Francesca Segal, Novelist

hello and a very warm welcome Francesca Segal is joining us and author who started out quite late I would imagine as a writer but the first novel is something that you've written from a male perspective and I'm going to ask you about that but I also understand that you divide your time between two cities and that's London and New York and you know that's always difficult when you have two homes well it's difficult and it's a great privilege really but you know if you have two places that that feel that you feel at home and part of yes but I imagine New York is where your first novel was inspired and there is a certain vibe to that city and a lot of people talk about it as well I'm imagining that all that you take away from New York is something that you have been able to infuse into your first well my novel the innocence is is actually a very London novel is it it's set in Northwest London and and I wrote it whilst whilst I was living in New York but really Northwest London is is where I was from it's it's where I grew up the Jewish community in in London and and the novel really is a is a portrait of that community and I think really being in New York it was not so much essential it was really the important point was being away from London having a little bit of breathing space a little bit of perspective to write about a community that I'm extremely fond of and that I know from the inside out but perhaps can be a little bit very loving and very supportive and also a little bit claustrophobic the Jewish community that settled in Hampstead yes in gold screen in Goda's green so there is there are certain nuances to them can you tell us about a few that you've been able to capture because obviously there must be people who've read the novel we're coming up to you and telling you things about yes I know that we live that well I think I think what's really been exciting about about the publication of this book is it is a portrait of one specific world of the Jewish community in Golders Green in Northwest London it's about you know a young man coming of age struggling to make a decision about you know it's really a love triangle a love story about how to be a good man about who to marry about how to differentiate between what he wants and what's been wanted for him his whole life and I have set this dilemma in a world that I know very well but really one of the great joys of publication has been that people from worlds that are completely different that I had no concept of have come up to me and said you know this is my life this is I recognize this this you know the urge to to please want parents the urge to do the right thing the urge to to be the good son to make everybody happy within the community it's actually a universal pressure and and so it's a very specific portrait but I really hope it has echoes for for really you know anyone who understands family anyone who you know I find it very interesting Franchesca that you chose to write from a man's perspective something that we introduced you with because that's unique you made that choice very consciously what was the thought behind it it felt I don't think it's unique but I think it felt like the right way to tell this story and and it was a real pleasure actually to it to inhabit a man's mind whilst I was writing this book was really a great it was a treat I felt like for the period in which I was writing this book I was a little bit more assertive myself outside I really enjoyed it it was um it just was the right way to tell the story I wanted to explore I think we've read a lot actually about certainly in British literature there's been a lot of exploration of young women wanting to get married that kind of pressure in the mid 20s to settle down to find a husband and I was actually more interested in in the pressures on young men which are sometimes a little bit overlooked those pressures to be a patriarch at 24 to you know to be the head of a family to do to be a good son to be a good father and those were the ideas that I really wanted to and you thinking this is peculiar to the community are you thinking that this has global resonance and many of the qualities that you might know already I think people are people and I think it's a human impulse to want to make a very human impulse in it and a laudable one to want to make your family proud of you and to make your community proud of you so I think it's pretty universal right but you know when you base it in a certain community that is based in a certain geographical location in the world there are certain nuances like I said but obviously there are these many shades that much color that you'd bring to the table as well so does that make it easier because you're able to kind of take immediately from the ambient noises colors sounds the landscape and of course the people I think it's just you know I really hope that what I've done is create that the community is really another character in the novel that the community as a character in London is an is a character because really you know my aim was was to evoke this world to create a loving clear-eyed portrait of a community and to bring that to life both for people who might be familiar with it and for whom it might be sort of you know be a world that they recognize intimately but also for people who have no you know who've never been to London let alone within you know experienced the Jewish community and life within that world also yes so so it was really you know it's a character of its own really that's true but you've also infused a lot of food I understand into your novel yes is there a latent foodie in you that has been able to kind of be able to bring that as an offering as well as part of your first oh I think I will I only really realized actually quite how much food was in my book after it was published I didn't really I hadn't noticed and then it was once it was finished and publishers and you know came I had my first readers people were saying you know there's really a lot of food in this book and I was a bit sheepish and I went back and realized actually there is but um but actually you know I think you know I am a foodie but also in Jewish culture is food is is a vocabulary it's another means of communication and is so vital to family gatherings to the way that people express love for one another so the way that that people gather and I brought together it's it's I think without food as a without a portrait and a vivid portrait of the meals and the customs you wouldn't get a sense of you know food is really vital to bringing alive a sense of that community yes and obviously there must be that much more color to be able to offer when you talk about relationships yes when you talk about relationships that are conceived through things like food or when you when you travel when you meet different people are you seeing the kind of you know the global thrust that we see in terms of relationships in terms of you know the way people connect with each other the commonality the thread that you see are things that you observe because you're a young writer and obviously you're looking at inspiration from different spaces how do you look for them how do you kind of get that idea going an idea for a book or for any kind of work perhaps do you write columns as well because you have a journalistic career I do I do a lot of journalism I'm not writing a column at the moment because I'm busy writing the second novel but I think I think an idea for a novel is really the idea that comes to you that you can't not tell I think you know I wrote for a long time I wrote the debut fiction column when I was writing a column I wrote the debut fiction column for The Observer in the UK so I was really for three years immersed in other people's first novels and every month they would get this sack of of debut fiction that I had to go through and read and and it really was very humbling because it taught me that the world does not need another novel and it certainly doesn't need another first novel and and so it was very humbling but it also I think taught me patience because to tell a novel to to commandeer someone's attention for ninety thousand a hundred thousand words there really has to be something that you are burning to say so I think you know it's like love really I think it has to be absolute passion it really has to capture you and be something that is just bursting out of you to be the right idea for a novel and that's that was what this was for me it was I just it was the story I couldn't not tell but as a young writer obviously you know like you said there's just so much out there to read to consume media has so much to offer at this point in time what inspired you to be able to say that look one more is not going to hurt is that the thought or is it that look I have a story and I think people need to know about it was neither of those it was exactly what I described it was I I couldn't stop myself I had to I knew I didn't even really think by the time I had this idea about publication or about whether anyone wanted it or about the commercial side it was just an impulse ssin to write and to tell this story and it was just I had no idea when I was writing it that it would ever go beyond you know my own desk but but I just had to I had to try pleasantly surprised it's been a great pleasure and we are going to expect more tell us about the next one that you write oh I can't do that I couldn't possibly no it's still it's still germinating so it's a little bit fragile tell us whether it's New York or London because I know that you're torn between the two cities it's actually half set in London and half set in Boston Oh fantastic so excellent we look forward to it thank you Franchesca many thanks for joining us thank you

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