Friday, December 14, 2007

GCC Presents: Eliza Graham and Playing With The Moon

I'm thrilled to present Eliza Graham today and her fabulous-sounding novel, Playing With the Moon. First of all, I'm just enamoured with the plot and concept. Second of all, read below to hear how she got published - what an inspiring story. After two thrwarted attempts, she did things on her own terms, which is just the type of gusto we like around these parts.

Anyhoo, here's a bit more about the novel, which World Book Day just nominated as a "Hidden Gem.":

Shattered by a recent bereavement, Minna and her husband Tom retreat to an isolated village on the Dorset coast, seeking the solitude that will allow them to cope with their loss and rebuild their foundering marriage. Walking on the beach one day, they unearth a human skeleton. It is a discovery which will plunge Minna into a mystery which will consume her for months to come.

The remains are soon identified as those of Private Lew Campbell, a black American GI who, it seems, drowned during a wartime exercise in the area half a century before. Growing increasingly preoccupied with the dead soldier's fate, Minna befriends a melancholy elderly woman, Felix, who lived in the village during the war. As Minna coaxes Felix's story from her, it becomes clear that the old woman knows more about the dead GI than she initially let on.
Here, she answers my usual questions:

1) What's the backstory behind your book?
Some years ago I visited a small village on the south coast of England--Tyneham. Tyneham had been evacuated in 1943 so that Allied troops could use it for D-Day practice. The inhabitants had never been allowed to return. I was spellbound. The village, with its gently decaying houses, cottages, church and manor house, seemed to reach out and pull me to itself.
Then I read--or saw--something about African-American GIs in Britain during WW2 and how many young British women were attracted to them, finding them gentle, humorous and kind boyfriends. My brain started to make connections between this and the fictional coast village I'd started to create in my imagination.

2) It seems that a lot of readers confuse fiction with real life, assuming that a novel must be an autobiography of the author as well. How many elements of your real life are reflected in your book?
I've noticed that very little of my own experience has made it into my books. Perhaps because I've had a fairly settled kind of life (touch wood) I've searched outside for inspiration, finding that I'm drawn to periods of turbulence and upheaval such as war. Although I note that Felix in PLAYING WITH THE MOON is like me in not having enjoyed school and hating hockey!

3) A lot of my blog readers are aspiring or new authors. How did you land your first book deal?
Having been agented for two earlier efforts that didn't sell I was delighted to see that Macmillan had launched a new imprint: Macmillan New Writing, which didn't need you to submit via an agent. You could also send them your ms. by email--extraordinarily modern and convenient for the world of publishing. So I sent of PWTM and a synopsis and four or five months later they got back to me, saying they liked the book in principle but had some editorial suggestions. Once I'd rewritten elements of the book they sent me the contract.

4) I have a serious procrastination problem when it comes to tackling my fiction. What's your routine? How do you dive it? Do you have any rituals or necessary to-dos before or while you write?
A lot of web-surfing and emailing friends occurs before I can start writing. I seem to need to warm up first. Then while I'm writing I keep jumping up and down to make coffee. I have a rebounder (mini trampoline) and sometimes go and have a bounce to get the blood up to my brain again. Or I go for a walk with my dogs.

5) Clearly, your book will be optioned for a multi-million dollar film deal! Who would you cast as the leads, if you were given creative control?
I think Dame Judi Dench for the senior Felix, the woman who lived in the village as a child and knows what really happened the night Private Lew Campbell died. The part of Lew himself is important (though he isn't in the book for much of the time)--he is a young, gorgeous African-American GI. I think I'd need to attend a lot of auditions for Lew. It would mean looking at lots of handsome men and would be tough, but for the sake of the film I'd force myself to do it.


Maddy said...

Thank you. I thoroughly enjoyed that.
Best wishes

Can anyone explain the extra box that seems to have mysteriously appeared on blogger comments? Something with an update thingy?

This is my calling card or link"Whittereronautism"until blogger comments get themselves sorted out.

Eileen said...

This sounds great- I love books with the historical/present mix. And if you need a hand at those auditions you let me know.

Sara Hantz said...

I love the sound of this book. Also loved the story to publication.