I’ve loved both of Kate Lord Brown’s novels and am very excited to be the latest stop on the blog tour for her new release The Perfume Garden. Mine is the only interview on the tour so I’m delighted that Kate agreed to answer my questions. Welcome Kate!
This is a very personal novel, inspired by the years we lived in Spain. In fact, it brings together a lot of the places we’ve lived and loved – London, New York, Valencia. I also wanted to find out about modern Spanish history, to discover why there was this ‘pact of forgetting’ in place about the Civil War. So The Perfume Garden is really inspired by my personal experiences, and years of historical research.
I learned a lot about the Spanish civil war reading The Perfume Garden; why did you feel that this was an important story to tell?
I’m glad! Researching the book was heartbreaking, learning how such a beautiful country literally tore itself apart. It’s very recent history, but so much isn’t talked about still. I was moved by the way that ordinary men and women from across the world joined the International Brigades to fight for democracy against fascism, which is why I chose to focus on them.
Your previous novel The Beauty Chorus was completely set in the past but The Perfume Garden is partly set in the past and partly in the present. Why did you choose to tell the story this way?
I wanted the story to be redemptive – if I had focussed solely on the historical strand, this would have been hard to do because the events were so devastating. I wanted to show that families and people recover, and chose the house as the heart of both stories. Also, as a writer it is a technical challenge weaving together twin time-lines, and I wanted to see if I could do it!
I love perfume, and the best Christmas present I ever had as a child was a perfume making kit. I was forever concocting bottles of ‘scent’ with rose petals and flowers from the garden. In nature I love cut grass, the smell of a bonfire on an autumn day, the smell of gardenia and jasmine … I could go on forever! In terms of perfume, I really love fragrances like Annick Goutal’s Eau du Sud, and Jo Malone’s Orange Blossom or Ginger and Nutmeg.
I loved your descriptions of Valencia; did you spend a lot of time there during your research?
We were lucky enough to live in Valencia for three years, which is when I started writing The Perfume Garden. We went back last year, for me to do some final research, and we showed our daughter where she was born, which was wonderful.
The Perfume Garden looks at war from a number of very personal viewpoints and is often heart-breaking to read. What was the most difficult aspect for you to research and write?
As a mother, learning about the horrific treatment of the women and children in the jails really broke my heart. Writing Rosa’s story, I had a box of Kleenex by the computer.
You have a flair for bringing history alive in your stories but if you could actually visit any time and place, where and when would you choose?
Thank you – I really love the challenge of breathing life into forgotten histories. I would love to be able to visit Paris in the 20s and 30s, and see the legendary artists and writers hanging out in the cafes like the Deux Magots. I loved Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris’ – it was like my dream coming true!
What do you like to read when you’re not writing?
There are always too many books and not enough bookcases in our house. I read really widely – everything from historical texts for research, to contemporary fiction. I really admire writers like James Salter, William Boyd and Sebastian Faulks. I read a lot of poetry too, and it’s a great way to see how to create rhythm in your own work.
And finally, what can we expect next from Kate Lord Brown?
I’ve just finished writing my next book – it’s set in France during WW2, and is filled with all the things I love: a beautiful house, brave and remarkable forgotten heroes, independent, bright female characters, art, jazz, espionage … When I first read about the true story it is inspired by, I just thought: this is incredible, why doesn’t everyone know about this man? I’m very excited about it and look forward to sharing it with you soon.
Thank you Kate.
You can find out more about Kate and her books on her website at: http://www.katelordbrown.com/ and on her book sites at: http://perfumegarden.blogspot.co.uk/ and http://thebeautychorus.blogspot.co.uk/