Interview with Sarah Pleydell

Do you have a favorite character?

Maggie Whitaker the stubborn, somewhat ornery, know-it-all little sister with the stammer, thumb-sucking and occasional bed-wetting habit who triumphs by the end of the book.

Have you ever had a minor character evolve into a major one? Did that change the direction of the novel at all?

I started out with three foreign au pairs and rolled them all into one, Renate von Hasselmann; I gave her three distinct faces, ingénue, femme fatale and omniscient heroine. This made her multi-dimensional but kept the fun and flair of those original personalities.

Did you try the traditional route to publishing, i.e. querying agents/publishers?

I landed Ian Mckewan and Salmon Rushdie’s agent in London, but, alas, after a number of stops and starts she could not find a home for my novel, Cologne. She is still keen to get it published across the pond if it does well here.

What factors influenced your decision to go with a particular agent or publisher?

Molly Tinsley, the co-founder at FUZE, approached me, and I knew she would be a brilliant editor for my book, so I had no reservations about using this press.

If you used a graphic designer/publisher’s designer, how involved were you during the creative process for your cover?

My dear friend, artist and graphic designer, Kathy Keler has a series of paintings she made in the nineties that have always resonated with my writing and with this book in particular. I have always known her evocative print, envoi, was the cover art I wanted for Cologne. And I was right; it is gorgeous.

Do you belong to a critique group? Have they helped improve your writing?

I’ve been in loads of writing groups, and they have all been in equal part enlightening and frustrating. Overall I have to say sharing your work with other writers can only benefit as practitioners of the craft develop a sixth sense about what works and what doesn’t. Some just get a tad too enthusiastic about how they would write it themselves.

What is your writing process? Do you listen to music or do you like silence?

I lock myself up in the Library of Congress Reading Room under that magnificent dome and pull words out of the air. It’s magic. And very very quiet.

Do you outline your story or just go where your muse takes you?

It depends on the books: some arrive whole cloth and others unwind piece by piece. Each story has its own trajectory. Novels are as individual as souls.

Besides writing, do you have any other passions?

Acting, playwriting,gardening and keeping up with my four children and their wild and crazy lives.

What’s next for you?

A telenovela style novel about the Texas/ Mexico border called Deep in the Heart.

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