Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher. A Little In Love is the story of Les Miserables from Eponine’s perspective. And it’s really good. I’ll have a review of that up in an hour or so once I’ve had dinner (and watched Great British Bake Off, if I’m honest).
But Susan Fletcher was kind enough to answer some questions for me so I thought I would post those here separately.
What made you want to write A Little in Love? Why Eponine?
I was actually approached by Chicken House with this idea so I can’t take credit for it! But as soon as the premise – Eponine’s story, told in her voice – was presented to me, I knew I wanted to write it. I think Eponine is Hugo’s most interesting character. She plays a crucial role in Les Miserables – and it’s a selfless, extraordinary role – yet she takes up very little of his book. She stays in the shadows compared to Cosette and others. She’s complex, too – a thief yet very giving, sociable yet alone, brave and yet overlooked. I’ve always felt she deserved more attention – and it was an honour and a delight to be able to give this beautiful person a voice.
Without wanting to give spoilers, what’s your favourite part of a Little in Love?
There are lots of sections that I particularly enjoyed to write. The early sections in Montfermeil feel lively, rich and colourful compared to the cold and poverty she finds later on. There’s also a small prison scene which, strangely, I quite enjoyed writing because of the introspection it gives Eponine – she is alone with her thoughts, and I was quite affected by that part. But I think that perhaps my favourite scene is when Eponine and Cosette meet again as adults, outside the house on the Rue Plumet. It felt a very loving, genuine and intimate moment – and I carried it with me for weeks!
I haven’t seen the film of Les Miserables yet but have read the book (liked it) and seen the musical (LOVED it). Which is your favourite?
Both, of course, are extraordinary. But I have to say that Hugo’s novel is probably closer to my heart. It’s a whopper of a book – 1200 pages – and I was intimidated by its size, at first. In places, I think he needed a minor edit or two …! But it’s a phenomenal account of life at that time, brimming with a myriad of characters that all have their own hopes and fears and failings. It has humour, too, which I didn’t expect. Having said all of that, I think both the stage show and the recent film brilliantly capture all these aspects of the book.
Have you always wanted to write or did you have another dream job in mind as a child?
I’ve always loved writing but I didn’t think it would be possible to write for a living until I was in my late teens. I hoped to act, for a time – and I think there are similarities with both jobs in that they both involve the creation or discovery of new people, and trying to explore the human heart and mind. I also have an interest in archaeology these days, and I rather wonder if that’s also linked to these things. But by the time I went to university, I knew what I wanted to try for: I wanted to write, and I feel very blessed that I’ve been able to write professionally at all.
I’m trying to write a novel of my own, what’s your number one writing tip for me?
There are so many clichés that I could pass on – such as read often, keep a notebook with you, plan well, explore where you can – and all are totally valid. But I am sure you’ve heard them all before! My advice, then, is probably more mundane but, I hope, still useful. I’ve learned that food matters. Eat well. Don’t let blood sugar levels dip or the belly growl – for these things make writing suddenly seem like an impossible, terrible task. Get outside, too. Writing is the activity of a single room and a shut door – and I think fresh air, even a walk round the block, replenishes and reassures; it helps the heart in every sense. Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all, I’d say, don’t be afraid. It’s so easy to be afraid because writing is such an intimate task, in which one feels so exposed; but remind yourself that all writers feel this, all writers doubt themselves, and even if the worse happens – no traditional publishing contract, or a bad review – you will survive it. You will, in fact, write better for it. So don’t be afraid: let the cursor move across the page with the words inside you, and see what happens … Anything could!
What’s your favourite book that you think I absolutely have to read if I haven’t already? Or a novel you wish you’d been the one to write?
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson is just a small, gorgeous, profound and deeply loving masterpiece. I only found it recently, but I was swept up with it. It is heartfelt and lyrical, rooted in its landscape, and it talks about what truly matters – which is life, and love. And yes, I wish I’d written it. So I’d recommend that. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.