Today’s edition of Author Influences features the lovely and brilliant Louise Beech. I am thrilled to be joined by Louise as I loved her second novel The Mountain In My Shoe, and she comes from my home town of Hull! I am desperately trying to get her first novel How To Be Brave read, so keep your eyes peeled for my thoughts on it in the future, and I can’t wait for her forthcoming novel Maria In The Moon. Anyway, that’s enough from me, you want to hear about Louise’s favourite books and authors…
Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
I absolutely loved Paul Zindel’s YA books. He wrote both truthfully and beautifully about all the things you go through as a teenager – love, your identity, fitting in, being different. My favourite was My Darling, My Hamburger. A real classic. Lois Duncan’s YA books were ahead of their time, dealing with pretty dark topics like adoption, murder, and, again, fitting in. Before that I loved the What Katy Did series (still do, I have them all!).
Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
I was, and I did. It was the only subject I was any good at, the only one I got an A for. I didn’t do particularly well at school (had no interest, to be fair) but I came alive in English. I’d fill entire exercise books with novel-length stories, including chapters, forewords and everything. The teacher’s heart must have sunk when it came to marking!
What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I’ll read anything. I don’t read by genre. I read by what takes my fancy, whether this is the cover, the title, the blurb, word of mouth, or reading the first few pages and ending up hooked. This ultimately means I’ve read all kinds of genres. I suppose I have a soft spot for beautiful literary works, and also for Historical, the odd Psychological Thriller, but especially those that defy any categorisation. I think I’ve probably learnt something from everything I’ve read, so yes, there’s always an impact.
If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
I fancy writing a bit of Erotic Fiction. I’ve written a few short stories, and a couple of those were quite sexy. So, who knows? Never say never. Watch this space.
Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
John Irving’s The World According to Garp was a turning point for me ten years ago when I first read it. The incredible use of language and the bravery of creating something like nothing else spoke directly to me. I started my first novel (my first complete adult novel anyway) right after.
Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
I would say Sophie Hannah, John Irving, Markus Zusak, Gill Paul, Amanda Jennings, Julian Barnes, Craig Lancaster, and Cassandra Parkin. There are many many more. Too many to name.
Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
I wish I had written The Book Thief. I almost felt I had, in that when I read it it was so… right. The choice of having Death as a narrator was genius, the prose was divine, and the characters leapt off the page. In the midst of it, I looked up and had quite literally forgotten where I was; my front room looked alien and I had been holding my breath!
Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
How to be Brave was completely inspired by my grandfather’s true survival at sea during World War 2, and how I then told this tale of bravery to my little girl to help her through an illness. It was very emotional to write, naturally. I drew on all the emotions I hadn’t felt during that difficult time. And I felt I got to know the grandfather I never met. In fact, I often felt he was looking over my shoulder.
How To Be Brave and The Mountain In My Shoe are out now! You can read my review of The Mountain In My Shoe HERE.
About Louise Beech
Louise Beech remembers sitting in her father’s cross-legged lap while he tried to show her his guitar’s chords. He’s a musician. Her small fingers stumbled and gave up. She was three. His music sheets fascinated her – such strange language that translated into music. Her mother teaches languages, French and English, so her fluency with words fired Louise’s interest. She knew from being small that she wanted to write, to create, to make magic.
She loves all forms of writing. Her short stories have won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting twice for the Bridport Prize and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Her first play, Afloat, was performed at Hull Truck Theatre in 2012. She also wrote a ten-year newspaper column for the Hull Daily Mail about being a parent, garnering love/hate criticism. Her debut novel was a Guardian Readers’ pick for 2015.
She is inspired by life, history, survival and love, and always has a story in her head. Her debut novel, How to be Brave, came from truth – when Louise’s daughter got Type 1 Diabetes she helped her cope by sharing her grandad’s real life sea survival story. Her second novel, The Mountain in my Shoe, released in September 2016, was inspired by her time working with children in the care system.
When she was fifteen Louise bet her mother ten pounds she’d be published by the time she was thirty. She missed this self-set deadline by two months. Her mother is still waiting for the money.
Connect With Louise