Ellen Sussman's novels include: A Wedding in Provence, The Paradise Guest House, French Lessons and On a Night Like This.
From her 2013 Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:
What sparked [The Paradise Guest House]? What was the research like and did anything surprise you with it?--Marshal Zeringue
My husband and I planned a vacation in Bali in 2005 and a few weeks before we left terrorists set off bombs in restaurants and cafes on the island. We didn’t cancel our trip as most people suggested. In fact, we saw almost no tourists during our two weeks there. But we fell in love with the island and the Balinese people. The idea of terrorism on that peaceful island made no sense to me (or to the Balinese) and so I began to imagine a novel about a young woman who gets caught in the 2002 bombings (which killed 200 people, mostly young tourists) and returns to the island a year later to find the man who saved her.
I find that I write in order to learn and understand the things that puzzle me. And so this book became my way of learning about Bali, the people, the culture and religion and also about the effects of terrorism on our psyches.
I returned to Bali to spend a month researching the novel. (what a gig!) I was surprised by how quickly the tourists forgot about the terrorist attacks. But the Balinese had not forgotten. I interviewed survivors of the bombings and families of victims. Their lives have been very much altered by those events in 2002. And yet they’re so strong and so loving. I learned a great deal from hearing their stories.
I love the idea of a woman searching for home--why do you think where we live matters so much?
That’s an interesting question. I didn’t feel at home in any of the places I lived in my life until I moved to Paris! And now I have a real home in...[read on]