Monday, July 11, 2016

BOOK LAUNCH MONDAY | Julia Thomas Talks About the Epistolary Novel

Web mistress Lisa here. We've got a treat for you today! Julia Thomas's debut novel THE ENGLISH BOYS has just come out to great reviews. I'm so excited for her! Today she talks about why she was drawn to include epistolary elements in her novel. ~Lisa

My Epistolary Debut Novel

Hello, Inkspot readers!  My name is Julia Thomas, and my first novel, The English Boys, debuts this week. For my first blog, I thought I’d talk about one of the elements I used while writing this mystery: the epistolary novel. An epistolary novel is a book that contains or is fully constructed of documents or letters. There are many examples throughout literary history, from classics like Pride and Prejudice and The Moonstone to some of the popular modern books like Where’d You Go, Bernadette?  One of my personal favorites, and certainly an inspiration for The English Boys, is Possession by A.S. Byatt. In it, two modern day London scholars try to solve the mystery of a love affair between two Victorian era writers. Byatt studied the writing of Ezra Pound and Emily Dickinson in order to create extensive poetry and letters for her scholars to discover, an unparalleled literary feat that won her the Booker Prize in 1990.

The English Boys is a novel about two well-known young British actors who fall in love with the same woman, Tamsyn Burke, who is murdered on the day of her wedding. In the book, I’ve used emails, texts, letters, and diaries to help my protagonist, Daniel Richardson, try to solve the crime.

Here are some of the reasons I used epistolary writing in my first novel:
1.  Letters, diaries, texts, and emails reveal inner secrets. Just imagine discovering a stack of letters or diaries from someone who has been murdered. Many crime novels follow a DNA or scientific formula to solve a crime, but I found that I preferred a more personal, emotional approach.  Delving into a character’s private thoughts was both appealing and exciting to write.
2.  It allows you to get closer to your protagonist. Seeing the clues unfold through the character’s eyes helps you empathize with what he’s going through. In The English Boys, we feel Daniel’s fear and confusion and are trying to figure out the crime alongside him as we get a secret glimpse into other characters’ points of view.
3.  It’s a break from regular narrative and dialogue. One of my chapters is almost entirely constructed of old diary entries, taking us back into Tamsyn’s history and motivations. It’s a fresh way to engage readers and adds suspense and drama to the story.
4.  It adds realism to the novel. People love to document and share their lives, from social media to private diaries and journals. Using these means in a book heightens the feeling that we have that we’ve stumbled onto something personal and private. It also allows the author to explore morality and motives in an unconventional way.
5.  They’re fun to write. Of course, writing is just fun, anyway, especially when you love your characters as much as I do.

Have a happy summer, and happy reading!

The novel sounds fantastic, Julia! Readers and writers, do you like epistolary elements in your stories? What are some of your favorite books that use them? 

Julia Thomas is the author of The English Boys, published by Midnight Ink, which earned a starred review and was named Debut of the Month in the July 2016 issue of Library Journal. She is married to author Will Thomas, who writes a crime series set in Victorian London. In addition to writing, she loves reading, photography, and playing with her three adorable Pekes.


Kirsten Weiss said...

I love this technique, especially in crime fiction. It allows the reader to directly "play detective" and analyze the epistolary clues.

Edith Maxwell said...

Congratulations, Julia!

Sheila Good said...

Congratulations Julia and much success on your novel. @sheilamgood at Cow Pasture Chronicles

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Emma Post