Saturday, August 8, 2015

0 Timothee de Fombelle, author of A PRINCE WITHOUT A KINGDOM, on the real job of a writer

We're thrilled to have Timothee de Fombelle join us to share more about A PRINCE WITHOUT A KINGDOM, his sequel to BETWEEN SKY AND EARTH. Timothee provided his answers in French, and his publisher Walker UK translated it for us. We've provided both versions for those of you who remember more than a few words from your high school French classes.

Timothee, what scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

Dans un chapitre de ce roman je raconte minute par minute l’explosion du dirigeable Hindenburg en 1937. Mon but était d’être très exact dans chaque détail de l’événement, mais aussi de glisser mes personnages et ma fiction entre les mailles de la réalité. J’avais donc devant moi la liste des cents passagers de la catastrophe historique, avec leur vraie biographie, parfois leurs photos, et j’avais mes propres personnages inventés. C’était un jeu extraordinaire. J’avais l’impression de projeter la vraie scène au ralenti et d’en profiter pour intégrer mon propre imaginaire. C’est tout le travail de l’écrivain : se servir de la vie comme d’un terrain de jeu et y emmener le lecteur avec lui pour le faire trembler, rire ou pleurer.

In one chapter of this novel, I relate minute by minute the explosion of the Hindenburg airship in 1937. My aim was for each detail of the event to be very accurate, but also to weave in my own characters and fiction between the stitches of real life. I had in front of me a list of the hundred passengers of the historic disaster, with their real biographies, sometimes their photos, and I had my own invented characters. It was an extraordinary game. It felt as if I were screening the real scene in slow motion, allowing me to slip in my own imaginings. That’s the real job of a writer: to use life as a playing field and lead the reader there with him to make him or her tremble, laugh, or cry.  

How long did you work on A PRINCE WITHOUT A KINGDOM?

J’ai travaillé trois ans sur le livre. Je suis parti au début dans l’île natale de mon héros, Vango, en Sicile, dans les îles Eoliennes. Je voulais m’installer tout près de l’endroit où j’imaginais qu’il avait grandi, pour pouvoir partager ses souvenirs, les paysages de son enfance. Je suis resté quatre mois avec ma femme et ma fille dans cette minuscule maison blanche posée près de la mer. C’est là que j’ai construit toute mon histoire. Et puis je suis retourné à Paris pour écrire. C’est un livre en deux volumes, c’est donc forcément une longue traversée. L’histoire se passe sur trois continents, j’ai aussi été voir chaque lieu dont je parlais. J’ai toujours aujourd’hui la nostalgie de mes personnages qui sont devenus des membres de ma famille.

I worked for three years on the book. At the beginning I went to the native island of my hero, Vango, Sicily, in the Aeolian Islands. I wanted to go and live close to the place where I imagined he had grown up, to be able to share his memories and the landscape of his childhood. I stayed four months there with my wife and child in a tiny white house by the sea. It was there that I constructed the whole story. And then I returned to Paris to write it. It’s a big book in two volumes, so it’s a long journey. The story takes place across three continents, and I also went to see each place that I wrote about. I am still today nostalgic for my characters, who feel like members of my own family.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

Chaque matin, je traverse Paris pour aller dans mon petit atelier, dans le quartier du Marais. J’ai l’impression d’être un artisan qui retrouve son travail comme il l’a laissé la veille au soir. Je n’écoute pas de musique mais je profite du bruit de la ville à travers la vitrine parce que mon atelier est une petite boutique au coin d’une rue. Quand l’écriture bloque, je n’ai qu’à sortir sur le trottoir et marcher une heure. La marche est pour moi la meilleure source d’inspiration. Parfois j’ai aussi besoin de m’échapper et d’écrire beaucoup plus près de la nature. A chaque fois, il faut inventer d’autres rituels.

Every morning, I cross Paris to go to my little studio, in the Marais quarter. I feel like a craftsman who is coming back to his work just as he had left it the evening before. I don’t listen to music but I take advantage of the sounds of the city through my window, because my studio is a little shop on a street corner. When I get writer’s block, all I have to do is to go out on to the pavement and walk for an hour. Walking for me is the best source of inspiration. Sometimes I also need to escape and write much closer to nature. Each time, I have to invent new rituals.


A Prince Without a Kingdom by Timothee de Fombelle
Released 8/4/2015

International award winner Timothée de Fombelle brings the breathtaking global adventure of Vango to a thrilling conclusion.

Fleeing dark forces and unfounded accusations across Europe in the years between World Wars, a young man named Vango has been in danger for as long as he can remember. He has spent his life running along rooftops, fleeing to isolated islands, and evading capture across Russia, Paris, New York, and Italy. Narrow escapes, near misses, and a dash of romantic intrigue will rivet adventurous teens to their seats as Vango continues to unravel the mysteries of his past. In the shadow of a rapidly changing world, can Vango find those who have hunted him for so long and uncover his true identity?

Purchase A Prince Without a Kingdom at Amazon
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View A Prince Without a Kingdom on Goodreads


After becoming a literature teacher, Timothee taught in Paris and Vietnam before choosing the bohemian life of the theatre. Author of a dozen plays, he writes, designs, builds sets and directs the actress he admires the most, his wife Laetitia. They have a young daughter, Jeanne Elisha, who already loves climbing trees. Toby Alone is his first novel and has already been translated into 22 languages.

Have you had a chance to read A PRINCE WITHOUT A KINGDOM yet? Have you read BETWEEN SKY AND EARTH? How awesome is it that Timothee spent four months in the Aeolian Islands to get closer to his character? Were you able to read the French? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,
Jocelyn, Shelly, Martina, Erin, Lisa, Susan, Jen, Sam, Lindsey, Sandra, Kristin, and Anisaa

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