Julie Cohen, Author of ‘Where Love Lies’ Talks to Me About ‘Theme’
|Julie and me at the launch of ‘Where Love Lies’|
I first met (or rather – listened to) Julie Cohen at the York Festival of Writing two years ago. She was part of a panel of authors talking to us wannabe authors about the genre of Women’s Fiction. She introduced herself as a writer of ‘women’s fiction with issues’, which made me smile.
Over the past two years, I’ve got to know Julie by attending more of her workshops and on Facebook and twitter and now, by happy coincidence, we share an editor at Transworld too.
Julie’s teaching has influenced me enormously in my writing and I asked her if she would please contribute to my blog along the subject of ‘theme’. I am delighted to say that she agreed and rather aptly, on the publication day of her new novel ‘Where Love Lies’, she has shared with me how themes come into play in her writing.
Over to you, Julie…
I’m not sure whether it’s my background in English Literature, or if it’s my inherently analytical nature, or if it’s a knowledge of myself and my tendency to wander off topic at any given time. But when I start writing a novel, I usually decide what its main theme is—the most important idea that I want to explore through the plot and characters, setting and imagery. I come up with this somewhere between inventing the premise and getting to know the characters, and as soon as I know it, I write it somewhere VERY LARGE and VERY PROMINENT so that as I write, I keep it in my mind all the time. It can shape everything I do.
It’s usually an abstract idea, and it’s usually a word or two, or possibly a question. There will be other themes and ideas in my book, of course, but this one will be the main one for me, as I write. It will help me decide on sub-plots (because they’ll have to echo the theme somehow), and my title, and sometimes even my characters’ names.
The theme of my latest book, WHERE LOVE LIES, is, unsurprisingly, love. It’s a bit more specific than that, actually: it’s ‘What is love?’
I wrote this question down on a Post-It and I put it on my computer and I started collecting quotations and stories and music and poems around this question, and they helped me figure out what I was trying to say in the book. The novel is about a woman, Felicity, who believes she’s happily married, until one day very strong memories of a man she once loved erupt to the surface—so strong, that she feels she has to go and find this former lover, despite the cost to her marriage. So you can see that the question of love is foremost in this type of story.
My original working title was WHAT LOVE IS, and I think that is really what I was trying to figure out as I wrote this book. I looked at the difference between falling in love and loving someone; the contrast between passion and friendship; relationships between parents and children; how we feel differently for different lovers, even if we call the emotion by the same name.
‘Where Love Lies’ is out on 31 July in hardback Click here to buy it!
If you would like to find out more about Julie and her books, visit her website: www.julie-cohen.com
And on her blog you’ll find a post on theme: http://www.julie-cohen.com/blog/2013/07/23/using-theme-in-your-novel/
Julie runs creative writing courses: http://www.julie-cohen.com/for-writers/courses/
And you can find her on twitter: @julie_cohen