6 Jul 2016

Author Interview / Saskia de Coster

In a Flemish housing estate on top of a mountain lives the Vandersanden family. The neurotic, aristocratic Mieke combs her carpets while keeping a close eye on her family and her neighbours. Her husband, the self-made man Stefaan, is building up a career in a pharmaceutical company that is threatened by scandal. Daughter Sarah, overprotected by her parents and curious for the real life, is finding her own path, much like the rest of her generation. Will Sarah become the victim of the big family secret, or will she succeed in breaking an old pattern?


1. If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why?
Virginia Woolf is very important to me. Hence the title of my book 'Me and We', a quote of hers. I would love to work with Virginia Woolf. Or rather: I would just sit at her feet and watch her write, follow her process of writing and especially rewriting as that is the most fruitful way of learning. I imagine her crammed in a tiny sofa, with a writing board on her lap, chain-smoking and thinking. Without the internet! 

2.  What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write?
As I not only write novels but am also involved in a lot of projects with visual artists and musicians, my days are not very much alike. When I am working on a novel, I am very hard on myself and disciplined. The last month of finishing a manuscript looks like this: I get up very early (around 6 o'clock) as I can't get much sleep, I start writing immediately, with the help of strong coffee, then around 10 I eat and drink and then continue writing. In the afternoon, I usually go running then eat something and continue working till late I get to sleep around midnight. 
3.  What is the hardest part of the writing for you?
The hardest part is the part you always want to skip: the moment you realize you are not there yet. In fact, you realize that you need to cut out a passage or character that you really love. In other words, he moment of killing your darlings.
4.  When and why did you first start writing?
As a child, I was so fond of statues and I remade them myself, with paper and clay etc. I started remaking the original. It made me realize I wanted not only to copy the world, but make it mine. 

5.  How did you come up with the idea for your book?
We and Me is a family novel, set in Flanders in an upper class family. I researched the theme for eighteen years, that is to say: I spent my entire childhood in such an environment and based my novel loosely on that experience. For a long time, I thought I was a very independent individual, until the moment I heard myself say something and it was as if my mother was speaking through my mouth, although we have often disagreed. it made me realize that there is not only a 'me' but also a 'we' that we all make part of, inevitably.

6.  Are you a big reader? If so, what are you reading now?
I think every author should be a reader, as you try to write the book you as a reader would love to read. At least, that's how I see it. I just finished Chris Kraus' I love Dick, Han Kangs The vegetarian and Emma Clines The Girls. And was recently also very impressed by Adam Johnson collection of stories and especially Hilary Mantels autobiography.

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