Mike Interviews: Paul Torday part 2 of 2


Part 1 of this interview can be read here.

You gratefully acknowledge Robert Parker, author of Bordeaux: The Comprehensive Guide, in helping you write. How much hands on research did you do for the book?!

I drink wine most days, but unfortunately rarely of the quality that Wilberforce drank.

What would be a favorite wine of yours?

White wine: Gavi di Gavi, a delicious and fragrant Tuscan white wine which Robert Parker is very contemptuous of, but which we love. Red Wine: probably a Chinon, a red Loire wine that Parker is also dismissive about and Wilberforce would have thought beneath him. We enjoy it. Try it cold in the summer.

I will!

I've read that some critics don't think your new book will do as well as Salmon Fishing, as the first was a comedy and the second is more a tragedy. I am always baffled by Salmon Fishing being put in the comedy genre, as the humor in it doesn't for me define the book and it is not in some ways dissimilar to The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce. What is your view?

I am so glad you see the connecting threads. You are absolutely right that ‘Salmon’ is not intended as farce but funny-sad, and as much about the need for faith as anything. ‘Irresistible’ is about the illusion of choice- W. believes the world is at his feet but his future is determined by his genetic inheritance and there is not much he can do about it.

In the book sleeve it says, 'The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce is a dazzling, haunting story of obsession and addiction, of loyalty and betrayal.' Do you see Wilberforce then as the one who betrays his friends, or do you see it as his 'new' friends that betray him?

Wilberforce’s paranoia is a consequence of his delusional thinking: life never turns out, and people never behave, the way he thinks they ought to. He translates this as betrayal, but it is his inability to deal with real life that lets him down, and his own egocentricity makes him ready to sacrifice those he knows and thinks he loves, in order to pursue his own goals.

Paul Dunn in The Times said of your book, "Torday's concentrates so fully on its hero that the device simply denies us any dramatic tension. We know how Wilberforce's marriage, friendships and attempts to beat his addiction will end before we even learn of them." However, I thought the book was very clever. In it, Francis says, 'As soon as the wine is opened, it begins to die.' For me this mirrors your novel and I think the sadness of reflecting on how after Wilberforce has been 'released' by his friends he slowly dies pulls you back into the past to see what happened. How do you see it and how would you respond to Paul Dunn’s comment?

Rather as you have done! I deliberately used a device that Trollope used in his novel ‘Orley Farm’. He gives away the plot in the first page or two, but the book succeeds because it isn’t a Whodunnit? It is a Why Did He Do It?

How do you feel when you see negative comments like that in the press, do you want to explain and defend your book or are you happy to let the book stick up for itself?

As a matter of fact, so long as I get a review, I’m happy the book has been noticed. If it’s negative, I try to draw from it what I can by trying to see the problem from the critic’s point of view- it’s true to say one learns more from criticism than from praise. I must admit to a human weakness though: I enjoy praise more. As far as defending the book is concerned – I don’t see a need to defend it. Once I’ve sold the rights and it has been published, it’s not mine any more, it belongs to the reader, and they will either love it or hate it.

What advice would you give fellow writers?

It’s a job, and it’s a job I’m still learning about, so I haven’t any advice other than what I was told when I was taught to fish – You won’t catch a fish if your fly isn’t on the water. You won’t write a book if your fingers aren’t on the keyboard.

What do you make of the publishing industry today? Has it been an easy thing for you to break into or a hard slog and how did you feel once you secured an agent?

I had a lucky break finding an agent early on who was prepared to take a chance on me. I just left it all to him. As for the publishing industry today – I’m too new to the game to comment.

Have you started work on your third book and can you tell us anything about it?

My next book will be called ‘ Girl On The Landing’ – a much shorter title, by the way – and it is a story about someone suffering from psychotic delusions … or is he?

Thanks Paul, its has been a joy to have you on The View From Here and best of luck with the 'Girl On The Landing' - I look forward to reading it.

Enter the "Irresistible Competition" to get a chance to win Paul's new book here.

Monday: I talk to Paul's agent, Mark Stanton from Jenny Brown Associates.


Paul Burman said...

Congratulations to both you and Paul, Mike. This is a tremendous and illuminating interview. I enjoyed it a lot.

Mike French said...

Paul Burman:

Glad you enjoyed it Paul, I certainly enjoyed doing it and putting it together.

More of the same next week with Tom McCarthy!

Bellany said...

Good interview Mike French. Your analogy with the comment about wine dying once it is opened was very insightful and showed you really appreciated the novel.

Mike French said...

Bellany: Thankyou: it is always satisfying when you can see a novel working on a number of levels.

And I certainly appreciated the novel: it was hard parting with my free copy for the prize to the competition! Still there is always Amazon!