Five Questions for Hannah Colby


Today is the US release date for A Place of Springs, the sweeping epic novel from author Hannah Colby. Published by Unicorn Publishing Group in the UK, the novel is now available for American readers, and is highly recommended as a masterpiece of “love, loss, and the transcendent power of music.” I am so enjoying this novel – the writing is first-rate and you are transported into the lives of Daniel and Irena. I do highly recommend it.

A Place of Springs

Q. Tell us a little about yourself. I was born in Norwich (about 100 miles northeast of London) during World War II. My parents divorced and my brother and I were brought up in London by our mother.  She was an artist, and taught me to paint and draw, a little easel set up beside her own. At 17, I went to Paris, first to a traditional “finishing school,” then to study French Civilization at the Sorbonne.

I’ve written this novel under the pen name Colby – my maternal grandmother’s maiden name. She was an American from Newton Center, Boston, who married a highlander from the Isle of Skye.

I married young, had four children, and continued to paint. My first husband and I set up a day center for young disabled adults, which I ran for seven years. My present husband and I lived in London and southwest France until we moved to Norwich. Six years ago I began to write the novel that has become A Place of Springs.

Q. What inspired you to write A Place of SpringsThe inspiration came from a lifetime of interests and experiences which seemed to demand expression. First, the horror and shame of the siege of Sarajevo between 1992 and 1995 and all the appalling violence of the Balkan Wars. Then, a legacy of my London school, where I studied the piano and viola, my joy of classical music.

The story began to take shape when I was attending a creative writing course. From a collection of photographs, I picked up one of a young girl playing the violin. Without knowing anything about her, I decided she was Irena from Sarajevo, and wrote a short story for my homework. I continued to write about Irena and Daniel for the next six years.

Q. Can you tell us a little about the book? A Place of Springs follows the fortunes and misfortunes of concert pianist Daniel Danuczek, from the time he goes to teach at the Sarajevo Conservatory the year before the siege of that city in 1992. He lodges with Adam and Finola Vidaković and their young daughter, Irena. The tranquil opening chapters end when Daniel must return to London and the peace that Sarajevo has known is shattered.

Having had no news of his friends, Daniel returns to war-torn Bosnia. He learns that Adam and Finola are dead and Irena has disappeared.  Finding her becomes an obsession as he comes and goes between London and Sarajevo. His quest ends abruptly on his hotel balcony when he is shot by a sniper.

Daniel’s injuries force him to re-evaluate his career and change much about his playing if he is to return to the concert platform. His sister and his agent play important parts in his painful and emotional recovery. The main part of the book is written in three voices: the narrator’s, Irena’s, and that of Sam, one of Daniel’s pupils. During this time, Irena’s aunt writes from New York, where she is caring for Irena, now very changed after two years of brutal and abusive captivity.

This is, of course, a love story, but it is played out against a background of several elements. Music is a constant theme, as are ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, and friendship.

To me, this book is about acceptance, forgiveness, courage, and the artist’s dedication to his art. But above all, its subject is healing.

Q. What genres do you like to read? I mainly read art history, ‘pop’ science and psychology, nineteenth and twentieth century novels, modern poetry, cookery, and travel books.

Q. Do you have a “Top Ten” or “Top Five” book list? This is difficult, but here are some that spring to mind:

  • Middlemarch (George Eliot)
  • Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy)
  • Fortunes of War (Olivia Manning)
  • Alexandria Quartet (Laurence Durrell)
  • Short Stories (Katherine Mansfield)
  • My Mother’s House (Colette)
  • The Pursuit of Love (Nancy Mitford)
  • A Room of One’s Own (Virginia Woolf)
  • The Glass Room (Simon Mawer)
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Milan Kundera)
  • Flaubert’s Parrot (Julian Barnes)
  • The Color Purple (Alice Walker)  [note: my favorite!!]
  • The Jews (Roger Peyrefitte)
  • Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie)
  • Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)

You can purchase a copy of A Place of Springs here

This Past Week


What a week, right? Ups and downs, plenty of uncertainty.

govt shutdown

A week ago most people still thought there’d be no issue regarding the shutdown, the debt ceiling, and that so-called cliff. Yes, we have a three-month respite. Other countries can’t fathom that our elected representatives are so petty and ego-driven that they don’t know the word ‘compromise.’ Living in uncertainty. Stress-inducing and it continues.

www.cityprofile.com
http://www.cityprofile.com

A day trip to the city of New Bedford on Wednesday. What a pleasant surprise! The New Bedford Whaling Museum is a gem! It’s large, bright, spotless. Friendly and helpful staff, and enough history and artifacts to fill an entire day (at least). The city is clean and navigable, meaning plenty of parking (we went during the week). Shops and restaurants are within walking distance.

acx

Met up with my friend Lynne Radiches, who has agreed to narrate my books! I’m very excited about this, because Lynne is excellent, and we’re both reap the benefits. Adding your book as an audiobook, through ACX, is a no-brainer, and won’t cost you a cent if you opt for shared royalty payments.

www.zdnet.com
http://www.zdnet.com

My sister is in London! She and a friend flew out last evening. I’m envious, although we spent a wonderful ten days in London about fourteen years ago. There’s just so much to do that a week isn’t long enough (and they’re making a side trip to Edinburgh, too). Next time I go, I want to visit Downton Abbey.

bad reviews

I know that some authors will give good book reviews to other authors, even if they disliked the book (or sometimes even if they didn’t read the book!). But I learned that some writers give a good review because the author is presently reading your book, and you don’t want to risk getting a bad “revenge review.” Seriously??

Ts

I love T’s Restaurant in East Greenwich – it’s my go-to place for meeting friends, and never disappoints. Last weekend it was breakfast with my high school (and loyal reader) Nancy, and yesterday it was breakfast with my fab cousins Becky and Cindy. They were the cool cousins when I was a kid, but age gaps shrink as you, well, as you age. I love them both, and we had a lovely time over coffee, omelets, and pumpkin pancakes.

RedSox

And finally, our beloved Red Sox are once again headed to the World Series! Go Sox!

Oh! The Places I’ve Been – “L” is for LONDON


Almost halfway through the A to Z Challenge! I hope you’re enjoying your armchair travels. As I stated back at “A is for Austin,” there are many people who have traveled farther and wider than I. And one of them is my new friend Lottie Nevin. Man, I just adore this woman, and we’ve never met. Just follow her blog and you’ll understand.

Besides being a wonderful blogger, Lottie is a most talented photographer. These are her photographs, and I couldn’t be happier to share them with you.

My husband and I traveled to London in late 1997, just months after the tragic death of Princess Diana (and every window had something with her smiling face: a coffee mug, a sweatshirt, a canvas book tote). We had a fabulous time and I did take photos, but on film, and I couldn’t find the prints anywhere. Hence my friend Mrs. Nevin to the rescue.

Thames and Tower Bridge - photo by Lottie Nevin
Thames and Tower Bridge – photo by Lottie Nevin

The highlight of our trip to London was the Tower, for sure. Oh, there’s plenty to see. You all know that – Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s, Parliament, all of it. Yes, see it all. But one thing few people know about is the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower. Not to be missed.

Trafalgar Square - photo by Lottie Nevin
Trafalgar Square – photo by Lottie Nevin

Now, English food has received a bad rap over the years, and I understand. Bubble ‘n’ Squeak, Bangers and Mash, Spotted Dick. Poor chaps. But listen! They have the best Indian food around! Eat curries!

The Globe Pub, Southbank - photo by Lottie Nevin
The Globe Pub, Southbank – photo by Lottie Nevin

Besides eating great (!) food and walking through churches, you must go to the theatre. We had the extraordinary experience of seeing the legendary Jim Dale star in Oliver! at the London Palladium.

Berwick Street, Doho - photo by Lottie Nevin
Berwick Street, Soho – photo by Lottie Nevin
Phone boxes, Hanover Square - photo by Lottie Nevin
Phone boxes, Hanover Square – photo by Lottie Nevin

London was fantastic, but we did travel away from the capital. Leeds Castle, Dover, Windsor, Canterbury – time will run out long before your list of “must-see’s” is finished.

Great Character Names


This may become a series, since there are way too many great character names to post all at once.  And feel free to add yours!

I recently watched the series “Bleak House” on Netflix.  Do try to watch it if you can – a fantastic series based on the Dickens masterpiece.  It centers around Victorian London’s society and legal system, and features some marvelous characters:

Guppy, a lawyer’s clerk, prone to social awkwardness

Miss Flite, an eccentric who keeps birds – lots of birds

Smallweed, a greedy, disabled moneylender

Mr. Turveydrop – foppish owner of a dance academy

Now, here are photos of the characters in the series.  See how perfectly they fit!

Guppy
Miss Flite
Smallweed
Mr. Turveydrop

What are some of your favorite literary characters?