24 May 2015

Author Interview with Alcina Faraday

Do dreams ever inspire your writing? What did you last dream about?
Absolutely - and not only night-time dreams, but daydreams, and daydreamers. My lead protagonist Tiago is a serial fantasist. I think I know where he gets it from.
Last night I dreamt I was looking after a flock of Swaledale lambs in North Yorkshire. Nothing much happened but I had two beautiful Border Collie sheepdogs and a very cool flying quad bike.

When did you first start writing? And when were you first published?
I started my "Spiral Wound" trilogy in 2011 when I was on sabbatical in southern Portugal, and wrote the first chapters of my first novel, "Beauty, Love and Justice" as a short story in November 2011. I'm publishing "Beauty, Love and Justice" with Urbane Publications in May 2015.

What is it about romance that appeals to you the most? Do you read other genres?

Long answer? Romance is a blast. A protagonist in love is on a roller coaster of raised and dashed hopes. As a writer you get to put characters on that roller coaster and see what happens, and as a reader you get to share the peaks and troughs, hoping that the characters you love get to the finish in one piece - and the others get a face full of candyfloss.
Short answer? Amor vincit omnia. Nothing beats the way you feel when Anne Elliot reads that letter from Captain Wentworth.
I read lots of genres - the classics, humour, hard-boiled noir, literary fiction, science fiction, and loads of poetry and plays. But the books I re-read most frequently have a profound and often troubled love story at the core.

Can you tell us a little about your latest book?

"Beauty, Love and Justice" is a dark romantic comedy set in contemporary Paris, Lisbon, London and Devon. There are undertones of suburban fantasy and dystopian science, but the central theme is the bittersweet relationship between Tiago da Silva, a young, Portuguese commodity trader, and his idol Raphael Davide, a rather jaded dealer in Renaissance art.
Tiago has epic dreams about saving the world - "Beauty, Love and Justice" is his mission statement - but Raphael's no longer an idealist, and other dark forces abound; Tiago's neighbour is a young British scientist Amelia Postthridge, who seems friendly but just wants to steal Raphael's money, and Raphael's ex-lover Tomas Paul Gosele, a cracked academic with delusions of immortality, still has a powerful hold over Raphael. So it's going to be a bumpy ride on that rollercoaster.
The book is complex and (I hope) intriguing - but at its heart, it's a love story, and that means it's a story about love, and the selflessness and sacrifice that are needed for love to take root, survive, and grow. I've always liked morality tales, and if this is one, then its moral is that true love is no easier than any other variety, but it is much more worth the struggle - even if you walk away with nothing. Actually, especially if you walk away with nothing.

What inspired you to write it?

Tiago emerged when I lived in the Alentejo Litoral in Portugal for a year in 2011/2012. It's a beautiful, mostly unspoilt area with a rich history - Vasco da Gama was born there, and the local people (who still vote Communist/Green) are proud to tell you how their ancestors resisted the Salazar Fascist government in the 20th century - but it's a poor area, and reliant on basic industries such as the production of cork, grapes and even rice. In recent years many young people have left for Lisbon or to go overseas, and when the IMF brought in cost-cutting "measures" in 2011 to stabilise the Portuguese economy, many people were fearful that there would be a mass exodus of bright young people from all over Portugal.
Tiago was born in the Alentejo but when I met him he'd already been in Paris for 6 years, using his language skills and mathematical brain in a South American commodity trading operation. In many ways he typifies the liberal, decent values of modern Portugal, and modern Europe - but this being fiction he's larger than life; he has a hero grandfather who stood up to the Fascists, and an ambitious mission to make a big difference to restore economic justice to the world. And of course he's in love - as all protagonists should be - and of course Raphael, the man he loves, is going to take some convincing.

Who designs your covers?
My publisher Matthew Urbane and his designer Julie Martin designed the stunning cover for "Beauty, Love and Justice". I also have a fabulous illustrator - IMR - who has provided illustrations that I hope will really add to the reader's enjoyment of the book.

If your latest book was made into a film, who would you cast?
Lovely question!
Ben Whishaw would be absolutely perfect as Tiago.
I'd like to see Ben Affleck have a shot at Raphael.
Carey Mulligan and Jude Law would convey the physical perfection and mercurial nature of Amelia and Tomas Paul.

What's your favourite romance book that made it to the big screen?
"Possession" by A S Byatt. It wasn't a great adaptation but it's such a good story and the last five minutes are overwhelming.
If scripts rather than books qualify then "Shakespeare in Love" is pretty near perfect (Gwynneth Paltrow again...but Rupert Everett steals the show as Kit Marlowe.)

What were the last two books you read?
The last two I finished were the play "The White Devil" by John Webster and "Being Someone" by my Urbane stablemate Ade Harvey.
I always read two books at once. At the moment they are "The Maltese Falcon' by Dashiell Hammett and "Lucia Victrix" by the immortal EF Benson.

Name one female author you think deserves to be better known.
Barbara Pym.

Where do you write?

Anywhere I can find the time. I particularly enjoy writing potty-mouthed dialogue and steamy love scenes on busy trains or planes.

Tell us a random fact about yourself.
I'm a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Who would play you in the movie about your life?
Jodie Foster.

Tell us an interesting fact about where you live.

We have Emperor Dragonflies in our pond. The males are electric blue with a 4 inch wingspan and they're capable of astonishing aerobatics. I get very little writing done on hot summer afternoons - I just sit there like a spaniel, watching them.

What are your (writing) plans for the future?
My plan has been to publish the other two books in the Spiral Wound trilogy - "These Modern Girls" and "The Commodity Fetish" by 2018. But I'm getting very attached to the Spiral Wound characters so I know now I won't stop there.

Tell us one thing that's on your bucket list.
Spending an entire spring and summer doing the Grand Tour of European classical music festivals would be pretty close to heaven.

Name one of your all time favourite songs.
Hard to beat "Your Love is Lifting Me Higher" by Jackie Wilson.

What do you listen to whilst writing?
Mostly I prefer silence but I listen to Baroque counter tenor arias when I'm working on epic love scenes, or episodes in which my characters are dreaming of higher things, or reflecting on personal tragedy.
The great Greg Mosse says that when a book becomes a film, the camera becomes the narrator, and the musical soundtrack reflects the tone of the narration and tells the viewer "This is a farce" or "This is a tragedy" (think about the opening scenes of the movie "Fargo") - so I suppose I've reverse-engineered that by using music to inspire narrative style.

Who (or what) did you want to be when you were a kid?
A scientist in a white coat.

Alcina Faraday is a scientist, businesswoman and stepmother who writes literary fiction about the redeeming power of love and the disturbing possibilities of modern scientific reality. Alcina lives in London and Devon with her engineer husband and a small colony of palmate newts.

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