1. How did the idea come?
I’d just finished a novel set in London during the Blitz. War Crimes for the Home was about memory and false memory, and the human capacity for denial. I thought, now it’s time for something totally different. There were two sources of inspiration: First, my kids. My two sons were twelve and seven. They were funny and eccentric and just wildly cool. I especially loved the way they talked. I wanted to mimic it. In fact I sort of wanted to be them. So I came up with a kid who was like their invisible middle brother, and I inhabited his mind for a while.The second source of inspiration was also a brother who wasn’t there. It’s a very sad story. Like the very worst stories, It’s a true one.
When my mother was ten years old, on holiday with her widowed mother and siblings in the Swiss Alps, her 19-year-old brother went missing. He’d had an argument with his mother, walked out of the hotel where they were staying, and never come back. They searched for four days. Then the weather broke. But my grandmother insisted on going out to look for him anyway, in the storm. She was found dead the next morning at the bottom of a cliff. My uncle’s body—if there was one—was never found. He was never seen or heard from again.
From the moment I heard it, the story haunted me, just as it haunted my mother: in some ways she never recovered from the trauma of losing two family members in the space of four days, with no explanation. You don’t have to be a psychologist to work out that the story of Louis Drax has parallels with what happened to my mother’s family in Switzerland: a cliff-side, an argument, a body, a double mystery. But the strange thing is, I didn’t realize it while I was writing the book. It only dawned on me—with a colossal duh!—after I’d finished the last page.
2. Did you know the ending?
When I start a book, I never know all of it. I might know the opening, or the ending, or an element of the central section. With Louis Drax, the ending came to me pretty much the way it comes to you when you read the book: as a revelation that should have been obvious form the start, but wasn’t. How could I not have realized what was going on?
3. Were there alternate endings you considered for The Ninth Life of Louis Drax?
All readers come up with their own alternative endings. And they are all true. The writer doesn’t really write the last page of a story. That’s the reader’s privilege.
4. From your stories you’ve written so far, if any of your characters could come alive and have a dinner chat with you, who would it be and why?
I’d like dinner with the anthropologist Hesketh Lock, the hero of my latest novel, The Uninvited. He’s incredibly good-looking, socially awkward, and a walking encyclopedia. He makes beautiful origami and he’s a talented linguist and he drives people crazy on many levels.
5. Did you have any section in The Ninth Life of Louis Drax that gave you difficulty?
Dr. Pascal Dannachet had me stumped on a few occasions. He’s a complex character, full of doubts and urges and contradictions, and it all kinds of in denial. I was a walking cocktail of emotions on his behalf while I was writing his character. I’m a feminist and I love men. Feminists with sons know how deep the protective urge goes. How it alters the way you perceive your own sex, how empathetic it makes you towards boys and men. There’s nothing like walking a mile in another’s shoes.
6. A huge congratulation for the movie adaptation of The Ninth Life of Louis Drax, what scene are you most excited for your readers to see?
I have seen the movie twice. All I’ll say is that it made me cry, and everyone will have their own favorite scene, and that’s the way it should be.
7. What was your reaction when you first watched the movie trailer of The Ninth Life of Louise Drax?
There are these two cool and very funny guys on YouTube, reacting to it. I like their take on it, which pretty much mirrored mine, though I don’t use the f word so much. I was more like the girl sitting next to them on the sofa with a bandana over her mouth and the eyes look like they’ll pop.
(you can check out the YouTube clip if you want: www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9-87zir78k)
8. What book are you currently reading in your free time?
Just one? On my bedside table I have: Joe Hill’s The Fireman, Polly Coles’ The Politics of Washing: Real Life in Venice, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer, T.A. Morton’s Halfway Up A Hill, Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell, Matthew Quick’s Every Exquisite Thing, Jenny Erpenbeck’s Visitation, Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent, Amanda Craig’s Hearts and Minds, and Emma Cline’s The Girls. I can highly recommend all of them.
9. Do you have any suggestions to help one become a better writer?
10. Last question, if you have the power to bring back an author from the dead, for one day, to meet with, who would that be?
Kurt Vonnegut. I’d like his take on today’s world. Might he agree that it’s a dystopia? And that in every dystopia, there’s a utopia in embryo?
Many thanks to Ms. Liz Jensen for giving up her downtime to answer my questions. As you guys can read it was truly insightful and informative. If you want to read more novels from this author go ahead and visit her website: www.lizjensen.com/
Don't forget to mark your calendar for the movie release of The Ninth Life of Louis Drax. It comes out on Sept. 2 in United States, Canada, UK, and Ireland. As always take care and have a blessed week:)