Violet – Lavender Blues: Three Shades Of Love by Leslie Tate
The passionate, late-life love of Beth and James begins in 2003 on a blind date in a London restaurant. Attracted by James’s cheerful openness, Beth is drawn into an unlikely encounter between his larkiness and her own romantic faith. From then on they bond, exchanging love-texts, exploring sea walks and gardens and sharing their past lives with flashbacks to Beth’s rural childhood and her marriage to a dark, charismatic minister.
Telling stories runs in Beth’s family, so she keeps up with her friends, following their efforts to find love in a soulless, materialistic world. But Beth’s own passion for giving and commitment is pushed to the limits as she and James struggle with her divorce, problems with each other’s children, and life-threatening illness. In the end, tested by pain, they discover something larger than themselves that goes beyond suffering and loss.
Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?
A) I studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia and have been shortlisted for the Bridport, Geoff Stevens and Wivenhoe Prizes. I’m the author of the trilogy of novels ‘Purple’, ‘Blue’ and ‘Violet’, as well as my trans memoir ‘Heaven’s Rage’, which has been turned into a film. On my website https://leslietate.com/ I post up weekly creative interviews and guest blogs showing how people use their imagination in life, in many different ways. I run a comedy club, a poetry group and a mixed arts show in Berkhamsted, UK.
‘Violet’ is the third in my trilogy about modern love, but it stands on its own, without having to read the other two books. It’s a rite of passage novel about two fifty year-olds who meet and regain their youth together, only to find themselves tested by divorce problems, each other’s children, and life-threatening illness. In the words of the blurb: ‘The passionate, late-life love of Beth and James begins in 2003 on a blind date in a London restaurant. Attracted by James’s openness, Beth feels an immediate, deep connection between his honesty and her own romantic faith. From then on they bond, exchanging love-texts, exploring sea walks and gardens and sharing their past lives with flashbacks to Beth’s rural childhood and her marriage to a dark, charismatic minister…’
Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?
A) ‘Violet’ began as ‘Beth’ and was partly written on my University of East Anglia course. I wanted to capture the experience of older people falling in love, partly because it’s so common in today’s society, but also because I’d experienced it myself when I met my wife and author, Sue Hampton.
I wrote it very slowly, editing as I went – something I do because I write by feel allowing the characters to lead me, so one false step could easily send me off in the wrong direction. I aim in a novel to find a route in and out of unknown territory, rather than following a preconceived plot line.
I’m lucky if I complete 250 words a day, so the book grew slowly. The first half, switching between Beth’s late-life love affair with James and her unhappy first marriage, took two years to write. The second half, Beth’s diary ten years on when she’s ill, came more quickly. I then put on a sprint to reach the finishing line, followed by another six months of revisions.
Writing a book is a major feat of endurance. Only writers know the feeling of weariness at the beginning of the day, the hours spent agonising over single lines, and the double-edged feelings that follow after publication when the book goes off into the world and leaves the author behind. It’s like bringing up a child whose growing up travels the full story arc – from complete parental absorption to pride, separation and sudden loss of purpose. In the end the book stands in the world on its own, but the author can always see the child it used to be. So a book is a gift, a portion of someone’s life that cannot be measured by the bottom line or market forces.
Publication with Magic Oxygen Press, my green publisher, was all about spotting errors and didn’t involve rewrites. If I’d had a larger publisher the chances are I’d be told what to put in and what to cut out.
Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?
A) Carol Shields, particularly The Republic of Love; Drusilla Modjeska, The Orchard; Toni Morrison, Beloved; Marilynne Robinson, Home; Anne Tyler, Breathing Lessons; Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient and my classics – Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway and James Joyce, Ulysses.
Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?
A) Alice in Wonderland stretched my imagination, Arthur Ransom’s Swallows and Amazons offered adventure, and Jules Verne took me to other worlds. I moved on to Sons and Lovers by D H Lawrence and Portrait of an Artist by Joyce. These last two teenage reads allowed me to fantasise about being an author myself, something I didn’t achieve till much later in life.
Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?
A) When I watched the first showing of the film of ‘Heaven’s Rage’, based on my book of the same name. I’d acted in it, side by side with a 13 year-old boy playing my younger self, and experienced the long waits and endless retakes of tiny actions. But the result, when I saw it, was uplifting – full of wild, soulful, dream-like images. The director, Mark Crane, is a friend who used to work in Hollywood. Like the book, his film explores the power of the imagination.
Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?
A) My wife, Sue Hampton, who has written 30 books for both children and adults. We listen and suggest ways around blockages, comment on each other’s scripts and give each other love, support and pep talks on the way.
Facebook – ‘Leslie Tate’ where I post weekly interviews with people about their creativity
Facebook – ‘Violet by Leslie Tate’ where I offer pre-publication extracts from my forthcoming novel with commentaries revealing how I worked on them.