Debut Novel, Invincible Summer, Explores Life-Long Friendships
An exclusive Authorlink interview
By Diane Slocum
Invincible Summer, Alice Adams, Little, Brown & Co. – Eva, Sylvie, Lucien and Benedict became friends their first semester in college. Despite their differences in personality and interests they remain a fast foursome all the way through to graduation. Then life’s ups and downs weave a tapestry of blending together and pulling apart, each going through difficulties and successes that strain or strengthen their relationships as they move on to middle age.
|“I didn’t have a plan – my story changed hugely as I wrote and edited it.”|
AUTHORLINK: Do you have relationships that you drew on for the college-friends-for-life theme?
ADAMS: I don’t have a friendship group quite like the one in the book but I do have a number of very precious friends, some reaching back as far as childhood, and we’ve been by each other’s sides through triumph and tragedy. These relationships have enriched my life, and it’s not hard for me to write about the ups and downs of friendship with great feeling.
AUTHORLINK: While the story is about the four friends, and each gets some point of view time, Eva seems to be the most central to the story. Was this always your plan? How did your characters develop? Did your story change much as you wrote and edited it?
ADAMS: I didn’t have a plan – my story changed hugely as I wrote and edited it. My writing process is utterly chaotic, which comes as a surprise to me as my usual personality is very different. But writing for me is a sort of alchemy; I have no idea where I’m going when I sit down to write. In an earlier draft of the story, Benedict died.
AUTHORLINK: Did you have any time when you didn’t know where you would go next?
ADAMS: Pretty much all of the time. When I started writing, I did not know that the story would range over twenty years. I did not know that the voices of the four main characters would emerge and make up the final book. I did not know how the story would end. I did not know how the characters and their lives would obsess and consume me, and have me waking up in the morning with my arms covered in barely legible notes in biro I had made during the night. Discovering characters and their stories is a great part of the pleasure of writing.
|“Well, my sister is a physicist, though not at CERN. She once smuggled me into a lecture given by the head of CERN . . .”|
AUTHORLINK: How did you get the knowledge to write about characters involved in investments, physics, art and entertainment?
ADAMS: Well, my sister is a physicist, though not at CERN. She once smuggled me into a lecture given by the head of CERN given at Imperial College in London, where she was doing her PhD. She also took me around the building full of boffins tinkering with their crazy experiments – I love those guys because they’re all so passionate about their subject that they’re willing to explain them endlessly to an interested layman.
With the investment stuff, I used to work in banking (though as an analyst, not as a derivatives trader like Eva) and spent a lot of time observing the culture and its effects on people’s personalities and lives.
|“With art, there are parallels to be drawn with writing, where one typically slogs away for years with little or no success or encouragement.”|
With art, there are parallels to be drawn with writing, where one typically slogs away for years with little or no success or encouragement. I knew how Sylvie felt when she asked, ‘What’s the bloody point?’
AUTHORLINK: Writing can be a lonesome occupation. What kind of help did you get from other people?
ADAMS: I’m grateful for the help that came from the handful of early readers who loved the novel and encouraged me to keep going. The other thing I’ve found helpful is the generosity of successful writers who have written about writing over the years – from Hemingway (‘All first drafts are shit’) to Gene Fowler (‘Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead’), you quickly learn that you are not alone in your struggles and doubts. But it definitely helps to be a certain sort of personality, the type that’s happy to sit alone in a room making up stories for years on end – when I speak to writers who are extroverts it strikes me as a troublesome career choice.
|“What I hate most: sitting alone in a room and trying to write (on a bad day)”|
AUTHORLINK: This is your first published novel. Now that you’ve gone through the whole process from idea to promotion, what do you like most and least about the writing profession?
ADAMS: What I love most: sitting alone in a room and trying to write (on a good day).
What I hate most: sitting alone in a room and trying to write (on a bad day).
Getting my first publishing deal was an incredible high, the validation of a lot of hard work. My US book tour was grueling but rewarding – it was strange and wonderful meeting people who loved the book after such a lot of isolation in its writing.
AUTHORLINK: What are you working on now?
ADAMS: I’m most of the way through the first draft of my next novel, about a Jungian psychoanalyst and her lodgers and clients. It’s a completely different set of characters to Invincible Summer, but it’s similar in tone and I hope it also succeeds in combining humor and readability with some serious underlying themes.
|About the Author:|
Adams grew up without a TV and became a voracious reader. Her BA is in philosophy, but she’s also experienced in math, finance and computers. She lives in North London but enjoys nature whenever she can.
About Regular Contributor:
Diane Slocum has been a newspaper reporter and editor and authored an historical book. As a freelance writer, she contributes regularly to magazines and newspapers. She writes features on authors and a column for writers and readers in Lifestyle magazine. She is assigned to write interviews of first-time novelists and bestselling authors for Authorlink.
This post was written by Diane Slocum