Authors: Stories Behind the Books, Andrea Dunlop
This week I am featuring Andrea Dunlop, author of the novel Losing the Light. Andrea's 2016 debut novel is the story of a woman, Brooke, who unexpectedly has a piece of her past catch up with her and Dunlop's readers are transported to France where it all started. Her book is heavy with adult themes and major topics for a coming-of-age character that we can all relate to either on a small or big level. Typically it is our early twenties that we try new things, make mistakes, and experience unforgettable moments can help shape our lives when we are trying to figure ourselves out.
In her interview, Andrea talks about the length of time it took write Losing the Light, Brooke's character development, and what is next.
Losing the Light is your first novel and it took you quite a bit of time to write. Can you talk about the process of when the story first developed to seeing it in print?
I began writing it when I was still in college, so the book was in my life all throughout my twenties and into my thirties (I was thirty-three when it was published). I went through a similar shift that my main character Brooke goes through as the novel's plot encompasses that same time period in her life. That gave me a great perspective on how her ideas and memories of her relationships would change over time. Finally having this book in print is tremendously gratifying because I worked on it for so long and it was very close to my heart. I wrote lots of other things during those thirteen (!!) years, but certainly none as close to my heart.
In an interview you made it clear that your main character's experiences are not based on real events from your own life. However, were there parts of the novel that you felt you couldn't write about until you had experienced them during the course of your 13 years writing it?I don't know that I consciously thought that, but I think the time it took to write the novel was absolutely to the story's benefit. I feel in some ways as though this novel holds within it my own coming of age. And certainly, my perspective on love, friendship, and envy--the book's major themes--was quite different at thirty than it was at twenty.
At what points in the story did you feel you had to take a break, put it down, and return? Any specific chapters or character moments that you were not ready to write or you got blocked on writing?
Not specifically. I worked on the book during three major periods--the first in college, the second once I'd move back to Seattle, and the third after I'd tried unsuccessfully to publish two different novels. It was more that the book just kept calling me back. There have been other novels that I put down and never went back to, but this one I couldn't stay away from.
During your 13 years of writing, did you ever feel any personal pressure to get it done, did you originally have a goal set for yourself on a timeline? Or did you believe that the novel will present itself overtime?
I thought it WAS done several times. But it turned out it wasn't. I always give myself deadlines to finish a manuscript, but the industry doesn't care whether YOU think you're ready, it will decide if your work is ready. I'd already shopped this once before, which made it easier to walk away for awhile and then come back to it with new eyes--this by the way, is sometimes crucial to do with one's work, but if you're goal-oriented (as I am) this is the hardest thing to do unless your hand is forced.
Why did you choose to start the novel at Brooke being 30? How do you feel the structure of the book would have been different if you started it at introducing Brooke at 22?
Well, again, life looks very different at thirty than it does in your early twenties. I wanted Brooke to be able to really have some perspective on the choices she'd made all those years ago, and on Sophie and Alex. Meeting someone you knew in your youth later on in adulthood can be really surreal, and I wanted to capture that. Also, there are those things that happen to us when we're young that just change us. It wouldn't be as meaningful to know that it still affected her two years later, but ten years? That's different.
Who are your influences for this story or your work?
I love Patricia Highsmith's Ripley novels, and really anything that deals with young Americans abroad who get in over their heads: Ian McEwan's The Innocent and the cult classic The Dud Avocado.
You talked about rejection and the personal hardships that authors go through working to get their books published. Who was there for you when you went through that? How important is it to have a support team for those moments?
It's so important to have friends. Certainly the professionals in your life (agent, editors, publicist) can be a supportive team once you get going, but it's important to also have people to cry to who have no professional stake in the whole thing and will just say "Screw them, you're brilliant and wonderful!" I have lots of great friends, lovely parents, and wonderful partner, so I'm very well set up. My mentor, Pat Geary, was also crucial to me, especially in my early writing life. But at the end of the day, no one can want it for you. If you do give up, you were probably just meant to do something else.
What are you working on next?
My next novel, She Regrets Nothing, is scheduled for 2018, so I'm working on the edits for that currently. It's the story of a woman who reunites with estranged family members after her mother's death and ends up wreaking havoc on their lives. I'm also working on a novella about a group of women who go to an island for a bachelorette weekend, and the bride-to-be goes missing.
You can find Andrea's debut novel, Losing the Light, on her website, Amazon, and major bookstores. http://www.andreadunlop.net/
In addition, Andrea is a Social Media Consultant. You can also find her on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram...
Thank you Andrea for being a part of this project!
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