Hey everyone! I am so excited to be partaking in Clink Street Publishing's 2nd Annual Summer Blogival! All month long you can check out amazing content from other bloggers, as we feature exclusive interviews, reviews and highlight some incredible books! Today, I will be conducting a Q&A session with Clink Street author Joe Treasure, author of the literary fiction novel The Book of Air!
About The Book of Air:
Retreating from an airborne virus with a uniquely unsettling symptom, property developer Jason escapes London for his country estate, where he is forced to negotiate a new way of living with an assortment of fellow survivors.
Far in the future, an isolated community of descendants continue to farm this same estate. Among their most treasured possessions are a few books, including a copy of Jane Eyre, from which they have constructed their hierarchies, rituals and beliefs. When 15-year-old Agnes begins to record the events of her life, she has no idea what consequences will follow. Locked away for her transgressions, she escapes to the urban ruins and a kind of freedom, but must decide where her future lies.
These two stories interweave, illuminating each other in unexpected ways and offering long vistas of loss, regeneration and wonder.
The Book of Air is a story of survival, the shaping of memory and the enduring impulse to find meaning in a turbulent world.
*synopsis taken from Goodreads
1. In the Book of Air, Agnes’ society is constructed based on Jane Eyre. This is such an unique concept! Why did you choose that specific book, and what does it mean to you?
I do love that book. But I also love the idea of people reading it in a completely different way from me, not even understanding that it’s a work of fiction designed for pleasure, but scrutinizing it for guidance on how to live. At the same time, I thought these villagers living a very basic life in the future would be baffled by most fiction, but would understand Jane’s world. Rochester’s mad wife is locked in a room in the house. When Jane runs away from Rochester’s house she nearly starves to death on the moor. These things would make sense to them.
2. Besides Jane Eyre, what would be your “Book of Air,” a book you would base your rituals and beliefs on?
Luckily I don’t have to choose, because I’m fortunate enough to live in a society that doesn’t put limits on what I can read. But if I had to, and if it was going to be a novel, I’d go for something that more broadly and more consciously considers the values people should live by, such as Middlemarch.
3. Post-plague/apocalyptic societies are very popular settings for books nowadays. Why did you choose this setting for your novel and what themes did you want to present?
When I write fiction, I don’t always know why I make decisions of this kind. Themes emerge often without my conscious control. Taking a leap into the future allowed me an extra dimension of freedom as a story-teller. I wanted to imagine a society organized differently from ours, living by very different rules. I can see, now that the book is finished, that I was interested in people’s ability to give their lives meaning even in the darkest circumstances, in the impulse to create communities, and in what makes a community a source of harm or of healing.
4. Who would you rather be, Jason, a survivor with memories of past life, or Agnes, born after and living in a world where The Book of Air is all she knows?
I’m so much closer to Jason in age and life experience than I am to Agnes. And it’s hard to imagine myself growing up in Agnes’s world. On the other hand, Jason experiences almost unbearable losses. For Agnes, because she’s young and has begun to question the certainties that have been instilled in her from birth, life is full of unimagined possibilities. I would have to choose Agnes.
5. What themes or beliefs from Agnes’ world do you think we could use in our world today?
The belief system Agnes shares with the other villagers is strange and unduly restrictive, rooted in a misreading of Jane Eyre. But their ability to live simply is admirable. They live a sustainable life in harmony with their environment. Perhaps that’s something we could learn from.
6. What inspired you to be a writer? I read in your biography that you first excelled in music and arts, and then won a place to read English. Do you think your background in the arts helped you craft words?
I was inspired to write by the pleasure I’ve always found in reading. I’m sure my art and music have helped me, even more than studying English. I’m aware of the music of sentences and paragraphs and of the rhythm of dialogue. Everything I write I read aloud to hear the sound it makes. At the same time I think I’m quite a visual writer. When I’m writing a scene, I like to know where it’s taking place, what the weather is doing, where the light is coming from.
7. Lastly, what advice would you give to other aspiring writers, specifically those who want to go into more literary fiction?
Be ambitious for your writing more than for your career. The vast majority of writers are neglected and overlooked, even those whose books are published. The drive to write for its own sake must come first. Then find people you can trust to share your work with. Other aspiring writers are often best, because they’ll understand what you’re struggling with, and because you can reciprocate. Be open to whatever criticism they offer, however clumsily expressed. You can always ignore it if it doesn’t help, but first ask yourself honestly if it rings true. As long as the criticism is meant to help and not to wound (free-floating hostility being possible in any human interaction) be grateful for it. If you react defensively, your critics will pull back and limit themselves to offering bland encouragement. Above all, keep writing, and follow where the writing wants to go. Don’t limit yourself with conscious preconceptions of what the end product should look like.
Go check out this fabulous book! It will change your perception on how we view our favourite pieces of literature, and how they can influence the world.
About Joe Treasure:
Joe Treasure currently lives in South West London with his wife Leni Wildflower. As an English teacher in Wales, he ran an innovative drama programme, before following Leni across the pond to Los Angeles, an experience that inspired his critically acclaimed debut novel The Male Gaze (published by Picador). His second novel Besotted (also published by Picador) also met with rave reviews.
Website - http://www.joetreasure.com/
Twitter: - https://twitter.com/joetreasThat's it for me! Use the #blogival to check out the other posts going up this month!
Emily @ Paperback Princess