Book club webchat with Rose Tremain
Set among the hills and gorges of southern France, Trespass is a thrilling novel about disputed territory, sibling love and devastating revenge.
makemineamojito: How did you plan Trespass? Obviously, the first chapter demonstrates that you knew how one of the main threads of the story would proceed, but was the rest of the story clearly mapped out from the start? And if so, did you find that anything changed as you wrote, or did you stick to your plan?
Rose Tremain : One or two things changed as the book went on, but mainly I followed the plan. What was hard was matching the internal experience of the characters to the outward happenings in a way that made them totally real for the reader.
DontWorryBaby: I think it's very clever the way the theme is linked into the different storylines. I'd like to know how you develop the different storylines and maintain the trespass theme?
The storylines were all interlinked - in a very complex way - from the start. What, in fact, I didn't have, was the title, as this came later on. But then, when I 'found' the title, it seemed to offer me many many meanings, the first of which is death's trespass on life and the second is the newcomers' trespass on the land and the third is the terrible trespass of Aramon and Serge upon Audrun. So, in a sense, the title made the book's themes clearer.
atrociouscook: A fabulous book, full of suspense. Did the car get burnt in the fire? Why didn't the police investigate the remains? What a horrible collection of characters - all so ugly, except perhaps for Veronica but beautifully drawn.
Interesting that you found the characters 'horrible'. To me, of course, they weren't that at all, but just flawed and trying to come to terms with the last bit of their lives. So I tried to treat them with compassion. As to the car, this would have been taken away by the police long before the fire arrives. And the remains: I don't give you this scene, but by these would have been investigated after Veronica idnetifies the body.
Wheelybug: There is a common theme in the book regarding relationships with mothers/sisters, which is all slightly sinister. Hopefully, it's not something you've experienced yourself, so how did you come up with the idea and how did you research it? Also, in your mind, what became of the characters?
RoseTremain: My own mother had a selfish side. The scene in Trespass where Anthony's mother, Lal, gets zippered into her bathing costume and his birthday is ruined happened to me on my 10th birthday in much this way. I think the outcome for the characters is a little uncertain, but paradoxically the murder has set them free. Veronica will move back to England and create a beautiful new garden, and Audrun will be quieter in her soul after her accomplished revenge.
MayorNaze did: Did Audrun really find peace in the end? Was the apology what she wanted or the fact that she had 'got rid' of her brother? Did she see her brother as a victim, too?
Rose Tremain : I think she gets as near to finding peace as she ever will. She's alone in the land she loves. The punishment of Aramon is complete and she has had the revenge she dreamed of.
atrociouscook: It became a bit of a detective story towards the end and when I realised this I started to look for clues so kind of knew that it was going to be the little girl who would find Anthony. Did you mean it to be a bit of a thriller in this way?
RoseTremain: I think it's 'a bit of a detective story' right from the get-go, isn't it? Surely the scream uttered by Melodie echoes right through the book, long before we 'see' the crime. But yes, I wanted this atmosphere of terror to be present at the beginning and then to grow and grow. But of course the plotting got very very complicated and actually made me ill for a while!
Elly68 I love the book and couldn't put it down. One question though: as a writer, do you take from your own past experiences, for example, was Lal similar to your own mother? The bathing suit story you refer to. Do you ever feel exposed to bring in real-life experiences as you may not want your readers to know such personal things about you.
RoseTremain:Good question. But it's very, very rare for me to use my own biography at all, so questions of exposure don't really come up. With the bathing suit thing, I began to write the scene differently, but then it occurred to me that the 'real' thing had so much more power in my mind that I decided to use it. (However, if my mother had still been alive, I wouldn't have used it. People say 'Beware a writer in the family!" and they're right to be afraid.)
JosieMumsnet: I really enjoyed Trespass and The Road Home - I feel like I've really lived through the books, they're so evocative of people and places. I really want to go to France now. I particularly liked the tender moment with the teacher and Melodie at the end of Trespass. Amazing sense of death/the unknown threatening the whole time, through the first scene, Kitty, Anthony, Audrun. I wanted to know more about how you knew so much about the Cevennes, did you grow up there or just visit a lot? Was there a bit of yourself in Melodie - are you a city dweller out of your comfort zone there, or is it a liberating escape?
RoseTremain: Hope you get to France and enjoy and don't get lost in the high corniches of the Cevennes! I've known the region for a long while. On my second honeymoon, our car was broken into where we'd parked on a high mountain road and all our things taken - including such small bits of jewellery as I owned at the time, including my engagement ring. So from then on, the Cevennes has always had a kind of sinister undertone in my consciousness. Thus, it struck me as a very fruitful place in which to set a tense story.
I think there is a little bit of myself in Melodie. When I was 10 my parents divorced and we went to live in the country. I'd been very happy in London at my school and with lots of friends and then I lost them all and lost my father at one go. But, of course, kids adjust in the end. I think Melodie, helped by Jeanne, will be OK in time.
Wheelybug: I have never read any other of your books but mean to rectify this now. Which would you recommend reading next?
I think you should read Restoration (which I wrote 20 years ago but which is still widely read) next, as - wait for it - I'm about to write the sequel and you'll be lost if you don't know Book One.
JohnPearceLadle: My husband and I loved the stage version of Restoration and hope it comes to London. We both wonder if you are, indeed, now writing about Merivel 20 years on, and if so, is it proving as exciting to write as Restoration must have been?
Alas, no, I don't think the stage Restoration will make it to London. But yes, I am about to start on the sequel (see my last answer) I'm still at the research stage of the book, but hope to get going very soon. Merivel and the King are, of course, 20 years older and all the shine has gone off the reign and the country is coping with the kind of recession we are having right now! Will Merivel survive it?
Kittyfoyle : I am a Londoner who moved to Norfolk last year. Are there any places in Norfolk you find particularly inspirational when you need to think?
Rose Tremain: I like to walk on Winterton beach, where sometimes you see seals basking in the surf. But I guess I work most serenely from my own study, which has a sloping view of a garden and I feel happy in its green quietness.
Amiable Rose: I loved The Road Home, and have read some of your other books since then, and the thing I find fascinating is the range of subjects you write about, different periods of history etc. What inspires you to write about a particular topic? Also, are there any of your books/stories that in hindsight you would have written differently, and if so, why?
Rose Tremain : I think, from the start of my writing career, I've always been interested to write about people and places which are in some way beyond my own experience. I try never to go to the same place twice. But it's always mysterious how and why a subject suggests itself. Indeed very hard to analyse. I think, with Trespass, I'd had the feeling that the Cevennes region of France would make a fine setting for a story, but that story only started to arrive in 2008. And here, what I saw early on was that this story would be about a man trying to rebuild his life in a place he couldn't understand. Re hindsight, I can see great flaws in all my early novels, but they have to be left as they are: they were the best I could do at the time!
Guacamole: I love the intimate snap shots of the Writer's Room on The Book Show and am always fascinated by the tiny traditions writers seem to have, for example Tracey Chevalier redecorates her writing room before every novel, I think it was Esther Freud who buys 10 identical notebooks before embarking on a new novel, another writer whose name escapes me fills her room with items that will help with inspiration... Maps of ancient Greece, Statues, Paintings etc... Someone else wrote in bed! Do you have any traditions or rules you'd care to share?
RoseTremain: Funny you should ask this - I'm about to let Sky Books into my study and take them on a guided tour of its chaos. I love the idea of a redecoration before each book, but no, my room has been more or less the same for ages, with some lovely birds on the wallpaper, who soothe me when I'm in a stuck phase.
I don't have any rules, except to try to work a bit every day - and that may or may not include weekends. A novel needs a day-by-day momentum and leaving it for long periods of time always makes restarting difficult.
Calypso I read The Way I Found You years ago and loved it and then just finished Trespass. You have a remarkable capacity to get into the mind of characters of such diverse age groups - young boys and girls through to old men. Do you do much research into your characters, are they based on people/relationships you know?
RoseTremain: I think my characters are a strange amalgam of people I know and pure invention. But you know, far from being afraid of seeing themselves in books, many people rather hope to be immortalised in fiction.
OliviaMumsnet: What is the best thing about being a writer? And the worst?
The worst is worrying that your life as a writer is about to come to a terrifying end because you run out of ideas! But the best is everything, really. The ability that writers have to live their lives twice over, once in real time and once in fictional time. And with so many people feeling gently bored by their lives, I realise that I'm rather lucky, because when I'm working, I'm never bored. I may be angry with myself that the work isn't going better, but I'm always consoled by the fact that I'm doing work I feel passionate about.
sophable: I am a massive fan of your work, from Music and Silence, through Restoration right up to The Road Home. I think The Colour and Music and Silence are my favourites, although I've loved them all. When did you know that you were going to be a writer? Was it when you were first published, or did you know it in your bones from childhood. Thank you so much for all the pleasure and escape you've afforded me through your books.
What a lovely post! Thanks for that. I think I knew from about the age of 10 that I wanted to be a writer. My sister was a very good artist and as kids we used to make our own books, with Jo (my sis) doing the illustrations and me writing the text. But the sad thing is, these books were all lost when my mother moved house.
RoseTremain : Sorry we've run out of time. I've really enjoyed answering the questions and apologies to those whose questions I didn't get to.