Friday, 19 June 2015

The Snake and The Condor by Robert Southam

Release Date: 26th June 2015
Publisher: Roundfire Books
Genres: Contemporary Fiction

Brook Cottage Books is thrilled to welcome Robert Southam to the blog for the first time with a great author interview. Lets find out a bit about his book first though.

Book Blurb

Santiago, Chile, at the height of Pinochet's reign of terror in the late twentieth century. Julieta, the Juliet of this 'Romeo and Juliet' story and the daughter of a senior government official, is to be married to the army officer of her father's choice. She attempts to escape with the boy she loves to the Peruvian Andes, but her father's tentacles reach across South America and even as far as England. The young lovers are caught up in a series of gripping adventures and narrow escapes. They are helped by a courageous priest, whose mission is to save opponents of Pinochet from the prisons, torture chambers and executions of the military régime.

The Snake and the Condor is more than a retelling of one of the great love stories of world literature. It also studies the cruel effects of colonization, forced conversion and economic exploitation on non-European civilizations. It evokes the fear, suspicion and uncertainty on which tyranny and dictatorship thrive.

Profoundly rich and transporting... This beautiful book plunged me into another world. From the first page I knew I was in the hands of a seriously good storyteller - every scene vivid, brimming full of life. Dr Andrea Ashworth, book critic for Harper's and Vogue, and author of the bestseller, Once in a House on Fire

The author writes with a tingling, heart-pounding tenderness of the lovers' growing awareness of and feelings for each other as they resist oppression and uncertainty together. The narrative and the detailed scenes through which it develops make this a compelling and emotional experience. Paul Simon, The Morning Star

Robert Southam graduated from Oxford and has since worked as an actor, director, university teacher and film-maker in England and on the Continent. The Snake and the Condor is his second novel.

Author Interview

Do you write under a pen name or your own name?

I write under my own name. It would be like hiding my face from the world if I wrote under a pseudonym. Not the most striking of names, perhaps, or the most beautiful of faces, but they’re part of me, of my identity.

Where are you from?

 I have been based in Oxford for years but I was born in Surrey, whisked away after a few weeks to Vienna, where my father was working, then Geneva, Düsseldorf, London, Brighton, Winchester, Montreal. I feel European, in a Europe that includes England, and divide my time between Oxford and France.

Did you write when you were a child?

Yes. I wrote poems to God at the age of six. At seven, I was discovered at two in the morning in a hotel in St John’s, Newfoundland, finishing a thousand-word description of my rescue by seaplane from a remote and unmapped corner of Labrador. My writing continued into my teens but flowered only occasionally during my professional life in the theatre. I am now making up for lost time.

What was the first thing you ever had published?

 I was just eight when Lost in Labrador was published in The Children’s Newspaper, an excellent little tabloid that must have disappeared like the dinosaurs many years ago.

Describe your writing routine.

I write first thing in the morning, when my mind is rested and still in touch with the world of dream, with my subconscious. I keep the morning going for as long as possible, sometimes until three in the afternoon. Anything written later in the day tends to end up in the waste-paper basket.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I go straight from bed to desk, stopping only to make a large cup of freshly ground coffee (fair trade). I start by correcting the previous day’s work. After about half an hour, at six-thirtyish, the coffee has taken effect, the words are flowing and I write two or three hundred of them an hour until the next cup of coffee. I write with pen and paper, working the hand as I would to paint or sculpt or make music, and use the computer only for corrections.

What are you currently working on?

I am just finishing another story of love and adventure, this one set partly in South Africa, both during and after apartheid, and partly in England. Two friends, both white, both women, one twenty years older than the other. The older woman is exiled from her country for crossing the racial line and falling in love with one of her father’s Xhosa employees. The younger woman leaves England to live with the black South African man she loves.

Where did the idea for The Snake and The Condor come from?

The Snake and the Condor grew out of my experiences in Peru, Bolivia and Chile: the extreme poverty; the hospitality and generosity of the indigenous people I stayed with, many of whom lived close to starvation in shanty-towns or in unheated huts high in the Andes, often without water, always without social security or access to doctors and hospitals; the exploitation that began with the Spanish conquest and colonization in the sixteenth century and continues today at the hands of multi-nationals and foreign banks, mining and other companies, many of them North American; the Hispanic contempt for the indigenous inhabitants of their countries; the accounts I heard from Chileans of the two decades of terror under Pinochet’s dictatorship, when Allende supporters were tortured to death or thrown live down mineshafts or from aeroplanes into the Pacific Ocean. I wanted to bring the two worlds of privilege and disadvantage, security and fear, face to face, to write a love story echoing Romeo and Juliet that offers the possibility of reconciliation to a family and society in which a late twentieth-century Capulet is prepared to hire killers to eliminate the young Mapuche who has dared to love his daughter.

Who was the first person to read your book?

I sent the manuscript of The Snake and the Condor to a good friend and talented writer, who I knew would be honest in her comments without being discouraging.

Do you have any advice for any budding authors?

I wouldn’t dare to offer advice. Every writer is different and writes for a different reason. I hope I will always be a budding author myself, with buds that produce better and better flowers every season. I can only speak from my own experience. For the technique of writing fiction I found the books published by the University of East Anglia very helpful. I feel I improved as a writer when I found an all-absorbing need and reason to write: to reveal and bring to my readers’ attention through my stories the injustices of colonization, exploitation and discrimination in different parts of the world, and to use half the royalties to fund projects providing health and education for a few of all those millions of exploited and disadvantaged members of the human family.

What is your opinion on Book Clubs?

I discovered only quite recently how strong the book club movement is across Britain. Most fiction authors are story-tellers hoping that passers-by will stop and listen to their story. Those looking for fame and fortune will almost certainly be disappointed, because only a tiny minority become household names with millions of readers and a villa in the south of France. Book clubs are the groups of passers-by who are interested enough to stop and listen. They are hugely important to authors. They are hugely important to cultural life in a country and world where we are more and more consumers of other people’s thoughts and imaginations and fewer and fewer of us take the time to read and think for ourselves. Authors need to support the book clubs that support the authors.

Thanks so much to Robert for this great interview. 

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