Saturday, 28 February 2009

Veggie Books: The Letters

It's official. Fiona Robyn is fabulous. She's kicking off her month long tour of blogs right here at the Veggie Box. That's not the only reason she's fabulous but it's a good one.

Her book The Letters is out soon and it contains a whole heap of vegetables. I asked her some questions about it and she replied, being of a good heart.

1. Tell us what you grow in your veggie patch.

I try and grow the things I like to eat. Last year garlic was a great success – we were eating it from June through to January, when I planted the last four heads for this year’s crop. I never realised that papery husk starts off all fleshy and green. I put spidery asparagus crowns in a couple of years ago – we should get our first modest harvest this Summer. Also courgettes, potatoes, beans, raspberries, beetroot, radishes… yum.

2. 'The Letters' contains the most amazing amount of fruit and veg I've come across in a novel. In order of appearance, there's cucumbers, onions, garlic, mango, apples, blackcurrants, potatoes, lemons, peaches, strawberries, runner beans, raspberries, cabbage, peas, carrots and bananas. It gives the book a fresh sense of detail, and an alive quality, i think. How important is this kind of detail to you in your writing? Do you see it as the key to a scene, or just the (salad) window dressing?

Really? I’m amazed I managed to squeeze in all that fresh produce… although I’m not sure the banana counts as it’s in banoffee pie? I do like the thought of you happening upon a mango or a lemon and making a little triumphant note ; ) It’s a good question. I do think that details are crucial. I’d rather know something small and specific about a character (that they hold a lock of their hair across their mouth when they’re thinking) than something more general (that they’re an accountant). I suppose I hope that the details are a ‘way in’ for the reader – if I do a good job of describing the way this character walks out of the room, it’ll say what I want the reader to know about how alone this character is, or how they deal with disappointment.

3. It's a very organic book, dealing with birth, death, growth, how we spread out our emotions and how they get chopped back, only to grow again. I kept picturing your main character, Violet, as a plant. Maybe a fennel bulb, growing straight up, not spreading out, but putting out delicate feathery fronds. How did you picture her? She's a great character.

Violet as fennel… yes, I can see that! I certainly see her as prickly, so maybe something like a pineapple, you have to work a bit harder to get into the sweet stuff.

4. And finally, give us a veggie anecdote. Anything. We're not picky (although personally I'm not keen on stories that involve tomatoes).

A couple of year ago I was incredibly excited about my butternut squash seeds, but six weeks after planting them nothing had happened. I was resigned to waiting until next year when my friend Hazel mentioned that she had a spare butternut plant, and would I like it? I was so chuffed. I did notice that it looked remarkably similar to the six courgette plants in the same bed, but hey, I thought, it’s all squash. I patiently watched it grow over the coming months – weeding around it, feeding it, my mouth watering at the thought of home-grown roasted butternut. It wasn’t until it had actually produced its first courgette that I was forced to acknowledge Hazel’s unfortunate mistake.

Thanks Fiona! You're a kumquoit. And the book is a peach. Buy it buy it buy it.


annie clarkson said...

wonderful interview, and lovely answers, such a quirky angle to take in the interview, but it really got my interest...

jem said...

Great and unusual interview. I hadn't noticed all those fruit and veg references. Perhaps we seek out what most interests us in novels. I felt most drawn by the sea scenes. But then I'm coming to love f & v quite late in my life. Interesting that Violet has the name of a flower too.

Aliya Whiteley said...

Thanks peeps! When you start looking for fruit and veg in a novel, it changes your whole perspective on the writing process.

Megan said...

I especially love question 3 (and answer 3 too)Violet as fennel or pineapple? Perhaps she's an aubergine ..?

Crafty Green Poet said...

great interview, I think you're right, all those veg added something to the novel... made me hungry while reading it too