September 1919: Twenty-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver some letters to Marian Bancroft. During the Great War, Tristan fought alongside Marian’s brother Will who, in 1917, laid down his gun on the battlefield, declared himself a conscientious objector and was shot as a traitor, an act which brought shame and dishonour on the Bancroft family. But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan’s visit. He holds a secret deep in his soul. One that he is desperate to unburden himself of to Marian, if he can only find the courage.
1. How would you summarize your book in one sentence?
A young solider commits a terrible act out of rage and hurt, then spends the next sixty years paying for it.
2. How long did it take you to write this book?
3. Where is your favorite place to write?
At home, in my office, overlooking the garden, with the dog asleep by my feet.
4. How do you choose your characters’ names?
Often, I scan my bookshelves and name them after writers.
5. How many drafts do you go through?
Usually around a dozen. For The Absolutist, it was 11.
6. If there was one book you wish you had written what would it be?
The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas.
7. If your book were to become a movie, who would you like to see star in it?
Cillian Murphy as Tristan, Rupert Friend as Will, Carey Mulligan as Marian. (I can dream.)
8. What’s your favourite city in the world?
9. If you could talk to any writer living or dead who would it be, and what would you ask?
Woody Allen. I’d ask him whether I can just hang out with him for a few days.
10. Do you listen to music while you write? If so,what kind?
11. Who is the first person who gets to read your manuscript?
My friend, the brilliant Irish novelist, Claire Kilroy.
12. Do you have a guilty pleasure read?
13. What’s on your nightstand right now?
Three books: Malcolm Bradbury’s Eating People Is Wrong (I’m writing an introduction for a new edition), Colm Toibin’s New Ways To Kill Your Mother and an advance copy of John Irving’s In One Person.
14. What is the first book you remember reading?
Noddy. All the Noddy books in fact. By Enid Blyton. I loved Noddy and wanted to be him very badly.
15. Did you always want to be a writer?
Yes, once my dreams of the ballet seemed like they wouldn’t pan out.
16. What do you drink or eat while you write?
17. Typewriter, laptop, or pen & paper?
Laptop for the first draft. Then I print it out with great spaces between every line, write all over it, feed in the changes, print it out again, and continue until there’s no more changes to make.
18. What did you do immediately after hearing that you were being published for the very first time?
I phoned my parents.
19. How do you decide which narrative point of view to write from?
It’s always an instinctive thing. The subject matter of the novel always dictates the narrative point of view; I’ve never had to formally decide.
20. What is the best gift someone could give a writer?
Enough money to keep them for a year while they went away somewhere, lived quietly, kept themselves to themselves, and worked exclusively on their first novel.
Excerpted from The Absolutist by John Boyne. Copyright © 2012 by John Boyne. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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