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Interview with Sophie Loubiere

Sophie Loubiere promo image

Highly acclaimed French author, Sophie Loubiere, has delivered quite possibly the most thought provoking Crime novel of the year so far with her fifth novel The Stone Boy (Trapdoor), her first to be translated into English.  A dark, atmospheric psychological thriller based around the obervations of an elderly lady who has returned home after many years away, this is a novel to get readers thinking one thing then another on every page. Here, Chris High asks the authors about her inspirations, practices and what novels she’d save above all others.

The Stone Boy is an intricate balance between the real and surreal. Did you find this balance difficult to maintain with regards to the psychological aspects of the novel?

I found it exciting to build the story. It was like painting with unexpected colours. I always play with surreal stuff in my novels and I also enjoy using misdirection. Like Hitchcock, most of the time, I like to scare people with nothing more than their own imagination. To continue the painting metaphor, I used “red” only where strictly necessary - blood is not my favourite colour, anyway.

Madame Preau is a beautifully drawn character, full of complexity and determination. Did you find getting to “meet” her an easy experience? 

It’s never easy to get involved with such an unusual character, but by the time I had finished I felt that I knew her so well. In some ways she's very similar to my Mum, strong and fragile, clever but also full with pain and suffering. When I finished the scene with the apple tart at her neighbour’s house , I couldn't write any more for fifteen days. I had to let her go for a while before starting the next chapter and then focusing on her son Martin. This book is actually connected to a sad part of my life and I had to make time to step outside of the narrative to stay alive and sane. Martin and I are close, let’s just say.

Isolation is also an integral part of the plotline, which adds beautifully to the atmosphere of the book. Were the letters M. Preau writes something you intended from the outset or did they develop over time? 

Who writes such letters nowadays? Cultured and lonely old ladies, that’s who. The letters tell us a lot about Elsa Préau. Like my mother, she writes to Ministers without a second thought in order to tell them what she thinks. She rebuilds the world around her on her expectations, her vision. That was a clear part of the narrative construction from the beginning. Also, it gives rhythm and breathing space to the main plot.   

Who or what was it that made you want to become an author?

My literature teachers. I didn't think I could be an author one day because I suffered from dyslexia at primary school. My teachers convinced me to turn this into something beautiful so I started to write my first novel at the age of thirteen... in English.

What, for you, are the best and worst parts of being an author?

The best: to make a living from sharing my convictions, aspirations and emotions with readers around the world. The worst is definitely the fear of losing this ability to write such stories.

How do you go about planning and researching your novels? Is there anybody you “bounce” ideas off before committing them to print?

I write in different notebooks the many ideas I would like to develop, based on true stories or on my own experience of life. I have my eyes open to insignificant things we usually don't see. "Black Coffee", my last novel, takes place on Route 66 in the USA inspired by a family road-trip I took with my husband and child in 2011. We didn't have a serial killer following us, luckily, but I started to create him from this incredible road between darkness and light, glory and decline. It was an amazing travelling experience.

And what do you believe are the major obstacles an aspiring author needs to tackle in order to become published?

a) You must make sure your friends and family believe in your capacity to write without making you feel guilty about choosing such silly job.
b) You have to be careful about the influence of your favourite authors on your work (do not copy Hemingway!).
c) You should keep your mind constantly open to the possibility that you might change the story you decided to write right through to the end.
d) You must accept that you may have to fight alone against yourself, against your fear of doing wrong.
e) You must trust yourself and nobody else, until your publisher tells you the opposite(!).

If there were three books you had to rescue for some reason, what would they be and why?

The dictionary, The Road (McCarthy) , Salammbô (Flaubert). I'd also rescue Viggo Mortensen as the reader of those books.

Do you have any superstitions or set routines when it comes to writing?

I love to write in hotels. No kids around, no housework, no husband, too. If there's a swimming pool, it's heaven. If you have any good B&B recommendations... Seriously, I'm not in a good mood when I start to write a new book – or when I finish it. My mind is constantly obsessed by the story I write, I flip between euphoria and annoyance. It's better for everyone if I can be alone.

What’s next?

I have just finished "Division 13", a novel based on a true and unknown story from the Second World War: a young Waffen SS division that revolted against their bad treatment. It happened in a small French town and two little boys are witnesses to a terrible massacre. Their life will be totally overshadowed by the experience. Seventy years after the event, the younger boy returns to the town to free himself from another dark secret. (Published in France in September 2014.)

Chris High’s Review of The Stone Boy Can be found by Clicking on the title.



If you would like to comment on this interview with Sophie Loubiere in 2014, please feel free to contact me - GUESTBOOK

“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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