I am very excited to have an interview with Kate Veitch, author of Without a Backward Glance, on Barney's Book Blog today. Kate's novel is the book club's June 2009 selection and we are looking forward to discussing Without a Backward Glance with her at our next meeting.
What inspired you to write this book?
I had just ended a twenty-year marriage, over the course of which I'd gradually abandoned all my creative pursuits, so I had quite a head of steam built up to write SOMETHING. The idea of the mother who is stifled by the conservative Australia of the 1960's was very much from life: my own mother. But she didn't leave; she stayed, and drank too much, which is another form of escape. I wanted to show a whole family struggling in their different ways with both their own innate personalities and with a single dramatic event which had more or less locked them in time. And I also wanted very much to impress my boyfriend, who is an editor, and thought if I wrote a decent novel, that might do it. (It worked! Phew!)
The themes of abandonment and forgiveness are prevalent in your novel. How did the use of these themes come about?
Yes, you're right, they do figure strongly. I guess I had thought of these as pretty universal themes: we all know what abandonment feels like, or the fear of it, don't we? And have all experienced the need to forgive, or the wish to be forgiven. One doesn't have to have lived through world-shattering events to know about these things. My own family of origin was intact, but not untroubled; those issues, and more, were not far below the surface, though never ON the surface. Typical suburban middle-class family, really, replete with hidden torments. And as an adult I've experienced my share of bad behaviour, my own as well as others'. As a fiction writer who is interested in families and these themes, I have a wealth of material all around me. We all do!
The character development in your novel is exquisite. I felt them grow as people before my eyes. Where do your characters come from? Do you have a favorite?
Why thank you! It is tremendously heartening for a writer to know that the people you've created come to life for readers as well. None of the characters in the novel is a portrait of one particular real person however. (Though my younger brother does insist that gorgeous talented James is based on him. Actually, he's right, but I've never admitted that to him!) I pluck a physical characteristic from here, a neurotic habit from there, a manner of speaking from somewhere else -- and next thing you know, they're off and away, with lives of their own. And refusing, sometimes, to do what you want them to do, which is disconcerting. My favourite is Olivia, with her scowl and her steely young will and her devotion to her animals; she seems to me an admirably independent young person. I am very fond of Silver, too, James' wealthy wife, who was one of those surprising characters who insist on being different to what you'd imagined. I have always liked and understood Rosemarie/Rose, even though she's not like me at all, and have been quite taken aback at the vehement dislike, even hatred, of her that some readers have expressed. But I guess I should be pleased too that she lives so strongly for them, even if negatively.
What books and/ or authors have inspired you?
To tell you the truth, the biggest influence on me in the writing of Without A Backward Glance wasn't a book at all, but a TV series: Six Feet Under. This is particularly strange because I have a very low tolerance for television and hardly watch it at all. But I LOVED that series, and especially the ensemble nature of it, where every character has his or her own secrets and allegiances. And another author who influenced me in a very particular way was Elmore Leonard: I am fascinated by the way he can develop character and move a plot forward through dialogue alone, and hardly "sets the scene" at all. Apart from these two odd influences, in a general sense I'm interested mostly in contemporary fiction by women writers like Anita Shreve, Sue Miller, and Joanna Trollope.
What are you working on now?
Another novel, to be published next year; not the same family but, again, siblings and secrets, loyalty and lack of it, bad behaviour and forgiveness (or not). At its heart lies the question of how a woman holds on to who SHE is, amid the myriad demands of family and career. The working title is "Stand By Me", and the publishers seem to like that too. I'm at the final revisions stage now, and the deadline is looming -- better get back to it!
Thank you so much to Kate Veitch for the great interview.