The TROY Book Club: The Other Side Of Paradise, Vanessa Beaumont

We are beyond delighted to welcome you to The TROY Book club. As literary fiends we are excited to dive into the world behind the scenes of the books, speaking with authors, upcoming and seasoned, gleaning insights into the inspiration behind the characters, the writing process and much more.

TROY co-founder Rosie had the great pleasure of sitting down with brilliant author Vanessa Beaumont to discuss her debut novel, The Other Side Of Paradise. We delve into the inspiration behind the book, the practicalities on writing a first book around other life pressures and some insider intel on things reader unknown, such as, how is a book cover designed and chosen, perhaps not as much by the author as one would think.

How do you approach your writing and what inspires you?

There is so much advice out there about writing, but the one I found the most helpful is just three words: bum on seat. I clear my head first, with an hour to work through any pressing admin, and then I turn off the wifi and just write. Even on a bad day I have to do something; a small re-write is still a step forward.

So much inspires me but it is often a character's journey that I want to explore. What happens to that character, if there are elements I can empathise with, in this case a woman and a mother. The challenge lies in being able to really be in that person's mind.

What was the inspiration behind this book in particular?

I saw a pair of portraits of a mother and her two sons and then a rather formidable grandmother figure, and I was intrigued. So I looked into these portraits and they were by De László of real people but there wasn’t much supporting information other than a diary and that didn’t contain anything of note. This got me thinking, what would I want their story to be? What would I have wanted the diary to say? What would I have wanted each character's journey to be? I was sitting at my laptop and I thought I'd just write an outline. I looked up three hours later and I had come up with something that felt like the beginnings of a novel. I knew it would somehow involve the South of France, I knew there would be a conflict between a place in England and responsibility and the South of France which was a different world, of freedom and promise, a new place for this character to explore, a world she didn’t know.

Tell us more about the 1920's and the particular era as to what you loved writing about and what really inspired you within that period of time?

I love the fact that the 1920's are history, but also close enough to feel very relevant. So a character, a woman, a mother, could feel close to someone like us reading today. I am fascinated by the challenges of the period, for instance the male central character's older brother was killed in the first world war, he was too young to fight, and he was part of a whole generation who felt like they couldn’t ever live up to these men, brothers, fathers that were killed and forever immortalized. That they could never be as good as them, which kind of screwed them up, so that was quite an interesting swathe of men for my character to have to marry in to. The novel runs right up until the second world war, so that’s a whole other generation tested by war. I loved exploring the pressures, such as ‘my goodness my son is going to be killed’ which is high drama, but there is also the drip drip of the blackout and grind. That was such an interesting thing to look at and how it affected the everyday: the running of a house, how it affected the schools and relationships, and marriages.

What drives you in your writing? Is it to see the finished published novel that you’re holding in your hands? That must be an incredibly proud moment. What is it that pushes you on?

That is such a good question! To have it here in my hands is extraordinary, because it really does feel a bit mad that it’s been in my head and now it’s on a page and it’s a real physical thing. But funnily enough I don’t think that completing the book was it, but more that at each step it was the challenge of finishing that stage. When I first started it my great friend who was an agent said write a whole first draft, finish a draft. Whatever happens, and even if you end up putting it in a draw, the act of writing a whole novel is worth it. So that was a huge challenge. Then I got an agent which was hugely exciting, and she said, "this is brilliant... and now we are going to re-write the whole thing." So that was the next mountain to climb! Then it was obviously to submit it, to get a deal and then I rewrote the ending for my editor at Oneworld which was super exciting. But this is really a big moment that it’s actually in my hands!

And tell us a little bit about the design of the book cover and that process? Because that is so fascinating for us as readers to understand and that face is sort of intriguing.

It’s funny really, as I was an editor and worked in publishing, and know that authors can be slightly nightmarish because they have opinions about the cover that they shouldn’t have. So I sort of knew that I needed to go with what the publisher said. The final image we used wasn't the first idea but I remember seeing this on my desk and it made me think oooh ok, because there is really something about her, she’s quite alluring. I thought actually I love it, I love her. She’s not Jean, the central character, I don't think she is the Jean in my head. But there is something about her looking round, there is expectation, there is what's next, it works with The Other Side of Paradise... what’s round the corner. So that was very satisfying to go back to the publisher and tell them I loved it, because it can not always be the case! So for me it was a really nice easy process, they obviously have a fantastic design team.

You’ve given us a little sneaky sense of what might be coming next, but tell us a little more about your next novel.

The next novel is called Mrs Philby. It’s about the four women married to Kim Philby the master spy, who worked for MI6 but also spied for the Russians. There is a lot written about him, but no one has written about the four women he was married to. My book is a fictionalized account of those four women and I am halfway through my first draft.

Vanessa studied Classics at Oxford University before joining Short Books, the independent publisher in London, where she was Comissioning Editor for 8 years, editing both fiction and non-fiction. She then co-ran the literary agency Prentice Beaumont before writing her first novel The Other Side of Paradise, available now in hardback at Daunts, Waterstones and other good book shops. Also available on Amazon.

Vanessa's Picks

Back to blog

1 comment

It’s always good to read about debut authors and their books. Must read this novel. Will no doubt be recommending Victoria’s book to both the Book Clubs I run.

Lizzie McWhirter

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.