Quite a few years ago, a friend of mine told me about an author called Lisa Jewell. He said I’d love her books and lent me one to read. I raced through it and happily tripped off to the bookshop to buy more! Since then I’ve read everything Lisa has written and in my opinion her books just keep getting better, so you can imagine my excitement when I was offered the chance to send Lisa some questions and to be part of her blog tour for the paperback release of Before I Met You. Please give Lisa a warm welcome to the blog and do check out the other stops on the tour!
I absolutely loved Before I Met You but for readers who haven’t come across it yet, please could you sum it up in a sentence?
Oh I’m terrible at summing things up. Could it be two sentences? Before I Met You is the story of two women living during two very different eras, the 1990′s and the 1920’s. Betty comes to London to track down the beneficiary of her grandmother’s will and in doing so uncovers the secret heartbreak her grandmother never told anyone about.
The book is set in London in the 1920s and 1990s; why did you choose these two particular time periods?
Well, I chose the 90’s because I wanted to write a grimy Soho love story about a small town girl falling in love with a pop star and 1995 seemed for some reason to be quite the perfect setting for that. I didn’t decide to write about Arlette’s history until quite a long way into the book and the fact that she would have been twenty-two in 1919 was quite a wonderful fluke. I’d never before had any kind of yearning to write about the 20′s but the opportunity kind of fell into my lap.
This is the first time you’ve included an element of historical fiction in your writing; how did your writing process differ and is it something you’d like to write more of?
The only difference between writing in a historical setting and a contemporary setting was that I had to keep checking facts as I went along; what kind of buses were there? How were telegrams laid out? Had the Marcel wave been invented in 1920? Who was the most famous film star of the day? But apart from that, no, I wrote Arlette’s chapters the same way I write all my chapters. I wouldn’t set out deliberately to write another historical novel, this one did just kind of happen to me. But equally I wouldn’t rule it out either, if it felt right at the time.
Your descriptions of 1920s London and the Jazz scene are very evocative; how did you go about your research and what was the most unusual fact you found?
I did all my research on Google. The quirkiest fact I uncovered was that hundreds of double-decker London buses had been requisitioned for troop transportation during the First World War and completely stripped back and rebuilt to look like tanks and battleships. After the war ended a lot of these peculiar bastardised buses were put back to use on London routes! Imagine this one hurtling down Regent Street!
If you could time travel to any time and place, where and when would you go?
I would love to go back to the early fifties, Middle America. I’d love to have been driven to high school in one of those enormous cars with fins and bench seating and all my friends sitting perched on the back, then off to a burger bar after school to drink malt shakes in a circle skirt and red lipstick.
Betty was my favourite character in Before I Met You because her move to 90s Soho reminded me a lot of when I first moved to London. Who was your favourite character to write and why?
Sometimes when I write multiple perspective narratives I do have favourites, but that wasn’t the case with my previous book, the Making of Us and neither was it the case with this one. I loved writing both girls equally, they were both discovering life after a rather late blossoming and they were both living in my favourite city in the world.
Finally … your next novel, The House we Grew Up In is out in July. Please could you tell us a little about it?
It’s a family saga set in the Cotswolds. It tells the story of the Lorelei Bird and her four children and husband and how their idyllic family life is torn apart by a terrible tragedy one Easter Sunday. The family never really recover from this; they become estranged from each other and Lorelei becomes a compulsive hoarder. The book opens just after Lorelei’s tragic death when Megan, her eldest daughter, returns to the family home after many years to dismantle the hoard and to try and work out what really happened on that Easter Sunday all those years earlier.
Many thanks Lisa – I can’t wait to read the new book!
Before I Met You is out now in paperback and ebook formats.
The House we Grew Up In is released on 18th July.
Find out more about Lisa and her books on her website at: http://www.lisa-jewell.co.uk/
Follow Lisa on Twitter @lisajewelluk