Wednesday 10 December 2014

Interview with Betsy Tobin, Author of Things We Couldn't Explain

Title: Things We Couldn't Explain
Author: Betsy Tobin
Published: 20th November 2014
Publisher: Accent Press

Interview with Betsy Tobin

1. Please can you give us a short synopsis on Things We Couldn’t Explain. 

Things We Couldn’t Explain is a coming-of-age tale about two teens whose budding romance is thwarted when their small town is overwhelmed by a series of bizarre miracles.  It’s the story of Annemarie: a blind, chaste, seventeen year-old who finds herself inexplicably pregnant at the novel’s outset; and Ethan, the boy next door whose hapless two-year quest to win her love forms the backbone of the narrative.  The story takes place in small town Ohio in the late Seventies.

2.What was the inspiration for Things We Couldn’t Explain?

I went on holiday to Venice, and one day while surrounded by hundreds of worshippers in St Mark’s Basilica, I decided that faith as a subject was too important to ignore.  After more than twenty years living abroad, I no longer recognized the religious landscape of my homeland.  So much had changed in America since I’d left, and I wanted to spend time thinking about why.  I wanted to explore the difference between faith and belief, and show how the search for truth can sometimes lead us away from it.  But religion is such a perilous subject!  I wanted to write a story that was generous and good-hearted: that spoke equally to those with and without faith.  So in the end, I wrote a comic novel about love.  If God is out there, I think he’d approve.

3. Who is your favourite character in Things We Couldn’t Explain?

That’s a tough call!  I’m hugely fond of them all, even the less amiable ones like Deacon Joe.  But I would have to say Ethan, whose ordinary goodness somehow makes him extraordinary.  At the end of the day it is Ethan’s tale, and hopefully readers will be rooting for him, just as I was.

4. What is your favourite scene in Things We Couldn’t Explain?

I love the scenes where Annemarie pushes Ethan to the absolute limits of his patience, not to mention understanding! Like when she tells him that her chicken pox is God’s way of telling them to be abstinent, or when she insists on returning to say goodbye to her captors.  Ethan’s frustration is so real you can almost chew on it.  And yet he loves her still…

5. Where is your favourite place to write? 

My shed, with the birds twittering overhead. But if it’s really, really cold outside…my bed.  With a large brown labrador atop my feet and the cat splayed across my chest.  Can make holding a laptop tricky.

6. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Don’t fall at the first hurdle.  Writing is partly about graft and perseverance.

7. What are you currently reading?
I’ve just finished Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, which took my breath away with its powerful sense of place and boldly innovative form.  That book has definitely raised the bar for the rest of us.  And I’m about to start Celeste Ng’s debut Everything I Never Told You, another Ohio tale set in the Seventies, although one that is, I suspect, very different in tone from mine.

8. Please describe Things We Couldn’t Explain in three words.

To paraphrase today’s review in @TheBookbag: 
Clever, charming and thought-provoking.

A big thank you to Betsy for stopping by !

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