Today it’s my stop on The Versions of Us Blog Tour!
What if you had said yes?
The moments that change everything… One Day meets Sliding Doors in this outstanding debut that is causing a buzz across the publishing world
Some moments can change your life for ever. Have you ever wondered, what if…?
A man is walking down a country lane. A woman, cycling towards him, swerves to avoid a dog. On that moment, their future hinges. There are three possible outcomes, three small decisions that could determine the rest of their life.
Eva and Jim are nineteen and students at Cambridge when their paths first cross in 1958. And then there is David, Eva’s then-lover, an ambitious actor who loves Eva deeply. The Versions of Us follows the three different courses their lives could take following this first meeting. Lives filled with love, betrayal, ambition but through it all is a deep connection that endures whatever fate might throw at them.
The Versions of Us explores the idea that there are moments when our lives might have turned out differently, the tiny factors or decisions that could determine our fate, and the precarious nature of the foundations upon which we build our lives. It is also a story about the nature of love and how it grows, changes and evolves as we go through the vagaries of life.
Today I am thrilled to be a part of the book tour for the incredible The Versions Of Us by Laura Barnett. Laura has kindly agreed to visit the Book Nook for an author interview.
Hi Laura, thank you so much for joining me on the Book Nook today! Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
Hello, and thank you for having me! Of course… So my name is Laura Barnett, and I’m the author of The Versions of Us – my debut novel, which was published on 28 May by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. I’m also an arts journalist and features writer – I’ve written for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, and several other newspapers and magazines, for the last ten years or so. I’m from south London, where I still live, with a husband called Andy and a cat called Eno.
Congratulations on the success of The Versions of Us, it’s been so greatly received, you must be thrilled! How did you celebrate?
Thank you so much! I am in a bit of a daze, to be honest… and just so grateful for all the support the novel has received so far. As for celebrating – well, quite a bit of champagne has been drunk, and Andy and I went out for a very lovely meal together while on holiday in New York last month, to a restaurant called the 21 Club. It used to be a speakeasy – they fix a mean martini.
This is your debut novel, but you already have an impressive resume of writing and journalism. Had it always been your intent to write a novel?
Yes, it really has. I can’t quite explain why – for as long as I can remember, bar the odd flirtation with becoming a vet or a rock star, I’ve just always known that I wanted to write novels. I started really young, scribbling poetry and stories on scraps of paper, and entering various writing competitions as a teenager. Then, in my twenties, I got more serious about it, and began working on full novels – but I wrote, and then set aside, two other books before landing on the idea that would become The Versions of Us.
What was your inspiration for this novel? Has the butterfly effect, the idea of how the change in one tiny moment can have a huge effect on the future outcome, always been something of interest to you?
I think so. I first thought about telling a story in several different ways back when I was at university: at the time, I imagined a novel about a woman’s whole life, told as two different versions. Looking back, I think I had a sense then of how my own life was moving away from that of my friends – I was going away to Italy to study for a year, while they stayed behind – and of how this one key decision was going to influence my whole future. And it did, in a way – but the idea of transferring that parallel-life idea to a relationship, as I have done with The Versions of Us, only came to me many years later.
The Versions of Us follows three possible versions of the story; did you write the stories one after another, or were you writing all three beside each other? Were all 3 versions and outcomes always clear in your mind from the beginning?
I wrote the three versions concurrently, weaving between each one as I went. I wanted the book to feel like an organic whole, rather than a patchwork of three different stories. During the planning stage, I wrote a paragraph’s summary of each version, but that was really all I had when I started out: a series of signposts, if you like, rather than a comprehensive map of where I was going.
Can you tell us a bit about your general writing process?
Sure. I write in quite short, concentrated bursts: usually three or four hours at a time. I’ll start by going over the sections I wrote the day before – reading carefully, editing, slipping back into the atmosphere of the book, and the minds of the characters. Then I’ll write the next section – I usually have a rough goal in mind, whether it’s finishing a particular scene or paragraph. When I feel I can’t go any further in that session, I’ll read over what I’ve written. I often read the scene aloud – it’s a great way to check for any false-sounding notes, especially in the dialogue.
What are you currently working on? Can you tell us anything about it?
I’m working on my next novel, Greatest Hits. It’s about a successful female British singer-songwriter, who has retired from music some years ago for reasons that have never been explained to her fans. In the book, she is going back over her songs and her life, and gradually teasing out the reasons why she turned her back on fame.
What have you found to be the most rewarding thing about writing, and what is the most taxing?
A very interesting question! The most rewarding thing about writing, I’d say, is being able to make some sense – if only for a short while – of this random, chaotic existence we call life. And the most taxing… well, I’d say editing, but actually I find the editing process quite satisfying – and it’s such an essential part of the writing process. So for me, the most taxing part is planning, I think. I’m much happier just to dive right in.
Anything you’d like to add…
Really, I’d just like to say to anyone who is writing a novel, or thinking about writing one – just do it. There’s no magic formula; it’s not about waiting for inspiration to strike, or for the day when you’ll suddenly have loads of free time at your disposal. It’s about putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, every day, and refusing to give up – but also being honest with yourself about what’s working and what isn’t, and knowing when to move on from one idea, and turn to the one that really, truly excites you.
Thanks so much for joining me today, and congratulations again on the release of The Versions of Us.
Thank you so much for having me. It was a real pleasure talking to you.
Laura Barnett’s Bio
Laura Barnett is a writer, journalist and theatre critic. She has been on staff at the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph, and is now a freelance arts journalist and features writer, working for the Guardian, the Observer and Time Out, as well as several other national newspapers and magazines.
Laura was born in 1982 in south London, where she now lives with her husband. She studied Spanish and Italian at Cambridge University, and newspaper journalism at City University, London. Her first non-fiction book, Advice from the Players – a compendium of advice for actors – is published by Nick Hern Books. Laura has previously published short stories, for which she has won several awards. The Versions of Us is her first novel.
Connect with Laura Barnett
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