Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Interview with Sadie Jones

Late in January, I read and loved Small Wars by Sadie Jones.  It's an intense, beautiful, understated book that moved me.  I can't recommend it enough!  I'm thrilled to share my interview with Sadie Jones.

Sadie Jones
You said in interviews that your novel was inspired by the current conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq. What sparked the connection between the those conflicts and the historical one in Cyprus?

At first, with no thought of making a fiction of it, I became preoccupied by the inner lives of soldiers; how they reconcile the person they have to be in action with the person they must be with their wives and families. There were a lot of reports at the time of psychological damage, and broken families, that often ran alongside all reports of wrongdoing in the military or dissent about the reasons for war in the first place. It struck me that PTSD – often seen in isolation – is not indivisible from the conscience, and that this was not being discussed. It is easy to see, looking down history, that action undertaken in conflicts that are seen as ‘moral’ or ‘clean’, being more easily defended are therefore more easily reconciled. I had no thought of making a book out of it, until I stumbled across Cyprus, and was immediately, viscerally, reminded of the landscape of the Middle East. I suddenly imagined a real soldier, and a marriage, and his country, that he loved, betraying him. The 1950s liberated the story, and allowed it to be universal.

Were there any surprises in the novel that came out as you wrote -- a character or scene that was unexpected?

The character of Lieutenant Davis, the interpreter, who is key to the story, was a relatively late development. Looking back it’s hard to imagine, but he insinuated himself into things once the story was largely plotted. At one point he threatened to take the thing over because I enjoyed his particular brand of weakness so much. As to scenes, occasionally I’ll go into one knowing there must be an argument, say, and what the result will be, only to find that the characters have a greater integrity than I, in my cool plan for them, and refuse to be manipulated. They might not be as angry as I thought, or angrier, or make statements that I had not thought they would, leaving me to adjust them to the story and not the other way around.

Did you have a chance to travel to Cyprus for your research?

I have travelled to Greece and to Turkey quite a lot in my life, but I didn’t get there until half-way through the book - about a 18 months into the process. I had researched 1950s Cyprus so thoroughly that the 21st Century island was a shock. It took me a while to reconcile the two. The army base at Episkopi, though, is almost unchanged – all the ‘50s housing stock is still there, as it was.

Are you working on anything now?

I’m revising my 3rd novel.

When you're not writing, what do you like to do?

Spend time with my family, cook, eat out, read, go to movies and galleries and ride.

Read any good books lately?

The Existential Detective, by Alice Thompson is a gem. I was awed by Never Let Me Go; Ishiguro Kazuo. I am rereading Madame Bovary which – as all great books are – is a different book at every age, and I’m halfway through, and enjoying, Tim Winton’s Dirt Music.

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My thanks to Sadie Jones for taking the time to answer my questions as well as Trish with TLC Book Tours for facilitating this!


  1. Great Q&A! I love hearing from authors whether something in the book came as a surprise, and how the book may have taken a turn they weren't expecting. It makes the book seem less like an author's creation and more like something that's been here the whole time but just needed to be given a voice.

  2. I haven't read a review for this book, so yours is going to be the first one. ;) Great interview. I love the cover of this book and I've been seeing it in a lot of bookstores.

  3. Loved this review, especially since I really enjoyed Small Wars. Interesting how Lieutenant Davis came to the party late.

  4. Great interview! I remember putting this book on my TBR list after reading your review.
    I was really interested to learn that one of the pivotal characters was actually developed well into the writing of the novel.

  5. All: This was so fun for me b/c I so enjoyed the book -- Lt Davis was one of my favorite characters, if you can have a favorite in such an intense book like this -- for those of you who haven't read it yet -- get it -- it's so good!

  6. I loved Small Wars too and it's great to hear more about the process (and how modern Cyrus is so different!) I'm also thrilled to know she's already at the revision point of a third book!