Beth Lewis is the author of The Wolf Road and Bitter Sun. Her latest novel, The Origins of Iris, was published by Hodder Studio on 19 August 2021.
Beth kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about The Origins of Iris.
The Origins of Iris is my third novel, it’s about a woman who flees her abusive wife and escapes to the wilderness to heal and find herself. She doesn’t expect to find herself literally. She meets another version of herself, one who has made different choices and together they have to unravel the secrets of their shared past. It’s a book about choices, what-ifs, and love.
2. What inspired the book?
I have never read a novel about domestic abuse in a same-sex relationship, especially a relationship between two women. There is almost no literature out there on the subject except one fantastic memoir. I really wanted to explore and highlight that area of the LGBTQ+ experience. Domestic violence rates in same-sex relationships happen at a similar rate to straight relationships but are rarely, if ever, depicted on page or screen. I wanted to explore how a woman could escape, heal and change herself into the person she always wanted to be.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
I wish I was a planner, it would make drafting and revising much easier but I am a dyed-in-the-wool Panster for life. I usually have an opening scene in mind and an overall impression of where the story will go, kind of like when you’ve just watched a movie you can’t remember every scene or beat but you have an overall impression of what the movie was. That’s all I have when I start writing.
4. Is there anything about the process of publishing a book that still surprises you?
Three books in and a decade working in publishing have taken all the surprise out of it and nowadays it’s mostly an exercise in anxiety – will people like this more than The Wolf Road, will it reach people, will they understand what I was going for, will they like it, that kind of thing. But for this book, those anxieties have been unfounded (so far!) My biggest surprise, I suppose, is how, despite three books, I am still amazed and humbled by the reader responses. The response to IRIS has been incredible and I am extremely grateful it’s reaching readers and leaving an impression.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
Between writing, a full time job and a two-year old, I don’t have much time to relax but when I do, I go for a walk in the woods, breathe in the trees and nature. That feeds my soul and inspires me, which is why all my books are set in woods or rural areas. It’s where I feel most at home. If it’s raining, I play video games 🙂
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. My favourite book. The one that inspired me to take risks. The one that said, you can write any genre you want.
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?
I am rarely asked about the nuts and bolts of writing, of craft and structure, character development and voice and that’s something every writer I know takes a lot of time to get right. I think I’d like to be asked what aspect of writing a book is the most enjoyable. To that, my answer would be the moment you find yourself lost in the narrative and the characters take on a life of their own and go in directions you didn’t intend and all you can do is follow along, scribbling everything down as quickly as you can. I love that bit.
About the Book
Iris flees New York City, and her abusive wife Claude, for the Catskill Mountains. When she was a child, Iris and her father found solace in the beauty and wilderness of the forest; now, years later, Iris has returned for time and space to clear her head, and to come to terms with the mistakes that have led her here. But what Iris doesn’t expect in her journey of survival and self-discovery is to find herself – literally.
Trapped in a neglected cabin deep in the mountains, Iris is grudgingly forced to come face to face with a seemingly prettier, happier and better version of herself. Other Iris made different choices in life and love. But is she all she seems? Can she be trusted? What is she hiding?
As a storm encroaches, threatening both their lives, time is running out for them to discover why they have been brought together, and what it means for their futures.