Mr Rosenblum’s List,
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in South London and also went to school there, but every weekend and holiday was spent at my grandparents’ thatched cottage in deepest Dorset. I’ve always been a country girl. I think it’s the mud.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
A writer. A writer. And a writer. Because I love stories. We plot our lives through stories, whether it’s an anecdote told over a coffee or the desire for a proper ending for a love affair. Stories help us understand the world and they make it a lot more fun. All I’ve ever wanted to do is tell stories.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
Well, I was a firm believer in the Easter Bunny. Of course I still believe in the Dorset Woolly-Pig.
4. What were three works of art – book, painting, piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
Seamus Heaney’s ‘North’, Henry Rosseau’s ‘Tiger in a Tropical Storm (surprised)’ and Verdi’s ‘La Traviata’
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I also write screenplays with my husband, David. These are great fun and we love working together. In fact, we’re about to start (on Monday!) the screenplay for ‘Mr Rosenblum’s List’ for Film 4. Writing a screenplay is far more collaborative – you’re part of a team. I enjoyed the freedom of novel writing – I was alone in the summerhouse but was writer, director, set builder and, as I wrote, I played every part in my imagination.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
Jack Rosenblum is five foot three and a half inches of sheer tenacity. Through study and application he intends to become a Very English Gentleman.
Jack is compiling a list, a comprehensive guide to the manners, customs and habits of this country. He knows that marmalade must be bought from Fortnum & Mason, he’s memorised the entire British monarchy back to 913 A.D and the highlight of his day is the BBC weather forecast. And he never speaks German, apart from the occasional curse.
His wife Sadie finds his obsession baffling. She doesn’t want to forget who they are or where they come from and bakes towering cakes to remember them.
But Jack is convinced they can find a place to call home. In a final attempt to complete his list, he leads a reluctant Sadie into the English countryside. Here, in a land of woolly pigs, bluebells and jitterbug cider, they embark on an impossible task…
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I want people to have enjoyed reading the story. I believe reading should be a pleasure, even if the book’s themes have hints of darkness. The questions of assimilation and homecoming are complex ones, and I hope that the novel does not suggest easy answers.
I also hope that Jack makes people laugh and they learn that trying to move molehills (even with a miraculous mechanical contraption) is very hard work.
I love writers with a sense of humour. I’m a huge Jane Austen fan – her wry observations make me smile. I admire Nathan Englander as his stories are so bleak and yet leavened with such wonderful humour that the most terrible things become readable, even enjoyable. I love Ian McEwan – he is an amazingly acute psychologist. I can’t wait to read ‘Solar’.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I just love writing. I hope I can continue to write for years to come and that people will want to keep on reading my books.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
If the thought of doing anything else can make you happy, do that. Writing is a difficult career. In fact it’s more an affliction or an addiction than a job. If you read this, know the odds are against you and you don’t care – you’ve got to write anyway, then the chances are that you’re a writer.
Natasha, thank you so much for playing!
You can follow Natasha on Twitter – here.
For more of the Ten Terrifying Questions series – click here.
By the way, Mr Rosenblum’s List was one of two books of the month in the March edition of Booktopia Buzz. The other, was Ian McEwan’s Solar, which is being released later this week. So far, Natasha is outselling Ian 2 to 1 although I’m not sure that even the popularity of this charming debut novel will be able to withstand the marketing juggernaut of Solar at full throttle. Nonetheless, it is Mr R who has captured the hearts and minds of both booksellers and the reading public – and from the look of some of the orders leaving our warehouse, it is fast becoming a reading group favourite. All praise to Natasha – long may she reign!
UPDATE! March 2011
A new novel by Natasha Solomons
The tale of an immigrant’s experiences in England, Natasha Solomons describes a story of the sea, of love lost and found, and of a novel hidden inside a viola.
When they started coming for people like us, I was forced to swap my life of champagne and glittering parties in bohemian Vienna for the cap and apron of a parlour maid in a country house on the Dorset coast.
I knew nothing about England, except that I wouldn’t like it. But then, clutching a copy of Mrs Beeton`s Household management that I could barely read, I saw Tyneford for the first time. That great house on the bay, where servants polished the silver and served drinks on the lawn, where Kit caused an outrage by dancing with me, where Mr Rivers read the letter on the beach that changed everything.
And now the house and that world is gone. All that remains is my story of the sea, of love lost and found, and of a novel hidden inside a viola.
‘Utterly charming and very funny’ Paul Torday, author of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
‘An unususal, comedy-rich novel… a treat of a book’. Guardian
‘a subtle and moving examination of the dilemma faced by immigrants to modern Britain’. Observer
‘Prepare to be seriously charmed’. The Times
About the Contributor
John Purcell (aka Natasha Walker) is the author of The Secret Lives of Emma trilogy published by Random House Australia. The Secret Lives of Emma: Beginnings reached the top ten on the Australian fiction charts and Natasha/John was the tenth highest selling Australian novelist and third highest selling Australian debut author in 2012. The trilogy has since sold over 50,000 copies in print and ebook and has been translated into French and Polish. John has worked in the book industry for the last twenty years. While still in his twenties he opened John’s Bookshop, a second-hand bookshop in Mosman in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Now he is the Head of Product and Chief Buyer at booktopia.com.au.