She’s probably not going to talk much about her deck hand days, when she and Jessica Argyle, author of No Name Key, get together Dec. 18 to discuss Roz’s new novel The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier. But she did answer a few questions for us, including talking about the real-life letters that inspired her new book.
Q: What was the genesis of The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier?
A: The Lost Love Letters had its genesis in my finding in a rural used book store in France, a copy of Fournier’s embryo second novel as put together by some Italian academics in a sort of proof-style format.
I’d always loved Le Grand Meaulnes (The Lost Domain) and this got me excited – I hadn’t known he was writing another when he went to war. Reading about him brought me to Pauline Benda, his lover from 1912-1914. A French writer friend sent me in Key West an enormous package of books and photo-copied letters and excerpts of writing by and about Pauline. I read, translated, starting thinking about a novel.
It was far the most difficult one I’ve ever written.
The second “layer” – Seb interviewing the old Pauline – came next, as yes, I am fascinated by old age these days! Then a reader in London suggested a third ‘layer’ with Seb in the present. He was a woman at first, but then I wanted the challenge of a male protagonist. And so on, for years…
What fascinates me about juxtaposing history and contemporary stories is the idea that we do all face very similar challenges in life, when it comes down to it – but deal with them in different ways, because of the times we live in. I’m hooked on writing about war and its aftermath, having been born in the middle of one – but this time it’s World War I. I’m a historian by training but a novelist by choice – a sort of hybrid, I suppose.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’ve just finished a lot of edits on a novel coming out next July, called Without Her. Also edits of a poetry collection Invisible Horses, due out in May. So – looking forward to writing rather than editing!
Q: Where are you when not in Key West?
A: I spent most of the summer months in France and/or England and Scotland. Paris, because it’s great for writing and I’ve always loved it. England, Scotland, because my family and old friends are there. I love Key West for winter weather – yes, becoming a snowbird – and so many friends, and our house here in Old Town that my husband has worked endlessly on, and the ocean – and it’s now my “home port.”
Q: How did you end up in Key West?
A: I went to a poetry reading on Caroline Street 25 years ago, met a man – the rest is history.
~ Robin Wood, Associate Manager