Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Bryn Turnbull

Bryn Turnbull is the internationally bestselling author of The Woman Before Wallis and The Last Grand Duchess. With a master of letters in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews, a master of professional communication from Toronto Metropolitan University and a bachelor's degree in English literature from McGill University, Turnbull focuses on finding stories of women lost within the cracks of the historical record.

Her new novel is The Paris Deception.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Apparently, I’m terrible at choosing titles for my books, because my publisher has changed the names of all three! Over the course of writing a novel, I find the title tends to evolve with the book itself. Originally, The Paris Deception was called Avant Garde, but somewhere through the course of the story taking shape it changed into The Art of Deception, which I thought was rather clever, but my publisher coaxed me into calling it The Paris Deception, to geographically ground the story in the reader’s mind from the very outset.

Happily, I was able to keep The Art of Deception as a title in the epilogue, but I won’t spoil it by explaining how!

What's in a name?

Having grown up with a unique name myself I would say there’s quite a lot in it, including the preconceptions of others. That’s why two of my characters, Sophie and Dietrich, change their last name upon moving to France before the war, shedding their German origins in order to integrate into 1930s French society without stigma. Several of my secondary characters are loosely named after friends of mine, which tends to have an effect on how I characterize them: Dufy, for example, is inspired by an old boss of mine, and shares his staunch sense of loyalty and dogged determination. Sometimes, though, a name is just a name: I chose Fabienne for no other reason than I thought it sounded beautiful.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

Not very surprised. I’ve been fascinated by Second World War since the sixth grade, and always envisioned writing a book set in the time period. I suppose the art angle might come as something of a surprise: I’d always pictured writing something more traditionally “woman in the resistance”, a story about a British spy or a French radio operator. But sometimes an idea comes to mind that you can’t help following, and for me it was the Nazi notion of “Degenerate Art” – and the idea of someone deceiving the Nazis, who believed themselves to be incredibly cultured.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

It depends on the book! I’m a plotter so I tend to know where the story is going to go, but I don’t always know exactly how I’m going to get there. With my second book I knew the ending from the very start, but with this one I had to think it through for quite a bit of time before the threads came together. I find talking through the story out loud is helpful in envisioning how it wraps up.

In terms of my beginnings, they always shift. I’m notorious for rewriting my opening chapters: with my first book, I’d written 180 pages before realizing it needed to start ten years later!

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

My two main characters, Sophie and Fabienne, are entirely different people but they’re both very much reflections of different facets of my personality. I share Sophie’s awkwardness and tendency to overthink, but I’m much more like Fabienne in my sense of style and wit. I suppose Sophie is my introverted self while Fabienne is my extroverted self.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

History is always my inspiration: whether it’s an individual, an event, or a specific time period, I absolutely take inspiration from diving into the historical record and seeing what I can find. For this book, art was a definite inspiration, too: I loved learning about the different artistic movements, artists, styles and specific paintings that comprise the “degenerate” art that Sophie and Fabienne are working to save.

I’m also inspired by place. I was fortunate enough to travel to Paris when I was writing this book, and I must have filled four notebooks by the time I came home. I love getting a sense of a different city.
Visit Bryn Turnbull's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Paris Deception.

The Page 69 Test: The Paris Deception.

--Marshal Zeringue