Author interview: Lissa Evans

13 Nov

I’m delighted to welcome Lissa Evans to One More Page today on the latest stop of the Crooked Heart blog tour. Lissa has written books for both adults and children, including Their Finest Hour and a Half, longlisted for the Orange Prize and Small Change for Stuart, shortlisted for many awards including the Carnegie Medal and the Costa Book Awards.

crooked heartCrooked Heart tells the story of a young boy and the woman he is evacuated to during World War Two; this is your second novel set during the period – what draws you to this particular time?

When I was a teenager, I read a book called ‘How We Lived Then’ by Norman Longmate.  It’s about the home front during the Second World War, and uses the diaries and recollections of civilians to build up a detailed picture of the era.  I re-read it many times.   What fired my imagination was  the idea of ordinary people, trying to live ordinary lives in extraordinary times.   Life was tiring, tough, and makeshift, and people had to adapt to the most enormous changes, almost on a day-to-day basis.  The era still fascinates me.

How did you go about your research for the book and what was the most surprising fact that you uncovered whilst writing?

I’ve written two books set during the Blitz.  The first, ‘Their Finest Hour and a Half’ is about the making of a feature film, and follows the story of a young woman writer, a washed-up old actor, and a seamstress from Madam Tussauds.   I was able to research the background by ferreting around in various libraries –  including the British Film Institute and the Imperial War Museum – and by talking to veterans of the industry.  There were loads of sources and masses to read, and I was really able to immerse myself in the subject.

When it came to ‘Crooked Heart’, however, I was writing about the sort of people who don’t publish diaries, or have their recollections anthologised:  petty crooks and people scrabbling on the breadline,  the marginalised and the anonymous.   My most helpful sources of information were local newspapers,  which revealed snippets from the whole of society.   I spent weeks trawling through the papers, reading about crimes and accidents and celebrations.  The most surprising fact was one that became a key-stone of the book:  large numbers of children from North London were evacuated only as far as St Albans, just twenty-five miles from the centre of the city…

Your main character Noel is ten years old; how did you get into the mindset of a ten year old boy and did you find his character easier or harder to write than Vera’s?

When I was ten years old,  my family moved house, and I had to start again in a new school in a new town in a new region of the country. As a result, I’ve retained a pin-sharp snap-shot of what it was like to be that age – the memory is far clearer to me than that of my subsequent teenage years.  I was a very bookish child,  with a rather elderly outlook and an unwieldy vocabulary, and all these elements meant that Noel was fairly easy for me to write.   Vee, on the other hand, came to me fully-formed, as if she was just waiting for me to get started…

What would you like readers to take away from The Crooked Heart?

I’d like Vee and Noel to stay in the reader’s head, as characters with a life,  and a future.

Although she’s only in the book for a little while I loved Noel’s aunt Mattie who was a suffragette and represents another fab era of history. If you could visit any time or place in history where and when would you go?

Just seeing one particular event or place wouldn’t be enough;   I’d like to take a long journey (on a horse, I think) through pre-industrial Britain – about 1770 would do.

And finally, what can we expect next from Lissa Evans?

A sequel to Crooked Heart!  It’s set about three years after the first book, and I’ve already started researching it….

Thanks Lissa! 

Crooked Heart is out now in Hardback and ebook formats from Transworld.

Please do check out the other stops on the Crooked Heart blog tour:

Crooked heart blog tour poster

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. In the Media: 16th November 2014 | The Writes of Woman - 16th November 2014

    […] Fitzgerald (59) via Hermione Lee’s biography of her on Slate; there are interviews with Lissa Evans (42) on the One More Page blog, Helen DeWitt (43) in BOMB magazine, Meg Rosoff (48) on Rebecca […]

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