Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Q&A with Connie Palmen

Connie Palmen is the author of the novel Your Story, My Story, now available in an English translation by Eileen J. Stevens and Anna Asbury. The novel is based on the lives of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. Palmen's other books include The Laws. She lives in Amsterdam. 


Q: Why did you decide to write a novel based on the marriage of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath?


A: When you a write a novel, there is never only one reason to do so, there are a lot of reasons, tangled themes, fascinations, love for a specific genre, love for other novels, the never ending need to understand more about life and about yourself.


The theme that guides a lot of my novels is the sometimes devastating influence of how we talk about other people. After the suicide of his wife Sylvia Plath, the life of Ted Hughes became the subject of gossip, nasty stories, myths, biographies. It was no longer his.


Q: What did you see as the right blend between the fictional and the historical as you worked on the book?


A: Combining history and fiction was walking on a thin cord between fact and imagination. I was guided by the 88 poems of Ted Hughes in Birthday Letters.


Q: What kind of research did you do to write the novel, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: I have been reading every poem, story, essay of the two poets, and I read every biography and the main books about them.


Q: What do you think are some of the most common perceptions and misperceptions about Hughes and Plath?


A: Hughes was not a monster and Plath was not a saint. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am still doing research for my next novel and I wrote essays on Vivian Gornick, Joan Didion, and Sylvia Plath. It is a continuation of a small collection of essays I wrote on famous, talented, and rather destructive women like Patricia Highsmith, Marilyn Monroe, Marguerite Duras, and Jane Bowles.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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