Monday, September 4, 2023

Q&A with David Foenkinos




David Foenkinos is the author of the novel Second Best, translated from the French by Megan Jones. His many other books include the novel Charlotte. He is based in France.


Q : What inspired you to write Second Best, and how did you create your character Martin Hill?


A : It really happened by chance. I saw an interview with the casting director of Harry Potter. She talked about how hundreds of young boys auditioned for the part, and at the end of the process they were down to just two boys. They hesitated for weeks to make their choice. This is a true story.


I immediately began to think about the second boy and how difficult it must have been not to be chosen. I began to imagine what that boy's life might be like, almost every day, for the next 20 years. I decided to write a novel about it and create a character that was faced with such a failure. It was important that the book reflect the feelings of anyone who also might be confronted with that kind of failure.


Q : What do you think accounts for the ongoing popularity of the Harry Potter franchise?


A : What JK did is amazing. She deserves the Nobel Prize for it! I can see multitudes of young people reading books thanks to her. In Second Best, I also tell JK's story, which is a like a fairy tale. She was a poor, bitter woman, alone with her daughter, her lovely mum just died… it reads like a Ken Loach movie! And then she becomes the most famous writer in the world.

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 knew my ending from the very start. The book is like a long trip in the country of failure. But for me, it was very important that by the end my character finds a solution and feels better about it. For readers in France and many countries, it was quite a surprise…


Q : What do you think the book says about fame?


A : Every part of life can be complicated. Failure is difficult, but we can see that fame can be difficult too. It was very important to talk about the complexity of each situation. Nothing is white or black. I like the idea that my hero thinks at one point that maybe his failure was a good thing. You can learn a lot from difficulties. And sometimes it’s better to fail before having success.


Q : What are you working on now?


A : I have a new book coming out next January in France. This summer I am working on a play in Ukraine.


I also have a beautiful project that will be a show about Charlotte Salomon. I wrote my book Charlotte about her. The show will have music and the text will be read by the amazing actress Audrey Tautou. After a five-year break in her career, she returns to the stage with this show. Audrey Tautou is famous worldwide because she was the actress in Amelie. And she was also in the movie Delicacy, based on one of my books.


Q : Anything else we should know?


A : Second Best will be soon a movie. And I have a dream that the number two of the original cast stars in my movie!  


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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