Friday, July 14, 2023

Q&A with Stephanie Cowell

Stephanie Cowell is the author of the new historical novel The Boy in the Rain. Her other books include Claude & Camille. She lives in New York City.


Q: What inspired you to write The Boy in the Rain, and how did you create your characters Robbie and Anton?


A: The characters came to me in a sort of dream when I saw them standing on outdoor steps in an old country house. They were opaque and vanished when I looked again. I confided how they kept coming to my mind to two friends who set me a wager to write it down.


But during the month since I have published the novel, through blogs and podcasts and bookstore readings, I have come to see it from the outside a bit more and find some sources.


When I was in school, I was dear friends with two 16-year-old boys who were in love. I thought it was very romantic. And I think I wanted to study the ups and downs and power struggle between any couple and could see it clearer through the eyes of two young men.


Q: Did you need to do much research to write the novel, and if so, did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: I did huge amounts of research and two things surprised me most: the first quite horrible thing was the brutality of the prison sentence for a perfectly natural love between two men, and the second was that when more and more people began to fight for an English bill to give the poor food and shelter and healthcare, the King himself, Edward VII, threw all his power behind it to see it pass.

Q: The writer M.J. Rose called the book a “powerful, sensual and lyrical novel that literally took my breath away--the love is so visceral, the pain so deep, the beauty so real, and the danger so palpable.” What do you think of that description?


A: I was of course very thrilled by the description, one of the first blurbs I received. I couldn’t believe all the wonderful blurbs which came in and are still coming but hers just blew me away. Of course, M.J. is a superlative writer herself, a mystic and a bit of a poet. My very favorite of her books is The Lost Language of Stones.


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I had NO idea how the novel would end. I had no idea what the novel would be as it was written over 39 years between other novels, and I just didn’t have the skill then to begin to do what I wanted. But a lot of life happened to me in those years. The ending is very different than I had ever dreamed.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I have almost finished a very different Brontë novel, about Emily’s secret love for a man no one else has ever seen. Is he there really or is he part of her imagination? Or somewhere in between? And then I am trying to finish the third book of a trilogy which I began in 1993. It’s one of those complicated stories of why it took so long.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I had The Boy in the Rain in my heart for so long that it’s hard to believe it is finally published. I am so grateful to my publisher Regal House who fell in love with it and the more than 50 readers, some of whom read three or more versions and cheered it on, including my mentor Madeleine L’Engle.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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