Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Thursday, August 27, 2009

the author of that Guernsey book ... (and a giveaway)

I was THRILLED to be chosen to do a phone interview with Annie Barrows, co-author of THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY. Her book is on tour through TLC this month but due to her packed schedule she was only able to guest post at a few sites. Needless to say I jumped at the chance to speak to her by phone when it was offered.

Picture this: I'm in my office at work (on my lunch break). I've got my laptop in front of me, a pad and pen to my right, and just behind the speaker phone I've set up Kiddo's tape recorder (I'm not going to miss a minute of this interview!). I speak to Annie for about 30 minutes, jotting down random notes, working through my list of questions. I thank her for her time, hang up the phone, and rewind the tape so I can listen to it right away. I hit play and ... nothing. ?!?!?!! I try again. Nothing. AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!

So what you see below is what I can recall from our interview plus the things I jotted notes about. I paraphrased everything from memory, unless I wrote down a direct quote. You can't imagine how incredibly disappointed I am at not having that recording to refer back to ...

Interview with Annie Barrows
co-author of
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
August 3, 2009

Q: I’ve read the basic story of how you came to be involved with this book. Is there anything you more you can tell me about that?
A: The whole family knew about Mary Ann’s book (she’d been working on it for 20 years) and they were so excited when a publisher bought it. It took a while for the editors to come back with the list of changes they wanted and by that time Mary Ann was getting sick. She couldn’t handle the task so she asked me to step in. I readily agreed but I was secretly thinking “how can I do this?! How can I get her voice right?” Ends up, that was the easy part. I grew up hearing Mary Ann’s stories and it turned out to be a simple task of remembering her voice through all those years and putting it on the page.
Q: Tell me a little about Mary Ann. She is your aunt, correct?
A: Yes, she was my mother’s sister. We always lived just a few miles away and our families saw each other all the time. “She was like wallpaper” – always there. I can never remember a time without her.
Q: Do you know what type of historical research (if any) Mary Ann did? What drew her to this story, this place and time in history?
A: She visited Guernsey in 1980 and has been researching the area, WWII, resistance fighters, and much more ever since. She had so many books relating to these topics and I have many of them now. She finally began writing the book in 2000 and finished it 7 years later. She was very interested in resistance fighters and read all she could about them.
Heather's note: Annie talked a bit about the actual German occupation of Guernsey and how it was difficult to say who was an enemy and who was not. I mentioned that part of the book reminded me of SUITE FRANCAISE by Irene Nemirovsky and we discussed the similarities between that story and this one for a while. Then it was back to the official questions.

Q: Which (if any) characters do you identify with or feel strongly about one way or the other? Why?
A: Adelaide is based on a real person, someone I always had to have Christmas dinner with. Many of the other characters are compilations of real people. Isola isn’t one particular person, but she IS the kind of "complete wacko" that Mary Ann loved. Amelia (Heather's note: she is my favorite character) is based partly on Mary Ann’s grandmother whom she loved dearly. Her looks are patterned after her, and much of her personality as well. Kat is based mostly on my now 9-yr-old daughter Esme. When Esme was 3 & 4 she and Mary Ann were very close. Esme has a very strong personality. Remember the line in the book about the spinach, when Kat put up her hand stopping the food from coming near her plate, and said “Not for me”? That came directly from Esme. Juliet is the most like Mary Ann – she is witty and her love of people’s stories is very much like Mary Ann.
Heather's note: We also discussed a post Annie wrote for ReadingGroupGuides called Literary Meandering. We agreed that you find the most interesting and unexpected books that way. It is a great post and I hope you'll go read it.

How do you feel about all the publicity that the book is getting? Has it surprised you in any way? Any amusing stories to tell?
A:Not really “surprised” but definitely pleased. The book is so charming and so much like Mary Ann that of course people are going to love it.
Q: Have you been to Guernsey? Or do you plan to go?
A: Yes, I went there last summer. “What was hard was writing about a place I hadn’t been.” I went just 3 weeks before the book was published so it was too late to change anything, but I feel that anything I said "definitely" is correct. There is one part where Eben and 5-year-old Eli are walking to a beach and I realized that the walk is probably too far for such a small child, but that was the only thing I'd change.
Q: What has been the response from the people of Guernsey?
A: Most of the response has come from people who were children there during the war. Some of them were evacuated, some stayed. There has been little response from present-day residents. However, one intrepid reader is planning a trip to Guersney and she has promised to be my spy and let me know what they’re saying about the book over there.
Heather's note: Before her work on this book Annie was already a successful children's book author. She writes a series called Ivy & Bean which is simply adorable. Go read the description of the books here and tell me you don't completely identify with those first few sentences. Annie is currently working on the 7th Ivy & Bean book.

How different was your experience with this book from your work on the Ivy & Bean books, or your other children’s books?
A: It is like having two completely different freeways in your brain. Each type of book uses a different part of the brain and I can only work on one type at a time. I’ll usually spend a few days on an Ivy & Bean book, take a break for a day, then dive into an adult book project. The two types of writing are so different that it takes a while to transition from one to the other.
Q: What do you want people to know about the Guernsey book, or about Mary Ann? What do you wish people would ask but they never do?
A: I wish people would ask more about the actual occupation. What were the Germans DOING there? Why were they there? What was their plan? And I wish people would ask more about the culture of Guernsey. It is very different from England. They are much more focused on seafaring and they are much more French. They even had their own language but it has almost died out now.
Heather's note: Annie also mentioned that the film rights have been optioned but both she and I agreed that doesn't necessarily mean anything. She's hopeful though, as am I.

I had such a wonderful time speaking with Annie. Thank you to TLC Book Tours for arranging this interview. You can see my review of "that Guernsey book" here and a recap of my book club's discussion of it here.

*** Giveaway ***

I have five - that's right, FIVE! - copies of this book to give away to my readers. Here's how to enter:
  • Leave a comment saying why you'd like to read this book - the cover? the summary? a review you've read? something else? A simple "enter me!" won't get you in.

  • If your email address is not available through your profile or your blog, please include it in your comment.

  • The publisher is only shipping books to readers with a US or Canadian mailing address. Sorry to all my international readers!

  • I'll choose the winners next Friday morning (9/4) so be sure to get your comment posted before then.


Mel (He Followed Me Home) said...

Wow Heather, lucky you!! I can only imagine your heart skipped a beat when you heard nothing on the tape, yikes!

Great interview, no need to enter me as I have this awesome book already :)

kelly said...

I just picked this book up from the library and will probably start it this weekend. The title and the cover both turn me off, but I have heard nothing but rave reviews from friends who have read it! So I will give it a shot!

Ruth said...

This is the 2nd contest I've entered for this book this week...hoping to double my chances as I've been dying to read this book! I love the time period and WW2 history in general. Thanks for the opportunity!

ruthellenanderson (at) gmail (dot) com

Crystal said...

Wonderful interview! What interested me in the book is both the title and the cover and then the good reviews that it has been receiving also.

Wanda said...

I would love to win this book because this particular book title keeps popping up everywhere I turn and it just intrigues me.
wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

Sue said...

I hadn't heard of this book until last week when I talked to my sister and she told me her book group read this book. She said that her group had never read a book that everyone loved as much as this one. I'm looking forward to reading it. Thanks for sharing.

s.mickelson at gmail dot com

M. said...

My book club just decided to select this, even though several had read it already, because they liked it so much they wanted to read it again!! It would be lovely if I won a copy.

Thanks for the interesting author questions. I liked the bit about Guernseyites reactions.

mayamissani AT yahoo DOT ca

bermudaonion said...

I'm thrilled for you! I doubt I would have been able to talk - I would have just been stammering! The review is wonderful. No need to enter me - I have the book.

Amanda said...

I'd love to win this book! Like she said, I'm interested in why the Germans were there, why they occupied it. It's a snippet of history that I had not heard about before. Great interview! Too bad your recorder didn't work.

longbrakeliving said...

I've actually seen this book reviewed on a couple of other blogs, and the first couple of times, I didn't bother to read the review beacause the cover and title didn't make the book seem like something I would like. But, having actually read reviews now, I think I would really enjoy it. I have a thing for epistolary novels; I love all the different voices and viewpoints that style allows.

mc dot longbrake at gmail dot com

Jamie said...

I would love to win this book, because this interview made it sound very interesting. It is a departure from the noraml genre of books that I read, and I think a book out of my "comfort zone" might be a good thing.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Aargh. I wish I could hear the discussion comparing this book to Suite Francaise, which I liked quite a bit.

Anyway, no need to enter me (although I think my book club would like this book. A lot.). I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've posted about this at Win a Book.

Anonymous said...

mt girlfriend read it & has rccommended it to me, I need a good end of summer read,,thx for contest..

Jenny N. said...

I would like to read this book because it is told through letters of the different characters. It is a different format from the novels I usually read. Also because I'm a history buff and the story takes place during WWII so it will be interesting to read about characters that live in a German occupied area.


Mary Ann DeBorde said...

Mary D
zenrei57 (at) hotmail (dot) com

What a very interesting interview, I'd heard of this book and now, after reading your post, it is certainly something my daughter and I would enjoy.
The reason? Aside from the absolutely wonderful title, I adore history and biographys, My name is Mary Ann lol, and I think the character Amelia sounds like a lot of fun! Mainly, the book is about real people in real times and I'd love to get to know them better :)

The Giveaway Diva said...

i've heard a bunch of very great reviews on this book so i would love to read it! and so many people's raves can't hurt right?

Andrea said...

I've heard nothing but good things about this book and I keep seeing it everywhere! I'd love to win a copy


Serena said...

Wow, what a great interview. I love it. No need to enter me into your giveaway.

way to go Heather!

lisamm said...

Wow, Heather! Great job! I can only imagine the panic you must have felt when you realized the tape hadn't recorded anything. I am so thrilled you were able to do this and want to thank you so much for all the time and effort that went into reading and reviewing the book, and interviewing the author. Like Kathy (above), I'm sure I would have been too tongue tied to do this!

Thanks again!

AmandaSue said...

Wow that really stinks that it didnt record, I would of been really mad! But you did a good job remembering though. I'd love a chance to read this book because I thought it sounds good ever since I first saw the beautiful cover! That and the fact that I haven't read a book like this before thanks for the chance.

raych said...

Meeeeeeeeee! Please pick me!!! I'm not going to lie, I've already read it, but I want to have my own copy so that I can thrust it into the hands of others. MANY others. Because it is so awesome.

Lit and Life said...

Don't put me in the drawing; I've read the book and really enjoyed it.

Great interview! How frustrating about the tape recorder but how lucky that you were able to remember so much of it!

MoziEsmé said...

I love that this is based on real life! The title intrigues me. And I've seen some great reviews...

janemaritz at yahoo dot com

softdrink said...

I've already read (and loved) the book, so I'm not entering, but I wanted to say you did a lovely job of recreating the interview!

minishoes1 said...

That's a bummer your recorder didn't work. The interview was great anyways! I have been wanting to read this, and I like the title and it is based on real life. I haven't read a book like this and its a book me and my sisters would read. Thanks!

Marjorie said...

The review alone is why I want to read this book.
I am a follower.

cenya2 at hotmail dot com

Barb said...

Great interview despite not having a taped version of it.

What intrigues me about this book is that it focuses on World War II from a different perspective than what is usually presented. To discuss resistance fighters from an English perspective through the form of letters makes it seem very realistic. I want to gain a broader view of how people reacted to war, persecution with such bravery.

Thanks for offering this book.

bstilwell12 at comcast dot net

nfmgirl said...

I'd like to read this, because I've been hearing such great things about it. It's one of "the" books of the year it seems!

Please count me in. Thank you!

nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

lauraknight said...

I would love to win this book. I have been reading reviews, interviews,etc. for over a year now and have been waiting patiently for my library to get this book on their shelves. No luck yet! One of the things that really appeals to me is the letter format in which it is written. I do hope you will enter me. Thanks for the chance to win!

Anna said...

No need to enter me. Just wanted to say I really enjoyed this interview. I think you did a great job despite not having the actual recording. I loved Guernsey and my daughter loves the Ivy & Bean books. I'll get a link to this on War Through the Generations.

Diary of an Eccentric

Carrie said...

What a FANTASTIC post and I'm so glad that you linked it up to the 5M4B Bookclub so we'd be aware of it. Sounds like you had a fantastically good time.

As you know, I've already read this book but if I could win a copy for my mom, I'd love to!

readingtoknow (at) gmail (dot) com

morninglight mama said...

What a WONDERFUL interview-- thanks so much for that, it's a perfect addition to the Bookclub!

trish said...

Great interview questions, Heather! Your heart must have sunk when you realized you didn't actually have the tape recording! (don't enter me in the drawing...I've already read it and then went out and bought two copies to give to friends. :)

Amy said...

Terrific interview and what a bummer about the tape recorder!! (That is so totally something that would happen to me!)

I've read the book already, but since I borrowed it from the library, I'd love to own a copy!

avisannschild said...

Great interview, Heather; you did well even without the recording!

I've read so many great reviews of this book that I'm dying to read it. Thanks for the giveaway!


Jennifer, Snapshot said...

Well I should have come over here even though I hadn't read it yet to try to win!!

Here's my link since it's been so long since everyone else posted up.

But that was really a lovely interview. Very cool.

Anna said...

We posted a link to your interview on War Through the Generations.

Diary of an Eccentric

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