I little while ago I was privileged to read The Balcony by Jane Delury and I loved it. You can read my review here. I enjoyed it so much I was desperate to ask Jane a bit more about The Balcony and luckily she agreed to be interviewed.
In addition, the lovely folk at Hodder have allowed me to give away a paperback copy of The Balcony to a lucky UK reader and you can enter the giveaway at the bottom of this blog post.
The Balcony was published by Hodder and Stoughton on 26th July 2018 and is available for purchase here.
What if our homes could tell the stories of others who lived there before us?
To those who have ventured past it over the years, this small estate in a village outside Paris has always seemed calm and poised.
But should you open the gates and enter inside, you will find rooms which have become the silent witnesses to a century of human drama: from the young American au pair who developed a crush on her brilliant employer to the ex-courtesan who shocked the servants, and the Jewish couple who hid from the Gestapo to the housewife who began an affair while renovating the rooms downstairs.
The house has kept its inhabitants secrets for a hundred years. Now, they are ready to be brought to the light. . .
An Interview with Jane Delury
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Jane. It’s such a pleasure to interview you as I loved The Balcony. It was published in paperback here in the UK exactly a month ago on 26th July 2018. What has been happening for you as a writer since then?
Thanks for having me on your blog, Linda! I’m so happy that The Balcony has appeared in the UK with Hodder & Stoughton. When I lived in France, I spent a fair amount of time in England and in English bookstores, hauling back loads of novels to read back home in Grenoble. So this publication means a good deal to me. I’ve been watching the release from Baltimore, while working on a new novel project. I’ve also been rounding out the book tour for the hardback version of The Balcony, which came out from Little, Brown last March.
It sounds as if you’ve been very busy!
Initially I was unaware The Balcony was a series of interlinked stories with a house as the iterative motif. What made you take this approach to your writing?
The Balcony has its roots in short stories that I wrote over many years and that incidentally shared the setting of a forest in France. These stories ranged in style and character, but setting was a constant. When I looked at those stories together with my eye on a book, a larger narrative about a property in the forest shone through the individual stories. An estate with a manor house and servants’ cottage became my protagonist, you might say. I then pursued that story of the estate in forming The Balcony. Each chapter is a story with its own dramatic arc, but the greater arc of the book finds its turn during World War II, when the manor house is plundered. I shaped the larger narrative around that event, moving back and forth in time to suggest the ways that the characters living on the estate can’t shake off the past.
The stories are not presented in chronological order. Why did you choose this structure for the book?
Since the characters in The Balcony can’t shake off the past, I felt that the structure of the book itself should reflect that predicament. And I wanted the reader to have an active role in piecing together the story of the estate. In the end, the reader knows more about the estate than any one of its inhabitants does. I thought that a non-chronological approach would further this active role on the part of the reader.
Oh it does indeed. I so enjoyed that approach.
As you know, I loved reading The Balcony because it made me think as well as entertained me. What effect were you hoping to create for the reader?
Well, I would hope for something just like that! I hope that the reader is carried along by the greater story of the estate and by the individual stories about its inhabitants at different moments of time. I hope the reader enjoys piecing together the puzzle of “what happened.” More importantly, though, I hope that the reader feels a connection to the characters, since I myself love all of them, even the difficult ones.
Or even, perhaps, especially the difficult ones!
I found a vivid intensity to your writing. How far is this a natural part of your style and how far is it a carefully crafted effect through editing?
I’d say that the spontaneity of the first draft and also the reflection inherent in editing determines my style. I’m a pretty upbeat, run-of-the-mill person, but as a writer, I’m interested in exploring the darker, harder places in people, and in their lives. This predilection probably makes the subjects of my fiction more intense.
There are so many wonderful themes in The Balcony, from war to identity and from emotion to history. To what extent do these themes represent your own personal areas of interest and how far did they arise organically as you wrote?
I’ve been drawn to history from a young age, and in particular place and history. I love visiting historic homes, for instance, and imagining the lives of the people who once sat on those couches or ate at that table. And as a woman and a divorced mother, I think a lot about power and sex roles and the need to be free versus the desire to be responsible and steadfast. These themes appear in the book.
They certainly do.
If you were asked to sum up The Balcony for a potential reader, how would you describe the collection?
The story of a place and its people over time. (Sorry, I am dreadful at elevator pitches!)
In that case I’ll say read my review to see what I thought!
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions Jane. Much appreciated.
Thank you Linda.
About Jane Delury
Jane Delury grew up in Sacramento, California and attended UC Santa Cruz. She spent her junior year abroad in Grenoble, France, and she returned to the University of Grenoble after UCSC to complete a master’s degree and to teach English. Following several years in France, she moved to Baltimore to study fiction in the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars. Her short stories have appeared in Glimmer Train, The Southern Review, The Yale Review, Five Points, Narrative, and other publications.
She has received a PEN/O. Henry Prize, a Pushcart Special Mention, the F. Scott Fitzgerald Story Award, a VCCA fellowship, and grants from the Maryland State Arts Council. She holds a BA in English and French literature from UCSC, a maîtrise from the University of Grenoble, and an MA from the Writing Seminars.
She is an associate professor of creative writing and English at the University of Baltimore, where she chairs the School of Communications Design.
Giveaway – A Paperback copy of The Balcony by Jane Delury
I’m so thrilled to offer the chance for a lucky UK reader to enjoy The Balcony too. For your chance to enter, click here.
UK only I’m afraid. Giveaway closes at UK midnight on Tuesday 28th August 2018. Please note that once the winner has been informed I none of your data will be retained by me.