Welcome, Isabel Costello.
How would you describe your writing style in only three words?
Isabel: Taut. Sensual. Evocative.
If you could have a relationship with one of your fictional characters who would it be and why?
Isabel: Without hesitation, Alexandra, first person narrator of my debut novel Paris Mon Amour. As an intelligent 40-year-old woman she is acting totally out of character when she embarks on an affair with the much younger son of her husband’s best friend. Whilst it’s human fallibility and vulnerability that interest me and drive me to write, in many ways Alexandra becomes stronger as she pursues her desires, both physical and emotional. So many women don’t, and I found myself empathising with her to a surprising degree. She’s not a cuddly character but she has a sense of humour; this and her honesty make me think she’d be great at the kind of frank conversation I like. I could be my own complicated self around her.
If you had to exist for a week in one of your books … which one would it be? Would you be a central character or simply watch the story unfold from the sidelines?
Isabel: Since my book centres on a clandestine relationship, watching from the sidelines isn’t really an option! In any case, it would be a revelation to spend a week (but no longer) as Alexandra’s 23-year-old lover, Jean-Luc. I’m happy being a woman but masculinity and the male perspective fascinate me – since we’re talking hypothetically I would love to experience sex as a man, for example (however weird that sounds). The main reason is the way Jean-Luc thinks about the ‘big questions’ and acts on his instincts rather than conforming to social expectations – I admire that. His passionate and unpredictable nature would guarantee an eventful week but it’s also quite a scary prospect!
Dead or alive literary dinner party: who would you invite, and what would you serve?
Isabel: Firstly, although I’m a keen cook and enjoy entertaining, I find if you have the right combination of guests, nobody actually notices the food. Conversation would be unlikely to dry up with Flaubert, Baudelaire and Simone de Beauvoir at the table, contemporary wit and brilliance courtesy of A M Homes, Jeffrey Eugenides, Lisa McInerney and Grégoire Delacourt. Late night gatecrashers: Byron and Kevin Barry.
If you had to write in a different genre which would it be and why?
Isabel: Not currently on my career plan, but being comfortable with sex scenes I might stand a chance at erotica.
What do you dislike the most about being an author?
Isabel: The fact that so much is beyond your control. It bothers me – and not just for myself – that the fate of books is so dependent on money, timing and dumb luck.
Favourite word? Isabel: Yes
Isabel Costello was in the chair, author of: Paris Mon Amour