The Silk Weaver*- Liz Trenow
I'm so excited to share with you all this interview I did with Liz the author of The Silk Weaver as part of the books blog tour. It was great to hear from Liz about the book and the really interesting story that inspired the events in the novel.
The book is really great and it's a perfect read for you if you like big sweeping love stories that are full of heart and hope. I hope you enjoy the interview and hearing from Liz too...
1. Can you tell us a little bit about the book?
It is a novel I have wanted to write for some years, and I feel a very personal connection to it. In brief, it is the story of a young English woman who is expected to make a good marriage but who wants to marry for love. She meets and falls in love with a French journeyman weaver from entirely the wrong social class. So in essence it is Romeo and Juliet (without the tragic ending).
2. This book was inspired by your own family’s history; can you share with us the story behind the book?
My family still runs the oldest silk weaving company in Britain – it was founded in the early 1700s in East London, and now operates in Sudbury, Suffolk. Just up the road from the family’s first recorded address in Spitalfields is the house where the eminent silk designer Anna Maria Garthwaite lived at around the same time as my ancestors. I was fascinated to imagine that she would have known and worked with my silk weaving forebears.
Anna Maria was one of the most celebrated textile designers of the eighteenth century, her silks were worn by royalty and nearly a thousand of her designs are in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Yet no-one knows how she learned her craft or how an unmarried middle-aged woman managed to develop such a successful business in a male dominated industry.
It is this mystery that sparked the idea for the novel.
3. Did you feel extra pressure writing this story as it deals with real life events, even though the book is a fictionalised retelling of them?
Yes, I felt concerned that I was messing about with history, especially dates, and worrying about what ‘proper’ historians might say. But I had to keep reminding myself that this was fiction. One of the wonderful freedoms for a novelist is that you really can make it all up.
4. The book is set in the 18th century and the action all takes places in Spitalfields. The way you described in vivid detail the area and the whole atmosphere of the place was so beautiful, I really felt like I got a sense of what life felt like for the characters. Did you have to do a lot of research to make the book feel as authentic as possible?
I did masses of research, especially as before this I knew very little about the 18th century. I spent nearly a year visiting museums, art galleries, libraries and Georgian houses, as well as reading very widely. Of course I also spent a lot of time in Spitalfields itself, at the beautiful Christ Church (where my ancestors were baptised, married and buried) and other venues and museums in the area. For a whole year I read nothing but books about 18th century London and novels either written in, or set in, the period. It was total immersion and I found it quite hard to let go when I had finished!
5. Even though the book is set such a long time ago, it covers so many topics which are so relevant to today’s world, such as religion, race, money and gender equality which are just some of the issues the book tackles. Did you feel writing the book, that you could see parallels between the problems in the world then and now still?
Researching the history of the Huguenots was especially interesting and at times very sad: to escape religious persecution they used their life savings to make perilous journeys and terrifying sea-crossings in much the same way as refugees must do today. I would be writing Henri’s story and then going to watch the news about boats going down and hundreds dying in the Mediterranean. It is heart-breaking the way history repeats itself.
6. I felt so connected to the characters when I was reading their story and felt the whole book was brought to life so wonderfully with your words, it felt at times like the story would be perfect to become one of those big lavish TV period dramas, is that something that you envisioned or hoped for when you were writing the book?
Thank you for your lovely compliment. One of the wisest things a writing tutor once said to me is ‘write like a movie director’. Her words have stayed with me and people often remark that my novels are quite ‘filmic’. Of course I would be over the moon if someone bought the rights and adapted it, but realistically it is very hard to get your book optioned for film or TV. There is just so much competition.
7. And lastly as tradition goes here on Is This Real Life, my last question, what’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
‘Write like a movie director’ is pretty high on the list. But the very top piece of advice for any writer is ‘Never give up’.
You can Pre-Order The Silk Weaver on Amazon now and it will be released on January 26th.