credit: Michael Lionstar
Absolutely true. In fact, I’m making a constellation of six interrelated novels. They’re not a series – they can be read in any order. But they fit together to tell a huge story. It’s my way of saying something about the complex interconnectedness of human life: the way a decision taken a century ago affects people in the present.
The book I’m currently writing finds Piet Barol in Johannesburg in 1913. What will happen to him during the First World War?
Did you draw inspiration from turn of the century book like Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth for this novel? Pleasure Seeker reminded me a little bit of House of Mirth.
I love The House of Mirth. I remember where I was when I read it; what music I was listening to. It wasn’t a direct inspiration for History of a Pleasure Seeker, but I am honored by the comparison.
Did you have Piet choose to go to South Africa instead of New York because you yourself are from South Africa? How did your experiences / memories from there influence this book?
I knew when I began History of a Pleasure Seeker that Piet Barol would end up in South Africa. I am fascinated by the band of enterprising Europeans who came to Africa from the seventeenth century onwards, stole so much (land, diamonds, gold) and felt so little remorse over what they had done. The psychology of colonialism – how people who thought of themselves as good people were able to perpetrate such monstrous acts – is a key interest of mine. In order to understand what happens to Piet later in South Africa, I wanted the reader to learn who he was in the land of his birth – hence the setting in Amsterdam.
Are the Vermeulen-Sickerts based on anyone you know in real life?
No. I had the great pleasure of creating an entire family from scratch. Of course all the characters have elements of people I have observed, but no one has a real life model.
If Pleasure Seeker was to be made into a movie, who would you want to play the Vermuelen-Sickers, their staff, and Piet? What about the people he meets on the boat going to South Africa, too?
History of a Pleasure Seeker is currently in development as an eight-part TV series. I think it would work brilliantly on television. I can’t comment on cast until it’s finalized, but the lineup is excellent. I’ll let you know as soon as I can!
What are some of your favorite authors, or authors from which you draw inspiration for your novels?
The book that most inspired History of a Pleasure Seeker is a book on quite a different subject: Irene Nemirovsky’s Suite Francaise. That is a superb novel that charts the experiences of twelve characters fleeing Paris just before the Germans arrived in 1942. I had an experience while reading it that I hoped to give the readers of History. I was swept up in the story. I loved the author’s confidence, her style, her rich humanity – and her sympathy for her characters, whatever their flaws. I also admired her briskness and quickness. When I finished it, I knew I wanted to write a book that gave this same kind of pleasure to others – and that’s how History of a Pleasure Seeker began. It’s also why I wrote it by hand. Nemirovsky wrote by hand, her writing small and dense as she filled every inch of the paper. It was she who liberated me from Microsoft Word!
Be sure to check out barol.com for more information about the music, locations, and other places used in the book.
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