Host Rich Fahle talks with Paula McLain and Sara Gruen about their latest books at the 2015 Miami Book Fair.
FROM THE PUBLISHER: (Circling the Sun: A Novel)
Paula McLain, author of the phenomenal bestseller The Paris Wife, now returns with her keenly anticipated new novel, transporting readers to colonial Kenya in the 1920s. Circling the Sun brings to life a fearless and captivating woman—Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who as Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir Out of Africa.
Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But even the wild child must grow up, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships.
Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer, and her uncommon style attracts the eye of the Happy Valley set, a decadent, bohemian community of European expats who also live and love by their own set of rules. But it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly.
Set against the majestic landscape of early-twentieth-century Africa, McLain’s powerful tale reveals the extraordinary adventures of a woman before her time, the exhilaration of freedom and its cost, and the tenacity of the human spirit.
FROM THE PUBLISHER: (At the Water’s Edge: A Novel)
After disgracing themselves at a high society New Year’s Eve party in Philadelphia in 1944, Madeline Hyde and her husband, Ellis, are cut off financially by his father, a former army colonel who is already ashamed of his son’s inability to serve in the war. When Ellis and his best friend, Hank, decide that the only way to regain the Colonel’s favor is to succeed where the Colonel very publicly failed—by hunting down the famous Loch Ness monster—Maddie reluctantly follows them across the Atlantic, leaving her sheltered world behind.
The trio find themselves in a remote village in the Scottish Highlands, where the locals have nothing but contempt for the privileged interlopers. Maddie is left on her own at the isolated inn, where food is rationed, fuel is scarce, and a knock from the postman can bring tragic news. Yet she finds herself falling in love with the stark beauty and subtle magic of the Scottish countryside. Gradually she comes to know the villagers, and the friendships she forms with two young women open her up to a larger world than she knew existed. Maddie begins to see that nothing is as it first appears: the values she holds dear prove unsustainable, and monsters lurk where they are least expected.
As she embraces a fuller sense of who she might be, Maddie becomes aware not only of the dark forces around her, but of life’s beauty and surprising possibilities.
For more coverage of the 2015 Miami Book Fair:
Women authors, fiction, Africa, interpersonal relations, historical fiction, biographical fiction, Kenya,
fathers and sons, socialites, Scotland, Loch Ness monster
hi I'm rich folly were a book for you now at the Miami Book Fair 2015 and I am having a great time now sitting down with Paul MacLean author of circling the Sun and Sara Gruen whose book is at the water's edge so great to have both of you thank you thanks yeah this is a first of all let's talk about this festival what an amazing time we bring these authors together and have you guys ever met before we have not we know charcoal in each other's universal well and you're on a panel together today ya later this afternoon at two thirty yeah well this is the wonderful thing about festivals and fairs like this as you bring together authors and different people who haven't met we've done wonderful things in this case we wanted to bring you guys to get the set together because the books you both write historical beautiful historical fiction novels and when I say beautiful I also i was talking to you both about the covers pretty dazzling yeah stunning I mean really both of them really lovely but let's start with you Paula your book is about Beryl Markham and you had to dive into a real live historical personality with Beryl Markham so many people may know from West with a knight a classic book and her has a history but tell me when you pick a subject and this is something that you've made a sort of i have it out come here oh yes you died not it like a virus that's right but it's fun it's obviously doing something it's working your book the paris wife obviously is so successful yeah now circling the Sun another historical character can you tell us a little bit about how you choose your subjects yeah I actually think they sort of choose me you know and sometimes it's pretty violent blow through my life alive like a crosstown bus and I found barrel in the pages west with the night and which was first published in 1942 but which I didn't discover until just a few years ago and in fact I didn't know her I didn't know her name didn't know her reputation I didn't know her her historical significance which is that that she was the first woman to fly the Atlantic east to west non stop him solo in 1936 I also didn't know about this beautiful book even though and this is ironic Hemingway blurbed it yes yeah I know Wow yeah just somehow under my radar but the writing is so gorgeous and her ferocity and her boldness her originality kind of leap off the page and she's just hijacked me essentially I didn't really have a choice after that well your books use real characters we're going to come back to them because there's a couple more famous characters Karen Blitzen also known as easy denison who wrote out of Africa a lot of Africa and has been he's incredible there's a movie made about the characters in your book yeah and then Sarah for you you go back in the history as well you found a really beautiful and lush period in the history of Scotland with Loch Ness 1944 but your characters are people that you make up presumably tell us a little bit about your but you also drawn to historical period pieces tell us about your love of history and how they leave into your fiction well I don't think of it in terms of genre or oh I'm going to go write some historical fiction it's it's some kind of a violent process for me the ideas as well if I if I look for an idea I'll find a few that seem okay and they're not it and when it comes I know it it's like falling in love and I was the third of the way through another novel when I got the inspiration for water for elephants and I just dropped everything and wrote it and I was procrastinating one day when I found the inspiration for at the water's edge and I think eighty percent of my job is procrastinating it seems to be working he knows that you're doing so I ran across an article on some declassified documents and one of them was a letter written by a high-level Scotland Yard official and in 1938 and it was absolutely certain that there was no doubt in these people's minds that it existed was just who's the who's going to get the body England or Scotland and that was with the the Loch Ness monster yeah yeah and they both the museum's of natural history had bounties on its head and it was growing and growing now and human the diffused it was World War two I didn't know until I looked at your book that I certainly have filed as a kid growing up in the 70s Loch Ness monster was on every kid's race job rights right sir john yeah it was in search of it myself of my little windup kodak camera all of us I mean everybody in that era but I didn't realize that there was a search that went back to the 40s for the lapis mantra and that had already captivated people and that was drawing people often yeah well it was great about then it was nestled mania because there was I mean there's been sightings of the Loch Ness monster the original recorded sightings are actually Pictish carvings but then there's st. Columba's I think that was six hundred and something ad but then there's it's just it's been it's appeared throughout the ages but the real cluster of Nessie sightings happened when they finally bill to the a82 around the north edge of the locket so people could get could access at the first time and so suddenly people were seeing mrs. Mackay saw the monster come out and thrash across the road with the Sheep in its mouth and that got in the paper and then the guy who was writing the article was the water bailiff and he saw the monster no less than 33 times I think so it just became this thing and then it became this national listening and big game hunters from all over the world came and they were competing and they were there were rewards and it was it was because they built the a82 basically yeah well I love is a how much research went into this interesting same free as well Apollo I mean your characters are real people in your case there's real history around the Loch Ness how bound are you to the stories a visa Tennyson or to Beryl Markham for that matter because there's some differences of opinion about where barrel learn to fly for instance and I'm sure in your research there's historians that have one perspective or another how bound are you as fiction writers to the actual story as best as you know it and and how how much do you stick to that well I know other writers have different rules but I don't make up events for my characters and I don't make up fictional characters for them to interact with I sort of wed myself to the facts as I find them but a lot of it is sifting and and scrutinizing and then coming to a truth that seems quite personal invective sources contradict each other and you know we're on an excavation process it's it's all an investigation to get sort of to the bottom of a character the same way I would if I was making a character up and in this case I'm taking a woman from history and then finding her within that you know within the mantle of history and getting to the bottom hopefully something that feels true to me you know whatever is happening personally deeply personally you won't find in biography right you actually have to you have to meet that character on an imaginative plane and say are the same to you you and when you're when you're researching like obviously that that provides a background for you but tell me about how it affects your story and I mean there is history that goes into this you are learning about things that happen how much do you say I've got to put that in there this has to be I tried to put a lot of stuff in but then again I i am a novelist I live for a living so if I find something that I want to use and in this case things like the the bombing employers or or Castle commando I'll change it by a year or two but i'll usually put it in the afterward that i've done that that I've taken some liberties yeah both of your books have benefited greatly from the power of word of mouth and book clubs and and God bless the book club yeah the book clubs have been and you're both sort of so entrenched in that book club scene now and your books are so popular in that world how has that new thing changed this kind of fiction especially for the two of you and and what you still communicate with some of those book club Sarah we talked earlier we had you in a book club back in my older days and it's been so helpful to all of your books I I don't think I new life the four book clubs so they've been there all along and I have less not constant but I don't think it hasn't changed for me because that was my first big book and it was really the book clubs embraced it and so they've been a part of my life for 10 years there's a certain kind of book that book club scene to its charm no it's true it's true and I think they really want something to chew on the women sorry they're mostly women that read my books and that I meet and skype with etc they were they're smart and they really they want a history lesson I want to be engaged they want to be swept into a world that we've dramatized that feels real to them they don't want to just go to lunch yeah I think want something to think about talk about argue about I think it's how we read now I think about it as sort of like a salon right yes yeah it's like a salon you know and I also think that the reader brings a lot to the book and so that provides room for a lot of discussion how they perceive particularly in made up characters with your motivations were yeah and sometimes challenging characters are challenging storylines you think that that would be a barrier but in fact it's sort of a draw if you go to book club and everybody likes the book what is there to talk Fred yeah I've noticed uh you know people read these books they especially love these characters that they can really sink their teeth into and they share but there is something to pass along value your books and not all books experience and it's something that I think some books really benefit more than and your seem to have hit that high mark you talk Sarah though about like how your inspiration comes and you can be use that you're halfway through another book or three cores I'm with you yeah third but yeah a lot of words I ditched it and moved on tell me about how that inspiration comes to you is it through reading the newspapers is it just walking down the street what is the magic thing give me anything if I knew what it was I would just do that whenever I needed an idea but in the case of water for elephants was indeed opening the newspaper and finding a vintage circus photograph and that was it yeah and there's something brave about going down a path that's might strike other people's unusual