lunedì 22 gennaio 2018

Virtual Name Before the Masses Tour & Giveaway: Deep Sahara by Leslie Croxford

Recovering from a nervous breakdown preceded by the death of his wife, Klaus Werner takes advice from a family friend and retreats to a monastery in the Algerian Sahara to sketch desert insects for a book. Upon arrival, however, he discovers a fresh crime scene: the monks have all been slaughtered as they went about their daily routine. Violent extremists, active in the area, are suspected. Numb and exhausted, Werner declines a police chief s offer of safe passage. 

Despite the shock of the murders, the desert seems to promise solace, a vast nullity against which Werner can take stock of himself and do his work. Yet, over the weeks and months that follow, his solitude is broken by a succession of encounters with travelling hermits, desert warriors, an attractive American paleontologist and others, all strangely connected to him. Each appears to conceal some kind of secret; even the insects he has come to study are mysteriously deformed, embodying an awful, hidden reality... Soon Werner is forced to confront the echoes of one of the darkest moments in modern history, and to come to terms with the deepest reaches of his own past. 

Deep Sahara is as suspenseful as it is a subtle exploration of one man’s emotional resurgence, rendered sparingly and with great physical and psychological precision.

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Interview with the Author
Tell us a little about how you got started as an author and how you came up with the idea for this book?
When I saw the film of Treasure Island at the age of 5 I wondered how movies were made. I was told they were based on books. As a result I thought of myself in terms of film, as an actor but also as a writer.

Much later I’d long had in mind some kind of a story about a monastery, because I knew some monks personally and used, as a student, to stay in monasteries as if they were YMCAs offering cheap holidays. Then in the 1990s I heard about the murder of monks in Algeria. And from that point on I had atmosphere, setting and the starting point for my plot.

Where do you get your ideas for characters? In particular, did you steal some characteristics from yourself or people you know for the main characters?
My serious fiction is not based on real people, in the sense of their appearance, eccentricities or forms of speech. At least not in Deep Sahara. These are external and would be more suited to comedy, I would think. Elements of plot are, however, suggested to me by real events (such as the murder of the monks), but transformed for purely imaginative ends. As for myself, I’m the source of all the themes of the novel but in the sense that Jung said the dreamer is every one of the persons in a dream. Each represents some aspect of him, but transmuted. There is no simple relationship.

Which author/authors or particular books have inspired you?
The Last Tycoon. This may not be the greatest novel I’ve read. Proust has that distinction. But the power of FitzGerald’s love scenes, out at Malibu and in the restaurant where they share a late meal, is unsurpassed.

What were some of your favorite reads of the past year?
My favourite book from last year is a Japanese novel, Strange weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami. A woman in her 30s meets her schoolteacher in their local bar-cum-restaurant and the writer subtly conveys their growing relationship. I enjoyed the way she renders the imperceptibly developing depth of their encounters, weaving in the change of seasons, reflected by the food available, thereby giving a sense of the passage of time. In sum, it is the unpretentious humanity of the book that I valued. 

For the aspiring writers out there, can you tell us something about how you develop your plot?
Years ago I was lucky enough to meet E. M. Forster. I asked him whether he followed a plan when writing. Yes he said, in the case of non-fiction or short fiction, but no in that of novels. He just allowed the story to develop. Now there may be writers who are guided by a clear plot from the outset. They are the Ancient Mariner with a tale to tell no matter what. But like Forster my novels have always sauntered out, not quite knowing where they are going. They start from an image, with an atmosphere, possibly a person. Characters, situations and even themes emerge in unsuspected ways. So if the writing is going well it seems organic and rich, but when it becomes dense and unclear the approach feels a liability. Since, however, I can’t help but write in this way, I find I have developed some compensating habits - if, again, without planning.

Like Humpty Dumpty I never quite know what I mean till I hear what I say. So I have to give myself plenty of space and time to say it. I write rough versions, sometimes only fragments, in a notebook, adding thoughts to it as they occur to me. And they do come into my mind without warning, sometimes first thing in the morning as dreams are still slipping away.

The notebook remains beside me when I type on my computer. It prevents me feeling I must immediately produce a perfect draft. I try out sentences, or whole passages and ideas for scenes. In this way even my most tangled and prolix thoughts are free to voice themselves without concern.

My notebook and, indeed, computer allow me to make draft after draft. For rewriting is as essential I find as is an artist’s modelling in clay for what can only later become a finished sculpture. In fact writing, or rewriting, is, I’ve discovered, a quest. The notebook, the repeated paragraphs on my screen, are not merely places for me to prevent infelicities of expression or unnecessary repetition, but to advance the search for what I want to say.

In my notebook, as if in a diary, I continuously analyse what I’m writing. It’s an internal debate and it helps me know what I really mean. In this way I can identify my mistakes. Example: that I’m writing in the third person whereas I should use the first or vice versa. Example: that I’ve entered a section, or the entire novel, at the wrong point in the plot, from the wrong point of view, or even in the wrong tense. For these wrong turns, sensed only uncomfortably at first, then painfully admitted to myself, once properly understood can prove highly productive. They make me clarify my intentions, what I really want to say, setting me on a better course that I would not have taken in a premature rush for completion.

But a word of caution: working with a mistake is to write in a haze, as if butting one’s head against an invisible brick wall. It causes anxiety and a deflation of spirits one doesn’t necessarily understand at the time. Yet, if one is prepared to give this process the necessary time and pay the price, it can lead to a significant deepening of one’s perspective on one’s novel.

I have frequently found my viewpoint adjusted in this way both in terms of the themes of a work in progress and what it is about me that they express. Yet this of course then faces me with a tricky question: how explicit should I make them?

Tell us about your future? Next book?
I have almost finished another novel about an English historian revisiting a Spanish pueblo where Albert Speer’s driver had convalesced after decades in Russia as a POW. He has an affair with the driver’s ex-lover, drawing him into an unexpected review of Speer, himself and of the nature of history.


Leslie Croxford is a British author and Senior Vice-President of the British University in Egypt. Born in Alexandria, he obtained a doctorate in History from Cambridge University. He has written one novel, Soloman's Folly (Chatto & Windus), and is completing his third. He and his wife live in Cairo.

Links: Goodreads

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6 commenti:

  1. I enjoyed reading about your book; congrats on the tour and thanks for the chance to win :)

  2. This looks like an interesting read. Thanks for the giveaway. I hope that I win. Bernie Wallace BWallace1980(at)hotmail(d0t)com

  3. thanks for hosting the book sounds great