I’m delighted to host today’s stop on the blog tour for The Summer Letters, the latest heart-warming story by Elyse Douglas. Elyse Douglas is the pen name of husband and wife writing team, Elyse Parmentier and Douglas Pennington, and I’m thrilled they’ve agreed to answer some questions about The Summer Letters and their approach to writing.
About the Book
Publisher’s description: When Vanessa finds a rusty coffee can filled with old letters hidden away in a summer beach cottage, she learns of a haunting and secret affair dating back to the 1950s. Determined to find the woman whose life parallels her own in many ways, Vanessa searches for the woman and her lover, uncovering past and present secrets that finally reveal a shocking truth. Over the course of the summer, Vanessa’s own life is transformed by the possibilities of love and new beginnings, even as she confronts the lingering pain of her own past. The Summer Letters is a celebration of the enduring promise of hope and the unbreakable bonds of love.
|Publication:||21st April 2017||Genre:||Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance|
Find The Summer Letters on Goodreads
Interview: Elyse Douglas, author of The Summer Letters
Without giving too much away, can you tell me a bit about The Summer Letters?
In a beach cottage, 28-year-old Vanessa finds a rusty coffee can filled with old letters, and learns about a haunting and secret affair dating back to the 1950s. Determined to find the woman whose life parallels her own in many ways, Vanessa searches for the woman and her lover, uncovering past and present secrets that finally reveal a shocking truth.
The dedication reads: ‘To my parents, and that letter I found’. Is the book inspired by a true story?
There are elements of “true” in the novel, but it is largely fiction. That letter I found was a letter and a very personal note I discovered after my father’s death. It was the inspiration for the novel.
The book involves a secret that has been long hidden. Why do you think secrets are so enticing to us as readers?
In one way or the other, I believe that most of us are always struggling to find some truth within ourselves, within the world, within the past—with the hope that something that lies hidden or secrets about life and love will one day be revealed, and we will finally have an ultimate epiphany. On a more mundane level, people are attracted to the unknown: Look! There’s a cave. What’s in there? A treasure? What’s at the bottom of the sea? A lost ship? What’s in outer space? People like us? Different from us? Oh, I just found an old letter hidden away. Who wrote it? What is it in? What were they like? What happened to them? As human beings, we’re simply driven by curiosity and the desire and need to explore the mystery of life. Everything in one way or another is a mystery or secret we’re trying to unravel, the ultimate mystery being ourselves.
At the beginning of the book, Vanessa, the main character, is struggling with her novel. “What had previously inspired imaginative possibilities now brought forth no images or feelings at all. She wasn’t even sure she liked the title anymore.” As writers, is that a feeling you recognize?
We have begun novels that simply burned themselves out by the first five chapters. They just didn’t hold up for whatever reason. All you can do it shove the thing into the writer’s junkyard and move on to something else, with the hope that one day you may be able to insert a piece, or a part from that junked book into another future novel.
You are a husband and wife writing team. How does that work in practice?
We work well together. We banter, brainstorm, argue, write and rewrite. We trust each other—that is to say that if either of us has written something that doesn’t work, or it just smells bad—each of us has the freedom to say “that stinks” without the other feeling any ego damage. A glass or two of wine also helps, not to mention a good laugh at ourselves now and then. We try not to take it all too seriously.
Many of your previous books have been set at Christmas or, like The Summer Letters in the summer. What is it about those times of the year that attracts you as writers?
Simply put: Summer and Christmas are bestselling seasons for books, and Summer and Christmas are successful keywords that garner thousands of hits. We sell more books during those seasons. We also enjoy writing Christmas books.
What was the biggest challenge you encountered when writing the book?
The time difference was a big challenge – writing two separate stories that must converge, and make authentic sense in two separate decades – 2017 and 1953-1955. It took much research and a lot of charting to keep the characters straight and psychologically anchored in their particular time and place.
If The Summer Letters was to be made into a film, who would you love to see play Vanessa?
Good question. I haven’t thought about it. After reflection, I think Evan Rachel Wood would be perfect.
Which other writers do you admire, and why?
Gill Paul – she writes good characters and interesting plots. Graham Moore – good historical fiction, with excellent historical detail. Anita Shreve – she’s a little dark at times, but an excellent writer, always trying new things.
What are you working on next?
What else? Another Christmas novel that will be released in September.
Thank you both for answering my questions. I’m sure fans will be delighted to know they can put your next novel on their Christmas wishlist!
About the Author
Elyse Douglas is the pen name for the husband and wife writing team of Elyse Parmentier and Douglas Pennington. Elyse began writing poems and short stories at an early age, and graduated with a degree in English Literature. Douglas grew up in a family of musicians, astrologers and avid readers, and attended the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, playing piano professionally for 15 years. His great grandfather lived to be a 134 years old, and was the oldest man in the world when he died in 1922. Their cat, Sir Eaton, loves parties and a few sips from a good glass of Pinot Noir.
Some of Elyse Douglas’ novels include: The Other Side of Summer, The Christmas Eve Letter, The Christmas Town, The Christmas Diary and The Summer Diary. They live in New York City.
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