & I look forward to reading them.

  3. Janet Fawcett says:

    I am writing stories about my wonderful Finnish Grandparents and their 5 daughters who spent their growing up years in the country in Massachusetts. I am now after 42 years living with my English husband Richard in Baltimore City. As I have really delved into all the material that I have, I begin to see all my dear family in a different light. Wonderful writers like you have taught me so much and I thank you for that and your inspiration so much. I am also dipping into the story that I started writing, before leaving the UK 12 years ago, about my life which is full of twists and turns. Can’t wait to hear the next two novels. Keep them coming!

  4. Jan Landau says:

    Just finished Tyneford house. Loved it. From the start I wanted Alice to marry Daniel-it seemed she should, all through the book.I cried at the end – the places I love were there too. I am 74 so remember the barbed wire and mines at Sandbanks etc. and the drone of planes going overhead, one dropping a stray bomb across the road from us. I am from Poole and still own the house where I was raised- and trace my family back several generations in Dorset-and come back regularly. My children were brought every year and I know these places like the back of my hand-was there a few weeks ago in fact: Creech, Worth Matravers (where we always swam and picnicked and the little tea room at the top) and the long walk down, picking blackberries, when all you hear are the bees and the cows and sheep.Each visit even now, we go to Wareham by the river, Dorchester, Lulworth, Durdle Door (where my aunt had a stationary ‘caravan’ on the hills.) etc. My grandchildren (7 and 5) just came with us last summer and were taken to my same favourite places- even walking to Old Harry from Studland (bluebells and wild garlic!) I am happy that not much has changed since i grew up and I miss the countryside more than I can tell but I got caught here many moons ago when I made a fated decision to travel.
    I can’t forgive Churchill for his decision either.


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