This week’s guest is Auhor Agnès de Savigny. I will have the opportunity to meet Agnès at Kalicon 2019. This will be her first book signing since publishing her debut novel, Tempt the Ocean.
I hope you find Agnès’ interview informative and interesting.
About Writing/Books/Being an Author
1. Do you remember the first book you read that had an impact on you ‐ in what way and what was the name of that book?
I’m not sure this is the very first, but it’s the first that comes to mind: Charlotte’s Web. It’s probably the first book I read that elicited an overwhelming emotional response from me—in that case, full-on sobs for the title character. I think it represented the moment I understood that a novel has the capacity to go beyond simply telling what happens—that emotional engagement has real power in telling a story.
2. When did you first realize you wanted to write?
Always, I’m pretty sure. At least since I learned to put two words together and understood the capacity of words to create meaning. If you are asking when I realized I wanted to write novels, that’s a different question with multi-stage answers. I think the conviction to follow through on writing in a published format is a process, whereas the desire to write itself is an instinct, a drive.
3. Who is/are your favourite author(s)?
My standing favourite is Kurt Vonnegut. He’s probably the only author whose entire catalogue I’ve consumed. Well, his and Ian Fleming’s, but I don’t think the James Bond books influenced me the way Vonnegut’s did. I love the easy sarcasm of Vonnegut’s prose, and that his hope for humanity seeps through his words, even though intellectually he doesn’t seem to expect much.
4. What is your favourite thing about writing? What is your least favourite thing about writing?
I love losing myself in where I am. It’s almost like watching a movie, and I’m dictating what the characters are doing and how they feel and where they are. I think that’s how the surprises happen!
I don’t like starting. I have horrible blank page syndrome. Then writing feels like work instead of the joy it can be.
5. Where do your ideas come from?
Life, I guess? I can’t point to any one thing, really. They just do—in certain states of mind, atcertain times of the year; sometimes they flood, sometimes they trickle, and sometimes they stop. I’ve gotten some story ideas from dreams I’ve had—the latent germs of a lost moment. Crafting an actual story from ideas is where the challenge begins—and by that, I mean a good challenge.
6. I’ve often found that creative people have more than one talent, what is yours?
My day job is as a set designer for film and television. I studied film and architecture in school. I also grew up playing piano, and I continue to play very rusty guitar and drums. Music and design are a big factor in my writing, I think, in terms of structure and setting.
7. If you could jump inside a book for one day (as an observer) what book would it be?
The Mists of Avalon. I know, given what came out about the author in recent years, that citing this novel might be controversial. But the work itself is so powerful, a tome of Arthurian legend told from the points of view of the women in the story, that it has always held a special place for me. I love the King Arthur legends—could easily say they are my favourite stories—and to have them told from the female perspective was life-changing, especially when reading the book as a young woman. I loved this book and think of it often. But I can’t bring myself to re-read it now, knowing.
8. When you create characters, are they completely made up or do they resemble or remind you of people you know?
They are usually mash-ups. Never specifically one person but based on people I know. Or I’llimagine certain actors playing the roles and go from there. This is particularly true of my leading men. People are so complicated and diverse; it helps to have a starting point.
9. Have you ever created a character “out of thin air” only to run into someone in real life that reminds you of that character either in personality or their features?
No, per above.
10. How do you come up with titles for your books?
Oh… it’s a struggle for me. For Tempt the Ocean I had a page and a half list of optional titles,before narrowing that down to a good pick. I find I use a one-word working title as I’m writing, which keeps me on track, but might trip me up when the time comes to call it something else. I wish I was better at it.
11. What are you working on now and can you tell us about it?
Yes, I can! I have two historical romances at either end of the editing process right now. The first one, out next year, takes place in the mid-1740’s in London and New York and is about two childhood sweethearts torn apart by family, social class, and geography. They hate each other, of course, when they are first reacquainted, but life has other plans for them. I’m really having fun with it, although I’ve made it too long and have to cut a bunch out before I can publish it.
The second, still an early draft, is also a historical romance. Set a bit later in time and in anunspecified country in Europe, it’s inspired by “The Prince and the Pauper,” but the characters who switch places are women. Neither is confident in their new settings, especially when the husband of the royal character falls in love with the woman who is only pretending to be royal. Also having fun with it, as no one is quite who they say they are.
12. Have you won any awards for your writing/books and if so what?
Not… yet? I’ve had good responses to what I’ve published but no awards. Tempt the Ocean is my first published novel.
A Little More Personal
13. What is one thing you haven’t done but would like to do?
Visit Antarctica—if that could be done without leaving an environmental footprint, which maynot be possible anymore. I dreamt I was there once, and the shore was populated not by penguins but by the sesame street alien puppets that say “Yip.” That was awesome.
14. Can you tell us about an embarrassing/funny moment?
Not really… can’t think of anything funny enough, or not too embarrassing to share.
15. Have you ever experienced something weird you could not explain?
I did live in a haunted house once. There were a bunch of people living there and weird stuff was going on—some were convinced the place was haunted, others brushed off the idea as nonsense. But I had experiences, involving moving objects, that were unexplainable. Nothing aggressive. I think the ghost was trying to tell me to quit smoking.
16. Are you superstitious? Do you have any rituals for good luck?
I’m extremely superstitious but have no rituals for good luck.
17. What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten?
I’ve been a vegetarian since I was twenty. I like fake meats, which some find odd. I love coconut bacon. But strangest? I accidentally ordered tripe when I was travelling in France as a kid. I don’t think I ate it. Nor did I eat the cow’s tongue on the same trip.
Basil ice cream—does that count? It was really good. Homemade at a friend’s cottage.
18. Do you have a favourite vacation spot? Where?
As someone who has travelled a lot and wants to keep doing so, that’s a tough one. I took myself on a writing vacation to Mexico one year, to a village on the Pacific coast only reachable by boat, and that had no electricity at that point. I lived in a palapa, watched the whales breach offshore while I brushed my teeth in the morning, and wrote by lantern at night. Just like you can’t go home again, that place is not the same as it once was.
19. Can you tell us about one of your favourite childhood memories?
My friend and I used to hide under the fronds of weeping blackberry bushes that lined theentrance to our neighbourhood park. We would stand inside unseen, picking and eating theberries until sated.
20. What makes you happy?
A lot of sun, apparently. And ice cream. And finishing stuff—which is often difficult. Eatingwith friends. And puppies.
21. If you aren’t writing (or doing anything associated with writing), what are you doing?
I wish I were rolling in a pile of puppies. Let’s leave it at that, knowing that’s probably not it.
22. Have you ever met anyone famous – who?
I met Stephen King while working on something he’d written for television, when he camearound to meet some of the film crew. My boss told him I’d read all his books, which wassomething I’d mentioned to my boss (with the caveat that I’d stopped reading his novels afterleaving high school). But while Stephen King was staring at me following this declaration,waiting for me to speak, I could only think of two things: one, I don’t want to insult the man bytelling him I grew out of his novels; and two: Misery. What I wish I’d said, after shrugging offmy embarrassment with a sheepish hello, was that I’d once read the advice he’d given tosomeone on how to become a writer, that his response was burned into my brain and that I was diligently following his directive. The advice he’d given was this: “Write, write, write.”