Hello guys, the lovely Jo Baldwin, author of “The Good Friend” that is set in the wonderful France during one hot summer and touches upon such issues as toxic friendship, mental health and betrayal and which is full of darkness and tension, has written a brilliant Guest Post for her blog tour stop today. She’s chosen three brilliant things to write about – thank you so much, Jo! – so put your feet high and enjoy and then treat yourself to the book!
- Books that helped shaped me/my writing
I am drawn to stories in which strong, yet complex, characters – usually women – form strong bonds with friends or siblings. When I was a child, my mum passed onto me her copy of Little Women by Louisa M Alcott, and until I could read the words, I would spend hours poring over the beautiful full-colour illustrations, wishing that I could be part of the March family and share in their lively experiences. I grew up with three older brothers, so there was always a part of me that yearned for a sister.
Setting is also very important for me in a novel. When I was 20, I spent a year working as a teaching assistant in a small town near Provence. While there, I read all of the novels by the French author Sébastien Japrisot. My favourite was L’EtéMeutrier (One Deadly Summer), a psychological and suspenseful tale, which unravels slowly during a sultry and oppressive summer heat wave in 1970s southern France. The setting is like another character and serves to build tension and drive the characters to near-madness in this captivating story, which had me on the edge of my seat. I loved the main character Elle. She is so multi-layered – manipulative and seductive, yet fragile.
East of Eden by John Steinbeck is another novel that I first read in my twenties and which has stayed with me. Again, it’s the dry, dusty heat of California which affected me greatly when reading this story. As a reader you get a great sense of location and space, and how the setting itself plays an important part in developing the characters’ behaviours. There’s so much sadness in this story but it’s a powerful tale – a retelling of Cain and Abel. All of the main characters are compelling and complex. I remember reading it for the first time and being so shocked by the pure evil nature of Cathy. Again, another strong female character, but this time, one who destroys those around her.
- Researching The Good Friend
It was fairly easy to research the setting of The Good Friend as I have spent a lot of time in the Languedoc during the past 16 years. There’s a small lake close to our family house, which is idyllic to swim in during the summer months, but it can seem murky and uninviting out of season. For the sake of research, I decided to bite the bullet and take a swim in it one cold grey autumnal day so that I could experience it as if I was Kath, one of the main characters in my novel. As soon as I jumped in and felt the reeds lashing at my ankles, I shrieked with pure fright. It felt as if I was swimming in a pond full of eels. The sensation was truly horrible, but it helped me to get inside Kath’s head and experience what she felt when she looked down at Jenny swimming in the soupy green water.
3. My writing process
I don’t have an enormous amount of free time in which to write as I work most days as a freelance marketing consultant. However, I keep Friday as a writing day and try to make it as productive a day as possible.
First I go to an early morning yoga class and try to clear my head of mundane thoughts, so that I can draw on something more inspiring than what to cook for dinner. I’m home by 9.15am and usually put a wash on, before making a coffee and taking it to my desk, where I try to work undisturbed until my sonreturns home from school at 3:30. If I’m struggling to find the words, I’ll reach for a novel from one the many bookshelvesaround the house and read a chapter to see if it can stimulate my thought buds. If that doesn’t work, I make another coffee and hang up the washing. I keep several notebooks around one, even one by my bed, so that if I think of a plot detail or a sentence that’s been bouncing about in my head, I can write it down quickly before I forget it. There’s nothing more frustrating than coming up with an idea then forgetting about it half an hour later, because I didn’t jot it down!
18 Feb 2019
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