The Qwillery | category: Penguin Books


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Martine Fournier Watson, author of The Dream Peddler

Please welcome Martine Fournier Watson to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Dream Peddler was published on April 9, 2019 by Penguin Books.

Interview with Martine Fournier Watson, author of The Dream Peddler

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

Martine:  I love this question, because I remember it so distinctly! I wrote my very first short story when I was in first grade, which is funny because I had only just learned to read and write earlier that year. Our teacher posted a list of title ideas for stories we might like to write. It wasn’t part of our curriculum, just suggestions she thought could inspire us, and I decided to write the story called The Magic Mittens. As my first literary effort, it was only about fifteen sentences long, or two double-spaced wide-ruled pages in my big round beginner printing, but it was also my first literary moment—I was named Author of the Month in our elementary school and asked to read my story aloud at one of our weekly assemblies. I was very proud!

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Martine:  Pantser all the way. I’ve now written two books this way, and I can’t imagine trying to plot things first. What I love most about writing a novel is the process of discovery. Not knowing exactly what the characters will do or where it’s going to go fuels my writing in a way that I can’t imagine giving up by plotting first.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Martine:  It’s definitely the editing. When I’m drafting, I just let myself go. I’m often aware that something isn’t good enough (or downright terrible), and I’ll just leave myself little notes about fixing things as I go so I can maintain momentum. When it’s time to go back in for editing, the very idea of momentum goes out the window. Because of my quick drafting, I’ve usually left myself quite a mess to deal with, and it’s just incredibly slow and painstaking. I do enjoy it once I’m in it, but it’s a methodical, deliberate kind of work, so different from the feeling of flying I can get during the draft process. I actually dread it so much that I find myself procrastinating to avoid opening my document. I get nervous butterflies in my stomach when I contemplate going into my book to tackle that job, and even after all these years I haven’t been able to shake that—I just have to overcome it and dive in.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Martine:  Apart from authors I love, I think what influences me most is the fact that I’m such a visual person. I’m always describing the world of my characters, especially the natural world, and I’m always trying to come up with a new way to capture the things I see around me with language. I’ve been doing that since my early teens, and earning a BFA in drawing and painting further cemented that way of thinking in my brain. I look first. Hearing, smelling, tasting and touching are all secondary. I pay attention to that when I’m editing—otherwise I’m afraid I’d be neglecting the other senses completely.

TQDescribe The Dream Peddler using only 5 words.

Martine:  Buying dreams leads to trouble.

TQTell us something about The Dream Peddler that is not found in the book description.

Martine:  Despite its title, only four dreams in this book are described in any detail, and only two of those are actually concocted by the dream peddler.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Dream Peddler?

Martine:  I grew up on the stories of L. M. Montgomery, and have read and reread the adventures of her beloved Anne of Green Gables many times. But one of Montgomery’s lesser-known heroines, Emily of New Moon, was really my favorite. So I hope dear old Lucy Maude will forgive me for stealing her idea.

Emily has plans to be a writer, and in the third installment of Montgomery’s trilogy, reference is made to Emily’s very first novel, a book called A Seller of Dreams. However, this book is never published. After a few rejections, Emily gives the book to a trusted friend to read, and because he is jealous of the book, he tells her it’s not good enough. Heartbroken, Emily burns it.

For some reason, this destroyed book haunted my imagination. The reader is never given any insight as to what it may have been about, except that it was some kind of contemporary fairytale. It was a book I always wanted to write myself, if only to satisfy my own curiosity about what shape such a story might take.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Dream Peddler?

Martine:  The research was basically in two parts. The book takes place in a small farming town in the early years of the twentieth century, so I needed to make sure I knew a fair bit about the seasons of farming, what the characters would have been planting and harvesting at what times. I had a general idea of this, but I used Days on The Family Farm by Carrie A. Meyer as a reference to make sure I had the details right.

The other research I did surrounded the history of dreams, including how our attitude toward them has changed over time, and how they’re used and interpreted in the King James Bible upon which my townspeople would have based their faith. I learned a lot from Robert L. Van de Castle’s Our Dreaming Mind, which covers everything from consulting oracles about dreams in ancient times, all the way up to experiments with dreaming conducted in modern laboratory settings. I won’t go into details, but it was interesting to discover that some of the liberties I believed I was taking with the way dreams work are actually quite plausible.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Dream Peddler.

Martine:  In my book, the dream peddler mixes dreams together like a liquid medicine or tincture and gives them to the buyer in a small glass vial stoppered with cork. The cover of the book is really about capturing that—a large bottle superimposed over a landscape that represents the unnamed farming town. The title and my name appear on the bottle like a label, and the gradation of pink to dark purple used for the liquid recall two different dreams described in the book: a pink dream about love, and an inky-dark nightmare. Through the very top of the bottle, the dream peddler’s silhouette is walking. I love how he appears to be striding, one hand in his pocket, right over the surface of the liquid, as if walking on water. The whole thing so perfectly evokes his ambiguous role as conman/magic healer.

TQIn The Dream Peddler who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Martine:  The hardest was definitely the dream peddler himself, Robert Owens. He is necessarily mysterious, and yet I had to give the reader enough of his thoughts and feelings to keep them engaged and interested in him. This turned out to be a really tough fine line to walk—I knew him so well, but most of his backstory is only revealed near the end of the book, and I could only hint at it. My editor definitely had to prod me to let the reader into his mind a little more as his relationships with the townspeople evolved. There was only so much one could glean from my subtle clues!

For some reason, I almost always find children easier to write than adults. I think this is just because children are so open. They often haven’t learned to hide the things that make them unique or that could draw negative attention, and bringing that out when I write about them is so much fun. It’s easier to make them interesting as characters. In The Dream Peddler, this character was eight-year-old Ali McBryde, youngest customer of the dream peddler. Ali’s smarts and precociousness were a pleasure to write, and he has a decidedly immoral streak that I enjoyed.

TQWhich question about The Dream Peddler do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Martine:  No one has ever asked me if I had to make any major revisions to the plot for my agent or editor in order to get the book to publication, and I’ve always wanted to talk a little about that, because I did. Asking a writer to make a significant change that doesn’t resonate with them puts them at a serious crossroads—they have to decide if it’s worth making the change, rather than just walking away. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel as if it’s in our hands. Fairly early on in my querying days for this book, I had some interest from an agent, but she wanted me to completely refocus the book in a way that just didn’t feel right. I gave it serious consideration, but I couldn’t do what she wanted, and we parted ways. More than another year went by before I had an offer, but I never regretted that decision.

When my editor asked me to make a major change, though, the situation was quite different. I was no longer being asked by an agent who might not even offer me representation, and there was a book deal in place, money on the table. It had taken me a long time to get there, and I knew there might not be another shot.

It wasn’t so much that making the change felt fundamentally wrong, as it had in the earlier scenario, but that making it would require a lot of tricky maneuvering in order to shuffle the book’s plot without destroying any of the parts that were important to me. I knew if I could accomplish that, it wouldn’t feel as if I had lost anything, but I really sweated some bullets until I finally had solution. I’d been sifting through ideas for days, when I was drifting off to sleep one night and—in that totally cliché scenario—I suddenly sat up in bed, quite certain that I had the answer. I grabbed a notebook and wrote an outline of the changes. The story held.

I always wanted to share that experience because revamping a book, or even a smaller part of a book, can be truly daunting, but coming out on the other side is a really important milestone for a writer. It’s an amazing mental exercise, and even though I never really thought it was necessary, I’m a better writer for having done it.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Dream Peddler.


“She knew he was awake, and she could hear the movement overhead as he rolled one way and then the other. He was like the dream in the sleeping mind of the house.”

“He had tried to sculpt a permanence where there was none, and she realized, in fact, this was her own definition of love.”

TQWhat's next?

Martine:  I’ve been working on a second book for a number of years now, and I recently completed a few rounds of revisions on it and sent it off to my agent. It’s quite different from The Dream Peddler, centering on a friendship between two eighth-graders growing up in the 1980’s. Both have family troubles, yet for most of the book they don’t realize how intimately they’re connected. I’d describe it as a literary coming-of-age story—hopefully the world can still use a few more of those!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Martine:  It’s my great pleasure. Thanks so much for having me!

The Dream Peddler
Penguin Books, April 9, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Martine Fournier Watson, author of The Dream Peddler
“Astonishing . . . Explores the vast underground legacy of our own desires. This is the must-read book of the year.” —Rene Denfeld, bestselling author of The Child Finder

A page-turning debut novel about a traveling salesman and the small town he changes forever, both a thoughtful mediation on grief and a magical exploration of our innermost desires

The dream peddler came to town at the white end of winter, before the thaw . . .

Traveling salesmen like Robert Owens have passed through Evie Dawson’s town before, but none of them offered anything like what he has to sell: dreams, made to order, with satisfaction guaranteed.

Soon after he arrives, the community is shocked by the disappearance of Evie’s young son. The townspeople, shaken by the Dawson family’s tragedy and captivated by Robert’s subversive magic, begin to experiment with his dreams. And Evie, devastated by grief, turns to Robert for a comfort only he can sell her. But the dream peddler’s wares awaken in his customers their most carefully buried desires, and despite all his good intentions, some of them will lead to disaster.

Gorgeously told through the eyes of Evie, Robert, and a broad cast of fully realized characters, The Dream Peddler is an imaginative, moving novel of overcoming loss and reckoning with the longings we keep secret.

About Martine

Interview with Martine Fournier Watson, author of The Dream Peddler
Photo © Mark Bradford
Martine Fournier Watson is originally from Montreal, Canada, where she earned her master’s degree in art history after a year in Chicago as a Fulbright scholar. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband and two children. The Dream Peddler is her first novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @MFournierWatson

Interview with Seth Fried, author of The Municipalists

Please welcome Seth Fried to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Municipalists was published on March 19, 2019 by Penguin Books.

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece that you remember writing?

Seth:  When I was ten I decided I was going to write an epic novel about the Civil War. I’d been working on it for about three days when my mom, who was supportive of the project, asked me if I’d finished it yet. I remember being very offended by the question. Of course my sprawling Civil War novel wasn’t finished yet. Though, to be fair, I ended up abandoning the project later that same week.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Seth:  Up until recently I’ve been very much a pantser. Though coming out of this project I’ve started to incorporate some elements into my process that probably make me more of a hybrid. For a project that’s as plot-driven as this I think it can be helpful to write a scenario before a chapter. That’s where you basically write a summary of what will happen within the chapter. I feel like that’s a nice compromise between outlining and winging it. Enough is left out of the summary that there are still lots of opportunities for discovery in the draft. But the summary also acts as a compass, keeping me from the sort of organic digressions and missteps that I would eventually have to cut anyway.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Were the challenges different while writing a novel than while writing a short story?

Seth:  My short answer is just that it’s all pretty tough. But I’ve always loved this quote from Thomas Mann, “A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” It makes me feel okay about the fact that pretty much every aspect of writing can be perennially intimidating. A lot of aspiring writers assume that feeling is because they’re doing something wrong, but really I think it’s a pretty natural result of the fact that the work is important to you and that you’re expecting a lot out of yourself.

The specific challenges involved in moving from short stories to a novel were unique in that my short stories were what would probably be called experimental, whereas this novel is (though weird in content) pretty traditional in terms of storytelling. It was difficult not being able to rely on the idiosyncratic skill set I’d developed as a short story writer, but also a lot of fun to give myself permission to explore character, scene, plot, and all that fun stuff.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Seth:  Something that’s had a big impact on me is the notion of lightness in literature that’s explored by Italo Calvino in his book Six Memos for the Next Millennium. Calvino furthers the notion that, although many associate lightness with frivolity, there is also such a thing as a lightness of substance. That’s something that’s evident in his stories and novels. They’re all light and playful, but incredibly substantial. That idea has really informed my values as a writer. I want the strength of my books to derive from a thoughtful lightness. In this book I’ve framed my very serious thoughts, hopes, and concerns about modern cities into a brisk adventure that I hope will be as fun as it is meaningful.

TQDescribe The Municipalists using only 5 words.

Seth:  PG Wodehouse meets Jane Jacobs.

TQTell us something about The Municipalists that is not found in the book description.

Seth:  It has an awesome book trailer:

The Municipalists | Book trailer from Julia Mehoke on Vimeo.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Municipalists?

Seth:  I lived in Ohio for most of my life, then moved to NYC in my late twenties. Writing a book about cities was a way for me to process that culture shock and explore my curiosity about the new world in which I found myself.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Municipalists?

Seth:  I got to read lots of great books about urban planning and infrastructure. Some of my favorites were The Death and Life of Great American Cities by the aforementioned Jane Jacobs. I also really enjoyed digging into the writing of Edward Glaeser, Richard Florida, and Kate Ascher.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Municipalists.

Seth:  The cover was illustrated by an artist named Matthew Taylor ( It was designed by Elizabeth Yaffe. They’re both geniuses and I love this cover. It depicts our two heroes, Henry and his AI partner OWEN, walking down the streets of the great city of Metropolis, where the majority of the novel takes place.

TQIn The Municipalists who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Seth:  Henry and OWEN were easy to write. The tension between them and their burgeoning friendship felt very real to me and was fun to watch unfold. I think the hardest to write was probably Sarah Laury, since she and I are different from one another in a lot of respects. When you find yourself in a situation like that, I think it’s important to seek out some commonality between you and the character and build out from there. Later, when you’re revising, you should listen closely to your privileged readers and/or sensitivity readers to make sure you’re doing that character justice.

TQDoes The Municipalists touch on any social issues?

Seth:  It does! It deals with what’s great about cities, but also things like gentrification, inequality, and class conflict.

TQWhich question about The Municipalists do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Seth:  Great question! No one has asked if the book contains a series of subtle clues leading to an actual hidden treasure in southern France that was once guarded by the Knights Templar. The book, in fact, does not contain a series of subtle clues leading to an actual hidden treasure in southern France that was once guarded by the Knights Templar, but it would still be nice to be asked.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Municipalists.


OWEN unsheathed the katana and raised it over his head before letting out a blood-curdling howl. He kept the sword overhead for a moment, observing Biggs for any sign that his resolve had weakened. When Biggs only looked confused, OWEN frowned and put the sword away again.

TQWhat's next?

Seth:  I’m currently finishing up a collection of short stories and am in the middle of working on the next novel. If you’d like to check out what my stories are like, some of them can be found here:

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Seth:  Thank you!

The Municipalists
Penguin Book, March 19, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 272 pages

A novel about an unlikely pair of lonely outsiders–one human, one AI–on an adventure to save the great American city of Metropolis written by “one of the most exciting new voices in fiction” (Charles Yu)

*Named Library’s Journal‘s “Debut of the Month” and one of NYLON‘s “50 Books You’ll Want to Read in 2019″*

In Metropolis, the gleaming city of tomorrow, the dream of the great American city has been achieved. But all that is about to change, unless a neurotic, rule-following bureaucrat and an irreverent, freewheeling artificial intelligence can save the city from a mysterious terrorist plot that threatens its very existence.

Henry Thompson has dedicated his life to improving America’s infrastructure as a proud employee of the United States Municipal Survey. So when the agency comes under attack, he dutifully accepts his unexpected mission to visit Metropolis looking for answers. But his plans to investigate quietly, quickly, and carefully are interrupted by his new partner: a day-drinking know-it-all named OWEN, who also turns out to be the projected embodiment of the agency’s supercomputer. Soon, Henry and OWEN are fighting to save not only their own lives and those of the city’s millions of inhabitants, but also the soul of Metropolis. The Municipalists is a thrilling, funny, and touching adventure story, a tour-de-force of imagination that trenchantly explores our relationships to the cities around us and the technologies guiding us into the future.

About Seth

Photo by Julia Mehoke
Seth Fried is a fiction and humor writer. He is the author of the novel The Municipalists (Penguin Books) and the short story collection The Great Frustration (Soft Skull Press). He is a recurring contributor to The New Yorker’s “Shouts and Murmurs” and NPR’s “Selected Shorts.” His stories have appeared in Tin House, One Story, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, The Kenyon Review, Vice, and many others.

Website  ~  Twitter @Seth_Fried

Interview with Laura Purcell, author of The Silent Companions

Please welcome Laura Purcell to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Silent Companions was published on March 6th by Penguin Books.

Interview with Laura Purcell, author of The Silent Companions

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

Laura:  The first piece of fiction I remember writing was at school when I was about five years old. We had to write and illustrate our own little books (held together by staples). Mine was about a sentient boiled sweet named Mikey. I still have it and it makes absolutely no sense.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Laura:  A hybrid, I think. I like to plot a novel out quite thoroughly before starting, but things often change. As I get more of a sense of the main character, they take on a life of their own and decide to perform different actions…

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Laura:  Keeping belief in myself and the novel. Around the 25,000 word mark of the first draft, I tend to hit a barrier where I think it’s all terrible and I’ll never be able to finish it. Luckily, I’m used to this now and know it’s just part of the process. Still, it’s hard to push through.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Laura:  This is always a difficult question, because the answer is simply everything. My favourite books and TV shows, my love of history, exhibitions I have seen, places I have visited. The Silent Companions was heavily influenced by my enjoyment of the works of Susan Hill, Shirley Jackson, Daphne Du Maurier and Philippa Gregory.

TQDescribe The Silent Companions in 140 characters or less.

Laura:  Old paintings can often be creepy, but this time it’s not just the eyes that follow you …

TQTell us something about The Silent Companions that is not found in the book description.

Laura:  Part of the story follows Anne, the original mistress of the house in 1635. A keen herbalist, Anne treads the fine line between wise-woman and witch, suspected by the local villagers and her husband alike.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Silent Companions? What appealed to you about writing a Victorian ghost story?

Laura:  The discovery of real life silent companions – wooden fire-screens painted to depict people – made me feel they deserved a novel of their own. I had never written anything scary before, but I found the companions so creepy that I knew I would have to change my tone for this book. While the companions originated in the 17th century, I felt the Victorian era was much more appropriate for a ghost story. It was also a period I had spent time researching. Some of the earliest books I loved were Victorian Gothic – Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in particular. I couldn’t resist venturing back into that world.

TQDo you have any favorite ghost stories?

Laura:  Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black has never failed to chill me, whether in the incarnation of the book, film or stage-show. I also adore Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Silent Companions?

Laura:  I undertook research in both the Victorian and early Stuart periods, along with detailed research into the genre. I read as many ghost stories and Gothic novels as I could, trying to learn from the authors who masterfully conjure a creepy atmosphere. My protagonist Elsie owns a match factory, which led me to Victorian newspaper accounts about the conditions for factory workers. I also spent time consulting original texts from the 17th century about herbal cures to help me with Anne’s storyline.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Silent Companions.

Laura:  The cover features a real-life silent companion owned by The National Trust. This particular screen is of a young girl with a basket of apples and walnuts. She represents the first companion Elsie finds in the house.

TQIn The Silent Companions who was the easiest character to write and why?

Laura:  The hardest and why? I found Anne’s voice came to me very quickly, but this might be because her narrative was written in the first person. I struggled at times with Elsie’s brother Jolyon, who has conflicted feelings towards his sister. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if he was going to be in an indulgent mood or an irritable one.

TQWhich question about The Silent Companions do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Laura:  To be honest, I released in my home country of the UK back in October and I think I have been asked pretty much every question possible in the last six months. But I often find it amusing when people ask if I own a silent companion. I don’t – and if you read the book you will see why I don’t want to!

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Silent Companions.

Laura:  She did not like being alone in this house: she felt it was watching her. Sensing her movements within its walls, as she felt the baby flutter in her belly.

A companion, the sweeper, watches me. Her gaze has become shameful, degrading; as if she knows every secret of my soul.

TQWhat's next?

Laura:  My next book is called The Corset. It’s about a seamstress who believes she has a supernatural power to hurt people with the clothes she makes. I also have a short story, Cameo, coming out in an anthology in the autumn. This is a tale of haunted heirlooms set in the 1920s.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Silent Companions
Penguin Books, March 6, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Laura Purcell, author of The Silent Companions
“If The Silent Companions lands on your night table, don’t plan on leaving your bed anytime soon.” —Lyndsay Faye, bestselling author of Jane Steele

When newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, what greets her is far from the life of wealth and privilege she was expecting . . .

When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But with her husband dead just weeks after their marriage, her new servants resentful, and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure—a silent companion—that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of the estate are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition—that is, until she notices the figure’s eyes following her.

A Victorian ghost story that evokes a most unsettling kind of fear, The Silent Companions is a tale that creeps its way through the consciousness in ways you least expect—much like the companions themselves.

“A perfect read for a winter night . . . An intriguing, nuanced and genuinely eerie slice of Victorian gothic.” —The Guardian

About Laura

Interview with Laura Purcell, author of The Silent Companions
© ph2o Photography
Laura Purcell worked in local government, the financial industry, and a bookshop before becoming a full-time writer. She lives in Colchester, the oldest recorded town in England, with her husband and pet guinea pigs. Fascinated by the darker side of royal history, Laura has also written two historical fiction novels about the Hanoverian dynasty.

Website  ~  Twitter @spookypurcell

Interview with Eleanor Wasserberg, author of Foxlowe

Please welcome Eleanor Wasserberg to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Foxlowe was published on April 4th by Penguin Books.

Interview with Eleanor Wasserberg, author of Foxlowe

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Eleanor:  Thank you for having me! I wrote a lot of stories (and some awful poetry) as a child and started writing seriously in my twenties. I was and am a voracious reader and it just felt natural to explore making my own versions of the fictional worlds and characters I love. I was encouraged by some fantastic teachers which gave me the confidence to think I could do it.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Eleanor:  A hybrid, in that I sketch out reasonably detailed plots on A3, make mind maps in pretty colours, jot down “what if” plot ideas on post it notes and on my phone...then proceed to largely ignore it all!

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Eleanor:  The awful swampy stage where you have the idea and the basics in place and you just have to slog through the “bad writing” part to get a first draft down. I wish I could try to craft beautiful sentences and play with voice and style—the fun part—but I don’t get to do that until the first draft is finished! It’s just how I write and I really envy writers who are able to craft beautifully as they go.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Eleanor:  I’m sure I’m not conscious of all of it; 'Foxlowe' has glimmers of music, memory and people that I’ve drawn on, as well as the more obvious influence of that particular landscape and my interest in group psychology. Writers whose work I admire, of course, like Atwood, Sarah Waters, Nicole Krauss, A.S Byatt, Michael Chabon, Jeffrey Eugenides, Frances Hardinge, the Brontes...I could go on and I’m sure I’ve forgotten loads...all of that reading seeps into my writing too.

TQDescribe Foxlowe in 140 characters or less.

Eleanor:  Crumbling moorland mansion holds dark secrets with chinks of light.

TQTell us something about Foxlowe that is not found in the book description.

Eleanor:  The “double sunset” that forms an important part of the narrative is a real optical illusion that happens in the area where the book is set around the summer solstice—the hill called The Cloud has a double peak and when the sun sets it appears to do so twice when viewed from certain vantage points.

TQWhat inspired you to write Foxlowe?

Eleanor:  A large part of my inspiration was the landscape of the Staffordshire Moorland, where I grew up and where the book is set. I was born near a tiny village called Ipstones and grew up in another little village called Yarnfield, both very close to the moorland, so that landscape has always had a strong hold on my imagination. It’s a wonderfully spooky place, with ancient burial chambers, stone circles and the sites of medieval gibbets. There’s all kinds of local folklore about moorland spirits and ghosts. It just seemed such a rich place to set a story!

TQYour publisher describes Foxlowe as "...a modern gothic novel..." What appeals to you about the gothic and do you have any favorite gothic novels?

Eleanor:  I’m drawn to the strand of gothic that causes the reader to question what is really supernaturally frightening and what is psychological; that for me is so much more terrifying than a straightforward spirit or monster. So ‘The Turn of the Screw’, with its puzzle over whether the governess is truly haunted or mad, ‘Jane Eyre’, and modern gothic such as Sarah Waters’ ‘The Little Stranger’ and Shirley Jackson’s ‘We Have Always Lived In The Castle’ are among my favourites.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Foxlowe?

Eleanor:  I did things backwards, so I plotted out and wrote quite a lot of Foxlowe before I did some background research, then I fed that into the novel and twisted things to fit! I read quite a lot about group psychology (e.g the Milgram and Stanford experiments) and the psychology of superstition, which gave me the image of the shoal, and also the idea for the use of the stories at Foxlowe. I also found some cult survivor narratives; I remember one talking about the “authentic self” and “the cult self”, and that the two are always at war- that gave me the idea of the two names, two selves structure.

TQPlease tell us about Foxlowe's cover.

Eleanor:  The Penguin USA cover was designed by Alison Forner and depicts the house, Foxlowe, from outside the gates, under a dark sky. It is gorgeously gothic- it looks so much like the house in my own imagination, with the huge rusted gates and the glow of a candle in one of the windows. The colours are just right too; it reminds me of the kind of muted dreamscape of memory, which is perfect for the novel. For me it’s a nice nod to the opening of ‘Rebecca’, which was another big influence on ‘Foxlowe’.

TQIn Foxlowe who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Eleanor:  I found Freya easy to write because I’d been working on her for a long time, in various short stories and guises. I knew her voice, back story and how she thinks. Richard was quite difficult because he is so muted and almost blank in Green’s memory that I found I had to work hard to give him some texture.

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Foxlowe?

Eleanor:  Foxlowe isn’t a social issues novel as such but it does pose questions about how society deals with, or fails to deal with, ineffective and weak adults who have a huge impact on the children in their care, and how utterly useless society can be at then helping those children as adults. An early reviewer of Foxlowe, the author Liz Nugent, described the novel as“the story of a girl desperate for motherly love”, which I loved because it’s exactly how I had framed it in my mind, particularly in the second section.

TQWhich question about Foxlowe do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Eleanor:  “Can you explain who Blue really is?”

Blue is Richard’s natural daughter, so she really is Green’s sister. Her mother is a Leaver who is discussed early in the novel; I don’t write her story, but she was young and pretty, and when Richard got her pregnant a jealous Freya kicked her out. Freya then goes to claim the baby, and Richard takes sole custody. I like the idea that Blue has another life outside that she could have led. She was a Leaver before she was even born.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Foxlowe.

Eleanor:  My favourite ones are definitely spoilers, so here are some runners up!

“Wait. I don’t need Freya to tell it. Let me tell you. I remember it and it is my story now.”

“If you placed the things I knew on a kitchen scale, dusty with flour, and placed all their lessons on the other side, then the things I knew would float up and bounce against the ceiling.”

TQWhat's next?

Eleanor:  I’m working on a first draft of a novel called ‘Portrait of Girl in a Red Dress’, based on the real painting that hangs in the National Museum of Poland in Kielce. The painting is of my great great aunt, and the novel is about a fictionalised version of her life and her escape from Krakow in 1939.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Eleanor:  It’s been my pleasure!

Penguin Books, April 4, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Eleanor Wasserberg, author of Foxlowe
An astonishing literary debut about a young girl’s coming of age in the haunting, enchanting world of an English commune—a modern gothic novel with echoes of Room and Never Let Me Go

Foxlowe is a crumbling old house in the moors—a wild, secluded, and magical place. For Green, it is not just home, but everything she knows.

Outside, people live in little square houses, with unhappy families and tedious jobs. At Foxlowe, Green runs free through the hallways and orchards, in the fields and among the Standing Stones. Outside, people are corrupted by money. At Foxlowe, the Family shares everything. Outside, the Bad is everywhere. At Foxlowe, everyone in the Family is safe—as long as they follow Freya’s rules and perform her rituals. But as Green’s little sister, Blue, grows up, she shows more and more interest in the Outside. Before long she starts to talk about becoming a Leaver. . . .

Building inexorably to its terrifying climax, Foxlowe tells a chilling, irresistible story of superstition and survival, betrayal and redemption, and a utopia gone badly wrong.

About Eleanor

Interview with Eleanor Wasserberg, author of Foxlowe
Photo by Armando Celayo
Eleanor Wasserberg holds a BA in English and classics from Oxford and an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia. Foxlowe is her first novel.

Twitter @e_wasserberg

Q&A with Hélène Grémillon

Q&A with Hélène Grémillon

Hello Hélène! You are an internationally acclaimed author whose first novel is The Confidant. For American readers who are just getting to know you, what draws you to the thriller genre? What inspires you as a writer?

In writing, I’m above all interested in suspense and psychological qualities. How do human beings feel ? How do human beings react ? Love, hate… Their qualities, their flaws, and how much all of that is subjective. The Confidant was already based on that pattern. Jealousy was the main feeling I want to develop in The Case of Lisandra P. It carries in its wake cruelty, destructive paranoia, and sorrow for the victim but also in the person who feels jealousy. Jealousy is infernal in nature. In comparison with The Confidant, The Case of Lisandra P. is more in line with the thriller genre: Indeed there’s a corpse! A shrink’s wife is found dead, the shrink is accused of murder, and one of his patients try to prove he is innocent, looking for the real murderer among his others patients. That is the pitch, the impulse which has driven my writing.

The Case of Lisandra P., your current novel, is set in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1987 and the book notes it is based on a true story. How did you get the idea for this book? Did you visit Buenos Aires during your research?

The Case of Lisandra P. begins with “the book is based on a true story” but it’s a kind of a “lie”… The book is not based on a true story, but this sentence won me, I was sure it was the best one to start the novel, the best tone. To put me at ease with my “lie”, my publisher told me “Hélène, the fiction can begin where the author wants…” In a way I agree and I kept it! But no mistake, I didn’t want to mislead my readers, it’s more mysterious. When I’m writing, I hesitate, I doubt, then when something sounds obvious to me I can’t deny it. Nevertheless everything I wrote about the historical context is perfectly true, in each detail, and also the case of Miguel, one of the shrink’s patients.
At the beginning, of course, I had planned to make a trip in Argentine but the more I went on my writing, the more my ideas were definite and bright, the less I wanted to go to Buenos Aires. I was afraid to mix up everything in my mind. I just needed to stay and concentrate behind my writing desk. Then I didn’t go.

Your characters are living in the aftermath of a brutal dictatorship. Their psychological scars run deep. How did you begin to imagine these individuals?

I never went to Argentina but I did read a lot of books about the dictatorship, and I saw a lot of films. Then I invented my characters with this stuff, the real events help me to imagine a lot of situations. With my characters, the first thing I imagined was to put in the novel three plain psychoanalytic sessions, only dialogues, like three drama shows in the heart of the novel.

Your book opens with the untimely death of a beautiful young woman and goes on to explore her marriage to a psychoanalyst. What attracted you to the idea of writing about a marriage after one of the pair dies mysteriously?

My book explores Lisandra’s marriage after she died mysteriously. Love is one of my deep obsessions, this passionate feeling, alienating one, so different for everybody. It is my main source of inspiration. Jubilant and painful.

What do you like to read? Who are some of your favorite mystery/thriller authors?

I love mystery authors, they are my favorite to read. I love classics like Georges Simenon, a prolific French author, Maurice Leblanc, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, I remember even how much I loved the children’s books Alfred Hitchcock wrote, gorgeous. And I have recently read two books I found really good, Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson and The Ice Twins by S.K. Treymane. I had to stop this last one in the night because I was so afraid I had to wait for the sunrise to go on reading… The proof the thriller won!

The Case of Lisandra P.
By Hélène Grémillon
Translated by Alison Anderson
Penguin Books, January 12, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Q&A with Hélène Grémillon
“A cunningly plotted tale that is by turns cerebral, suspenseful—and ultimately shocking.” –Publishers Weekly

A gripping psychological thriller for fans of The Girl on the Train and The Silent Wife about a wife’s secrets, a husband accused of murder, and a marriage gone terribly wrong

Buenos Aires, 1987. When a beautiful young woman named Lisandra is found dead at the foot of a six-story building, her husband, a psychoanalyst, is immediately arrested for her murder. Convinced of Vittorio’s innocence, one of his patients, Eva Maria, is drawn into the investigation seemingly by chance. As she combs through secret recordings of Vittorio’s therapy sessions in search of the killer—could it be the powerful government figure? the jealous woman? the musician who’s lost his reason to live?—Eva Maria must confront her most painful memories, and some of the darkest moments in Argentinian history.

In breathless prose that captures the desperate spinning of a frantic mind, Hélène Grémillon blurs the lines of past and present, personal and political, reality and paranoia in this daring and compulsively readable novel.

About the Author
Hélène Grémillon was born in France in 1977. After obtaining degrees in literature and history, she worked as a journalist at the French newspaper Le Figaro before becoming a full-time writer. Her first novel, The Confidant, was awarded Monaco’s Prince Pierre Literary Prize. She lives in Paris with her partner, singer and songwriter Julien Clerc, and their child.

About the Translator
Alison Anderson is an American writer and translator based in Switzerland. Her translations include J. M. G. Le Clézio’s Onitsha, Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and Hélène Grémillon’s first novel, The Confidant.

Spotlight: The All Souls Real-Time Reading Companion by Deborah Harkness

On Tuesday, November 17th, Penguin is releasing a free, e-book only, real-time reading guide that brings to life the world created by Deborah Harkness in A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night, retracing the events of these two bestselling novels with illuminating behind-the-scenes details and real-life events that figure into the books.

And there is more exciting news! In 2017 The Serpent's Mirror will be published. This novel is set in the All Souls Universe! Read more about The Serpent's Mirror at Deborah's website here.

The All Souls Real-Time Reading Companion
Penguin Books, November 17, 2015
eBook, 60 pages

Spotlight: The All Souls Real-Time Reading Companion by Deborah Harkness
A richly illustrated real-time reading guide that brings to life the world created by Deborah Harkness in A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night, retracing the events of the bestselling novels with illuminating behind-the-scenes details.

A world of witches, vampires, and daemons.
A manuscript that holds the secrets of their past and the key to their future.
Diana and Matthew—the forbidden love at the heart of the adventure.

The All Souls Trilogy began with A Discovery of Witches. It continued with Shadow of Night.

Now, as The Book of Life has brought Deborah Harkness’s #1 New York Times bestselling trilogy to its conclusion, re-immerse yourself in the enchanting fantasy world she has created and enrich your experience of the heart-stopping finale.

All Souls Trilogy Boxed Set
Penguin Books, May 26, 2015
Boxed Set, 1760 pages

Spotlight: The All Souls Real-Time Reading Companion by Deborah Harkness
A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, and The Book of Life, now available in a beautiful boxed set

With more than two million copies sold in the United States, the novels of the number one New York Times–bestselling All Souls Trilogy have landed on all the major bestseller lists, garnered rave reviews, and spellbound legions of loyal fans. Now all three novels are available in an elegantly designed boxed set that’s perfect for fans and newcomers alike.

Spotlight: The Art of Language Invention by David J. Peterson

The Art of Language Invention by conlanger David J. Peterson was published on September 29th by Penguin Books. It's an deeply interesting and detailed look at the creation of language as Peterson discusses Sounds, Words, Evolution and The Written Word and makes this fascinating subject accessible. There are even Phrase Books for Dothraki, High Valyrian, and more.

The Art of Language Invention
     From Horse-Lords to Dark Elves, the Words Behind World-Building
Penguin Books, September 29, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Spotlight: The Art of Language Invention by David J. Peterson
An insider’s tour through the construction of invented languages from the bestselling author and creator of languages for the HBO series Game of Thrones and the Syfy series Defiance

From master language creator David J. Peterson comes a creative guide to language construction for sci-fi and fantasy fans, writers, game creators, and language lovers. Peterson offers a captivating overview of language creation, covering its history from Tolkien’s creations and Klingon to today’s thriving global community of conlangers. He provides the essential tools necessary for inventing and evolving new languages, using examples from a variety of languages including his own creations, punctuated with references to everything from Star Wars to Michael Jackson. Along the way, behind-the-scenes stories lift the curtain on how he built languages like Dothraki for HBO’s Game of Thrones and Shiväisith for Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World, and an included phrasebook will start fans speaking Peterson’s constructed languages. The Art of Language Invention is an inside look at a fascinating culture and an engaging entry into a flourishing art form—and it might be the most fun you’ll ever have with linguistics.

About David

David J. Peterson began creating languages in 2000, received his MA in Linguistics from the University of California, San Diego, in 2005, and cofounded the Language Creation Society in 2007. He has created languages for HBO’s Game of Thrones, Syfy’s Defiance and Dominion, the CW’s Star-Crossed, and Thor: The Dark World. He is also the author of Living Language Dothraki.

Website  ~  Tumblr  ~ Twitter @Dedalvs

All Souls Trilogy Board Game - Penguin Books Upcoming Twitter Giveaway!


Penguin Books will be giving away a total of 10 All Souls Trilogy board games via their Twitter @PenguinPbks over the course of the next two weeks (among other great All Souls prizes). These will be random giveaways taking place on Tuesday 5/26 and Thursday 6/4.

To enter, check the Penguin Books Twitter feed during the mornings (Eastern Time) on those days and be sure to retweet the giveaway post by 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time—Penguin Books be randomly selecting winners around 5 p.m. from among the people who retweet.

All Souls Trilogy Board Game - Penguin Books Upcoming Twitter Giveaway!
Both sides of the game 
(Click to embiggen)

(Click to embiggen)

All Souls Trilogy Board Game - Penguin Books Upcoming Twitter Giveaway!
(Click to embiggen)

Interview with Martine Fournier Watson, author of The Dream PeddlerInterview with Seth Fried, author of The MunicipalistsInterview with Laura Purcell, author of The Silent CompanionsInterview with Eleanor Wasserberg, author of FoxloweQ&A with Hélène GrémillonSpotlight: The All Souls Real-Time Reading Companion by Deborah HarknessSpotlight: The Art of Language Invention by David J. PetersonAll Souls Trilogy Board Game - Penguin Books Upcoming Twitter Giveaway!

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