Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Guest Post & Giveaway ~ Elizabeth Buchan - Separate Beds

When the first mutterings of ‘sub-prime’ and ‘mortgage crisis’ hit the press, I found myself thinking: this is going to have a really big effect on everyone. What will happen when people loose their jobs, their homes, their confidence? Who will help them?

And so reflecting on this, a novel came into my head.

There are two main themes in Separate Beds. The first looks at how the family can provide a raft in a sea of troubles and the second examines how, against all expectations, love can be rekindled.

Much had been written about the state of the family today – some of it positive, some of it not and the subject arouses strong feelings. In Separate Beds I wanted to explore a family which does manage to change, adapt and to renegotiate their relationships, despite the battle lines which have been drawn and the hostilities which have sprung up between them.

It is not easy – as the Nicholsons discover. The predictable, but comfortable, tenor of their lives is turned upside down by financial calamity and each family member has to choose how to get through it. At first glance, it might seem easier for their children. But youth is not necessarily as flexible as might be imagined. They have been bought up with high aspirations and it isn’t easy to abandon them.

What of their parents, Tom and Annie? They are already living separate lives – bitterly divided as a result of their eldest daughter’s departure from the family circle. When Tom loses the job which meant everything to him, he plunges into abject mourning. It is left to Annie to pick up the pieces and, as I was writing the novel, I was deliberately drawing comparisons between the modes of survival of the twenty-something and the fifty-something. In the novel, it is Annie the middle-aged woman who, despite her unhappiness, is called on to be stronger and more adaptable. Instinctively at this stage of her life, she understands that solidarity between humans is the only thing which matters.

As Emily, the youngest daughter says: the Nicholsons are at the start of the book, ‘just averagely and depressingly dysfunctional’. The shifts in sensibility and behaviour which happen because of events, and their feelings about other family members, are not always obvious to themselves but they are, nevertheless, changing. By the end of the book, each of them – in their different ways – have grown towards each other.
A fascination with love and money powers much of our fiction. Of course, novel is about character and the very best novelists create characters which become life companions. Who can forget Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet, or Tolstoy’s Anna Karenna. Yet, money and circumstances also influence significant portions of our lives and novels provide the structure and space to record and to reflect on these prime catalysts - think Thackeray’s Vanity Fair or of Dickens’ fizzing commentaries on Victorian England. Think, too, of Tom Wolfe, Jonathan Franzen and Anne Tyler. Whether political, social, spiritual, sexual or marital, any relationship will be, and is, influenced by its context. It is understandable, then, when people are in danger of loosing the roofs over their heads, it sends a bullet into the heart.

What rich and rewarding material for the novelist! As the nosiest person alive (put me on a desert island and I would die of boredom) I long to know how it all fits together.

Yet, it is not all gloom. Separate Beds is also Tom and Annie’s love story. Love stories can, and do, spring out of the stoniest ground, and I wrote it partly to show how resilient, compassionate and, ultimately, forgiving human beings can be - how they need to love, and to be loved, and my family is no exception. To paraphrase the novelist Muriel Spark: relationships never end. Only novels do.
Writing about families is a great way of showing this.

About the author ~

Elizabeth spent her childhood moving home every three years - including living for brief periods in Egypt and Nigeria before moving to Guildford, York and Edinburgh.

After graduating from the University of Kent at Canterbury with a double honours degree in English and History, she began her career as a blurb writer at Penguin Books. This was a job which required the hide of a rhinoceros, a nimble mind and the - occasional - box of tissues. People tend to shout at blurb writers but they are resourceful creatures which she and the team proved by continuing to produce a stream of copy for back jackets through thick and thin. Looking back, it was a golden era. Not many people are paid to spend their time reading through the treasury which is Penguin Books and there was no better education. Later, after having married and producing two children, she moved on to become a fiction editor at Random House before leaving to write full time which was something she had always planned to do since childhood - when she was frequently caught reading under the bedclothes with a torch after being put to bed which gave both books and reading a deliciously subversive tinge.

It was not an easy decision to take the gamble but she has never regretted it. As a writer, she has travelled all over the world and one of the many pleasures of the book tour has been to meet readers of all ages and to share with them a mutual passion for books and reading. She is in touch on line with many of them.

Elizabeth Buchan's short stories are broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in magazines. She reviews for the Sunday Times (UK) and has chaired the Betty Trask and Desmond Elliot literary prizes, and also been a judge for the Whitbread (now Costa) awards. She is a patron of the Guildford Book Festival and a past Chairman of the Romantic Novelists' Association.

Visit Elizabeth's website
Visit her blog
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Contact her ~ contact AT elizabethbuchan DOTcom

Her latest book ~

Separate Beds: A Novel

A story of economic breakdown and romantic recovery from the author of Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman.

Tom and Annie's kids have grown up, the mortgage is do-able, and they're about to get a gorgeous new, state-of-the-art French stove. Life is good- or so it seems. Beneath the veneer of professional success and domestic security, their marriage is crumbling, eaten away by years of resentment, loneliness, and the fall out from the estrangement of their daughter, and they've settled into simply being two strangers living under the same roof.

Until the economy falls apart.

Suddenly the dull but oddly comfortable predictability of their lives is upended by financial calamity-Tom loses his job, their son returns home, and Tom's mother moves in with them. As their world shrinks, Tom and Annie are forced closer together, and the chaos around them threatens to sweep away their bitterness and frustration, refreshing and possibly restoring the love that had been lying beneath all along.

In Separate Beds, Elizabeth Buchan has captured the concerns and joys of contemporary women, and her timely, warm, and funny novel tracks the ebb and flow of family, fortune, and love that is familiar to so many readers.

Other books by Elizabeth ~  

Thanks to the publisher, I have five (5)  copies of Separate Beds: A Novel to give away.

GIVEAWAY Rules for entering:

* This contest is open to residents of USA only. No PO Boxes
* Please complete the form below - do not leave information in the comments - it will not count.
* The contest will end on February 8th at 11:59PM EST; 5 winners will be selected and contacted thereafter.
* Once the winners are contacted, they will have 48 hours to respond to my email or another winner will be chosen (make sure to check your spam filters!).
* Book will be shipped directly from the publisher