Zoe Folbigg is the author of The Note and The Distance. Her latest novel, The Postcard, was published by Aria Fiction on 8 August 2019.
Zoe kindly answered a few of my questions
1. Tell us a little about The Postcard.
The Postcard is the follow-up to my debut, The Note, which was based on my real-life story of how I loved a stranger from afar on my daily commute. The Postcard picks up a year on from the end of The Note, Maya and James are about to go travelling, but the course of love – and travel – doesn’t run smoothly!
2. What inspired the book?
My husband – “Train Man” – and I took a year out to go travelling in our early thirties – it was an amazing trip full of colourful characters and amazingly inspirational and beautiful places, but it was a strange time, just as we left the UK my body clock ticked, and I found myself in the chaos of Delhi thinking ‘What the hell am I doing?!’ These themes of commitment and panic – offset against a backdrop of friends settling down and starting families, felt like a great next step for Maya and James too.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
I’m somewhere in between! I have a rough idea of what I want to happen and where I want the narrative to go, but I firmly believe ideas breed ideas, and most of my best ideas come to me midway through a writing session, so I like to see where the words take me. I don’t plan out chapters or structure my writing that strictly, but they evolve organically as the story starts to unfold.
4. Having been through the publishing process is there anything about the process of creating a novel that surprised you?
I think I was most surprised by how resilient you need to be. There were a lot of rejections and I nearly gave up at every stage: from getting an agent to finishing The Note to getting a book deal… I had to be really thick skinned to keep jumping those hurdles and believe in myself.
I was also surprised by how many lovely little coincidences crop up when I’m writing, almost as if it’s the universe conspiring to tell me I’m on the right track. My second book, The Distance, is about a Mexican man who falls in love with a Norwegian woman from across the world. I set the Norway scenes in Tromso, in the Arctic north, and as I was writing scenes set in Tromso Library I learned that the architect of this amazing building with a white undulating roof was… a Mexican: Félix Candela. When I realised this it felt like one of those coincidences that said ‘Keep going, you’re on track!’ It happens often, weirdly.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
When I’m not writing I’m often running. It’s my time and space when I clear my head, it’s when I think of ideas for the book I’m working on. Sometimes the runs are awful and sluggish and I feel I’m at a physical and mental blockage; sometimes I feel like I’m flying and have loads of ideas. Either way, I always feel better at the end of the run.
I also like to play tennis with my little boys, bake cakes to satisfy my sweet tooth, or see a movie (sweet popcorn over savoury, every time!).
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Tough question! Perhaps Isabel Allende’s The House Of The Spirits. When I read it I’d never read anything like it before: the sweeping landscapes, the magical realism, the love sagas across generations… it was so moving and it opened me up to a whole raft of Latin American writers like Laura Esquivel, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jorge Luis Borges.
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
Have you been on a gameshow? Because yes, I have, and I won it. It was The Weakest Link in 2002, and I don’t get to shout about it nearly as much as I’d like to!
About the book
A year after the kiss that brought them together in a snowy train-station doorway, Maya and James are embarking on another journey – this time around the world.
The trip starts promisingly, with an opulent and romantic Indian wedding. But as their travels continue, Maya fears that ‘love at first sight’ might not survive trains, planes and tuk tuks, especially when she realises that what she really wants is a baby, and James doesn’t feel the same.
Can Maya and James navigate their different hopes and dreams to stay together? Or is love at first sight just a myth after all…
About the author
Zoë Folbigg is a magazine journalist and digital editor, starting at Cosmopolitan in 2001 and since freelancing for titles including Glamour, Fabulous, Daily Mail, Healthy, LOOK, Top Santé, Mother & Baby, ELLE, Sunday Times Style, and Style.com. In 2008 she had a weekly column in Fabulous magazine documenting her year-long round-the-world trip with ‘Train Man’ – a man she had met on her daily commute. She since married Train Man and lives in Hertfordshire with him and their two young sons.