ELIZA GRAHAM: THE INSPIRATION OF THE ONE I WAS CAME AFTER GERMAN TV SERIES: HEIMAT
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
Eliza Graham made the big break in the literary world with her most popular novel The One I Was. The book was released last year and very fast found its audience. A serious positive feedback came from the readers (av. 4.4 Amazon stars from 620 plus American reviews) who described the title as “Fascinating novel”, “Mesmerizing and captivating” and “Amazing”.
Our next guest lives in Oxfordshire countryside with her family. She is a pure example how an avid reader may become a successful writer. Let’s welcome at Land of Books Eliza Graham.
– Eliza, what is your book The One I Was about?
– The One I Was is the story of two people in an old country house in England living a kind of lie about who they really are, hiding from the past, which they both have good, but very different, reasons to fear. They come together at the end of the story when one of them, Benny is on his deathbed, and they find the courage to confront the truth about themselves.
– How did you decide to write the story?
– I don’t really know when I decided to tell this story–it seemed to find me as I wrote. I can’t even remember now what it was that set me off this narrative path, but I was inspired by watching the epic German TV series, Heimat.
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– The biggest challenge was trying to control the split narrative so that the two protagonists were equally–hopefully–compelling, and dovetailing their secrets into the story arc so that just enough was given away at each stage.
– Tell us something more about your main characters Rosamond and Benny? Are they close to someone from your real life?
– Benny and Rosamond are not like anyone I know personally, though I was inspired by the many Jewish refugees from Germany and elsewhere in Europe who settled in Britain in the thirties and forties and went into publishing, the media and the arts.
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– It took about 20 months to finish the last draft of The One I Was, whereupon it was published first by Moreton Street Books, a small independent imprint my literary agency set up. Then Lake Union bought rights and republished the book a year later.
– What the readers will find in your novels Restitution and Blitz Kid?
– The One I Was is the fifth of my adult-length novels and very much in the same theme as the others, covering the effects of war and other trauma on families and questions of identity. I have always believed that, to a lesser or greater degree, trauma cascades its way down the generations, even if children and grandchildren don’t know exactly what went we on in the past.
– Who are you (Would you describe yourself with few sentences)?
– As a person I am very private, happier to communicate by written word than in any other way, though I enjoy my friends’ company a lot. Really my books are the most interesting thing about me. Along with seemingly almost every women in Britain of my age, 52, I like reading, walking my dogs, and sitting by the fire with my family and friends and a good bottle of wine.
– What are your writing habits?
– Increasingly I have become less able to work when distracted by too many other things going on in my life, so I have tried to cut out anything else that isn’t writing or family commitments. I keep roughly office hours, but am not necessarily sitting at a desk for the whole day. I move around a lot as I think and try and read widely. What happens at the laptop is only the tip of the iceberg–a lot of the writing is happening in my head.
– Are you satisfied by the sales of your books?
– The One I Was has done so well with Lake Union and I am delighted with sales, and with the fact that I have reached more readers around the world.
– What are you doing to promote your book by the best possible way?
– I do very little promotion personally–Lake Union and Amazon have taken care of that side of things. I do go out and about and meet readers groups, library groups, and take part in literary festivals. I am not sure whether those things sell many books at all–my experience is that they don’t–but it’s all part of the conversation between readers and writers and worth doing for its own sake. I am not entirely convinced that social media promotion sells many books either, but again, there are other very good reasons for communicating with people about books and writing.
– When we will see your next novel and would you unveil something more about it?
– My next book is probably due out in autumn 2016. It is about a family dealing with terrorism and the way guilt can trickle down from parent to child. It starts with an IRA bomb going off in an English city a few weeks before the Second World War starts.
– What were your expectations for your writing career back in time when you started to write Playing with the Moon?
– When I started writing Playing with the Moon the publishing landscape was utterly different. I remember wondering what ‘electronic’ versions were when I saw them mentioned on my very first contract, back about ten years ago. I never thought that e-books would have anything to do with me, and it’s ironic because by far most of my sales come from that format. Fortunately my naïveté when I started writing probably protected me from being as worried about the pitfalls of a writing career as I ought to have been. I have become more savvy, though, as I am partly responsible for our family finances. I do believe, though, that it all starts with the words you write–get those right, bleed over them, constantly try and improve them. Read a lot, all kinds of books. Watch films.
– If you may ask yourself one question in the interview what it will be? (Don’t forget to answer)
– Q: What are you reading? A: I am reading SILK ROADS by Peter Frankopan, about the rise and fall of empires along the Silk Road from ancient times up until today. It is fascinating and I am telling everyone about it.