Hard-headed and cynical writer of literary fiction, Frances Kay, interviews that elusive goddess of theatre, Pan Zador.
Artwork by Bradley Wind
FK: Your new novel, 'Act of Love', is set in a theatre somewhere off the east coast of England in a town called Brancaster. A real place?
PZ: As real as any fictional location. Call it a blending of realities.
FK: Talking reality -you say you've been active in theatre all your life, as a performer, director and playwright. How then is it when I Google you, I find nothing?
PZ: My dear, we are all chameleons. Is Pan my real name? Did I perform under my real name? Beneath the illusion, you will find a kernel of truth. Every word I say about myself is true, but I play many characters, and they each have their own name.
FK: That's rather convenient; no one can check on your history. Even your age can only be guessed at.
PZ; Which is as it should be, surely?
FK: Tell me what inspired this story.
PZ: A real life theatre romance between a very young, impulsive red-haired girl just starting on her acting career, and an older, charismatic, enigmatic director. My dear, the fireworks! The passion! Even to an observer like myself, it was obvious from the start that misunderstandings, craziness and ecstasy were to be their fate.
FK: So the girl was not you?
PZ: Sadly not. I have fallen in love with my leading man more than once, but directors always struck me as being creatures from another planet.
FK: Yet you later became a director yourself?
PZ: Indeed, and was many times part of that extraordinary chemistry that goes to make the creation of a new play. The director must bring all of herself to the first day of rehearsal, must pour in energy, must understand, inspire and sometimes infuriate her actors to produce their very best work. Alas for the director; once the premiere is over, so is her usefulness. The actor works on, developing character, getting more and more under the skin of the part, while the director gently and unobtrusively withdraws her energy from the cast. Finally, when she goes to watch a performance, instead of being an inspiration to her actors, she becomes redundant and even a bit of a nuisance, as they take advantage of her absence to indulge their own vanities and omit those directions they never enjoyed or agreed with in rehearsal. A wise director does not interfere with a play once it is perfect.
FK: And is your hero, Tor Douglas, a wise director?
PZ: He is a flawed being, of course. But in his work, he embodies the perfect blend of charisma, tragedy and a stunning physical presence, which I hope will engage and even seduce the reader.
FK: A theatrical Mr Rochester, perhaps?
PZ: Ah, so you have read my book?
FK: Of course. Although, as a serious writer of literary fiction, it's not really my cup of tea -
PZ: Just as your somewhat grim little oeuvre is not mine. I have, however, read 'Micka' with a horrified fascination. My life has been blessed with luck and love. I write out of joy in what I know, and to celebrate a profession which contains so many dear friends, but which is also a refuge for the wounded and rejected.
FK: Recently a work of romantic, or rather erotic, fiction, hit the headlines and became a best seller. Have you followed in the footsteps of 'Fifty Shades of Grey'?
PZ: My dear, I could not begin to compete. There is a delightful Irish ballad called 'Easy and Slow', and the chorus goes like this: 'And what's it to any man whether or no, whether I'm easy or whether I'm true, As I lifted her petticoat easy and slow, and I tied up my sleeve for to buckle her shoe.' All the suspense is in the restraint of that lyric, yet it is forcefully erotic, making our imaginations do the work. An Act of Love must be imagined by the reader and the heroine a thousand times before it becomes reality. The anticipation is the sexual charge of my story. I hope my readers will bring their imaginations to the boil with each chapter.
FK: I have to admit, I read faster and faster as I got towards the end of the book. You can certainly spin a yarn, and a twisted one at that.
PZ: Story is at the heart of my book, as it is at the heart of yours. And no story will captivate the reader if they can guess what will happen at the end.
FK: One of the illustrious illuminati of stage and screen who have endorsed your book asks if there will be a movie version?
PZ: 'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.
FK: You have a character in your book called Lydia Dawlish - the brilliant, devious star of the company. Is she based on a real life actor?
PZ: Oh, if she were, I would never be so indiscreet as to say so.
FK: Before I met you, I wasn't sure what to expect. Are you bohemian? Eccentric? Do you wear a turban and smoke a pipe?
PZ: In these days of health consciousness, smoking is a pleasure I must resolutely deny myself. In the past, after a successful first night, I was known to indulge in a small cheroot. And the turban, as you see, is no myth. As my stature is small, my headgear gave me a certain gravitas when directing a cast of men.
FK: And what next? Are you working on your next romance?
PZ: But of course. And, if you will pardon my saying so, I hope my second novel will be published a lot quicker than yours. Two years, I believe, since 'Micka' was published?
At this point, the interview was terminated by mutual consent.
'Act of Love' by Pan Zador will be published on Dec. 15th by Crimson Romance.
'Micka' by Frances Kay was published in 2010 by Picador.