Q&A With Posie Graeme-Evans, Author Of The Dressmaker
Can you tell our readers about your book?
It’s the story of a woman with one remarkable gift and one great secret. A secret that can bring her down in the morally hypocritical world of 1850’s England. I hope that it’s rich enough to eat with a spoon!
What compelled you to write The Dressmaker?
I’m interested in the resilience of the human spirit. Women, in particular (it seems to me) just seem to have great tensile soul-strength. Ellen Gowan, the heroine of the book, will find she has it in spades.
How do you balance out the writer’s life and the rest of life?
Ah, balance. I only achieve that spasmodically. Writing is obsessive and demanding. And anti-social. But, in the end, I find I’m compelled to do it. That’s tough on the other parts of your life (family, most especially.) If there’s luck in this it’s that writing did not find me until my children were grown ups.
The main characters of your stories – do you find that you put a little of yourself into each of them or do you create them to be completely opposite to you?
That’s really hard to know – and I can’t tease the question out properly. Or at least, well enough to give you a sensible answer. However, my characters seem to grow and change and develop the way a child does. You can see the genetic influences, for sure (bits of my mother, or my father, or me – or, indeed, anyone I know) however, they do become their own person in the end. Perhaps that sounds a little deranged ( a little?) but that’s how the process works for me. Many writers, I think, experience something similar. And they’ll say, as I do, that in the end the characters you think you create take on a life of their own. Writing is a constant surprise, believe me!
When growing up, did you have a favourite author or book?
Honestly too many to name – I was a bookaholic. But I’ve always adored myths and legends and fairy tales (and English childhood, on and off.) CS Lewis was an enchanting influence in my life, as was Tolkein.
Have you ever had a character take over a story and move it in a different direction than you had originally intended? How did you handle it?
Absolutely yes! (see above.) And, what’s more, they don’t leave your head once the book is finished. So when I’m writing I hitch a ride and follow on, writing as fast as I can when the story takes off. I think my background in making TV drama must have helped. When the words don’t behave, I can always describe the pictures.
If you could be one of your characters, which one would you be and why?
That’s hard. I don’t think I’d be any one of them entirely. But I’d like bits of each. However, tenacity is a key quality that keeps popping up – resilience by another name, I think. I certainly aspire to that. It’s easier on some days than others!
The Dressmaker is far removed from McLeods Daughters – why do you write in such a different genre?
Because I can? Because I like to. I get bored doing the same thing. Also, it’s a mistake, I think, to believe that people can only do one thing. Life shows, over and over, that we re-invent ourselves all the time. Besides, if you just do it, no-one says “Stop.”
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?
Ah, that’s hard. You can always do another draft (until it’s physically taken away from you by the publishers!) And drafts change things. A painter friend of mine says that a painting is never finished. I guess I feel that way about books…
Can you please tell where to find your books, any blogs you may have, or how a reader can learn more about you and writing.
At the time of writing, The Dressmaker is everywhere! (ie in bookstores in Australia, and shortly to be out in the US. Next year in UK.) Amazon has my books, also as would various other book sites. I’m on Facebook and I have a website, too, www.posiegraemeevans.com. I’m also on the Simon and Schuster international author site: www.simonandschuster.com. Just enter my name in Search. And you can find the trailer I made for The Dressmaker, staring Jenna Lind, on the Simon and Schuster Australia site: www.simonandschuster.com.au.
About The Dressmaker…
Ellen Gowan is the only surviving child of a scholarly village minister and a charming girl disowned by her family when she married for love. Growing up in rural Norfolk, Ellen’s childhood was poor but blessed with affection. Resilience, spirit, and one great talent will carry her far from such humble beginnings. In time, she will become the witty, celebrated, and very beautiful Madame Ellen, dressmaker to the nobility of England, the Great Six Hundred.
Yet Ellen has secrets. At fifteen she falls for Raoul de Valentin, the dangerous descendant of French aristocrats. Raoul marries Ellen for her brilliance as a designer but abandons his wife when she becomes pregnant. Determined that she and her daughter will survive, Ellen begins her long climb to success. Toiling first in a clothing sweat shop, she later opens her own salon in fashionable Berkeley Square though she tells the world – and her daughter – she’s a widow. One single dress, a ballgown created for the enigmatic Countess of Hawksmoor, the leader of London society, transforms Ellen’s fortunes, and as the years pass, business thrives. But then Raoul de Valentin returns and threatens to destroy all that Ellen has achieved.
In The Dressmaker, the romance of Jane Austen, the social commentary of Charles Dickens and the very contemporary voice of Posie Graeme-Evans combine to plunge the reader deep into the opulent, sinister world of teeming Victorian England. And if the beautiful Madame Ellen is not quite what she seems, the strength of her will sees her through to the truth, and love, at last.
Have you read The Dressmaker? Tell us what you thought!