la-rochelleQ. Interestingly, of the readers who have commented to us on the book, each has described it differently, highlighting themes particular to them. The most common response I suppose would to be that La Rochelle is ‘a book about love’. Would you go along with this?

A. Somewhere the narrator holds forth on pagan love and Christian love (inspired no doubt by one of his German books of wisdom). La Rochelle is certainly concerned with the many forms love can take and the different temperatures it can exist at; it’s also concerned with how far love may conceal itself as its opposite…

I hope too that the book loves its characters. The critic John Bailey once wrote that love is the essence of characterisation; this doesn’t sound very tough, but that’s no argument against its truth.

Q. It’s evident that you have love for the characters in the book. Where are they drawn from?

A. This is a bit of a mystery really. What may happen is that impressions I’ve taken in from photographs on walls, TV programmes, newspaper interviews, things other people have told me about their families or dreams, people I may once have met myself – such impressions may get grafted onto characters from Shakespeare or John Webster, or other writers from around that time, such as John Aubrey… I’d like to think of certain characters from La Rochelle (Ian and the narrator, for example) as having a sort of seventeenth century provenance. But I may be quite mistaken about all this.

The aim anyway is to make them somewhat larger than life, and difficult to see right round. This is the important thing. They must have their own nature, and a kind of freedom.

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