My interview with American author Alison Anderson is the fourth and final author profile in the swissinfo.ch series on English-language writers living in Switzerland. Of all the authors I interviewed, Alison is the one with the closest ties to Switzerland, having first come to the country as an eight-year-old to attend her sister’s wedding.
She came back to complete her schooling in Switzerland, studied at Lausanne University, and finally settled in the Lake Geneva area in 2008 after a long stay in California, including five years living on a wooden sailboat in San Francisco bay.
Alison’s new novel, The Summer Guest, is a delightful read that dips in and out of 1880s Ukraine and two present day settings – the French-Swiss border and London – before reintroducing us to present-day Ukraine. Although the storylines are all linked to Chekhov, the three female narrators are in the foreground.
It was a pleasure to share a pot of Irish tea with Alison and find out more about her life and work. Alison is also a leading translator of French literature. Her many translations include Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Ingrid Betancourt’s memoir, and the work of Nobel laureate JMG De Clézio.
Have a look back at the other Swiss-based novelists featured in this series: Jason Donald, author of Dalila, Anne Korkeakivi, author of Shining Sea, and Susan Jane Gilman, author of The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street and three nonfiction titles.
After the summer, swissinfo.ch will publish a literary podcast featuring audio material from these four interviews. With such different styles and publishing journeys represented, it promises to be very interesting!
In case you missed the link, the full interview with Alison Anderson is here.
I took a walk on the wild side of Geneva with American author Anne Korkeakivi, the third subject to feature in this swissinfo.ch series of English-language writers based in Switzerland. The author of two novels, Shining Sea and An Unexpected Guest (both published by Little Brown), Anne’s work has been described as “eloquent” and “captivating”.
The New Yorker had a successful career as a journalist before she decided to try out her fiction wings. She stopped producing nonfiction work, taking a job as an editor for a French publishing house, and gave herself twelve months to make a go of fiction. She sold her first story in the eleventh month.
That was the encouragement Anne needed to devote herself to fiction. I spent a morning with Anne, walking through the woods and backroads of Geneva. Having lived abroad for most of her adult life, she is content to live in such an international city. This global spirit is evident in the many different locations Anne features in her work – from Paris to the Philippines to the Hebrides.
Anne’s two novels are very different in scope and tone. The action in the first, An Unexpected Guest, takes place over one day in Paris, as a woman married to a diplomat realises what shaky foundations her well-ordered life is built upon. Shining Sea has a panoramic sweep, following the lives of the large Gannon family over several decades and continents. You’ll find more information about Anne and her work on her website.
Also featured in this series is Susan Jane Gilman, author of TheIce Cream Queen of Orchard Street and three nonfiction books, as well as Jason Donald, author of Dalila and Choke Chain. There is one more author to come next week to complete the talented quartet.
The dream gig continues … I’ve been meeting acclaimed English-language authors based in Switzerland for a series of interviews for my former employer, swissinfo.ch. The profile of Susan Jane Gilman, best-selling author of The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street and three other books, was published this week.
Susan Jane is as entertaining in person as she is on the page. This photo was taken in Morges on Lake Geneva where we had to laugh (and buy ice cream) when the first thing we saw on the waterfront was an ice cream stand. It was just the sort of place the heroine in Susan Jane’s novel would have owned once upon a time in New York.
Morges is a lovely spot and location of the annual Le Livre sur les Quais literary festival which is held in September. I’ve heard the festival will feature Irish authors this year and can’t wait to find out who’s in the line-up. Susan Jane is also a fan of Irish literature, first inspired by her English teacher in high school, the legendary Frank Mc Court.
Susan Jane is teaching at the Zurich Writers Workshop (ZWW) next weekend (May 12-14) along with Jill Alexander Essbaum, author of Hausfrau, a book set in Switzerland which made a big impression on me. Two very high calibre writers. That event may well be booked out but, if you live within reach of Zurich, ZWW is worth following for its excellent instruction programme.
Here again, in case you missed it in the first paragraph, is the link to my interview with Susan Jane Gilman. And if you are catching up on this series, don’t forget Jason Donald, author of Dalila (2017) and Choke Chain (2009) who was the subject of the first swissinfo profile. The next interview will be published on Thursday May 11th. Watch this space!
There is a small but thriving English-language literary scene in Switzerland – workshops, retreats, writers’ groups and even an international festival. At the heart of that scene is the community of published and aspiring writers who live in Switzerland.
Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview the leading lights of that community, four acclaimed authors with eleven books between them. Over the next few weeks, swissinfo.ch will publish these profiles as a series, beginning today with Scottish-born Jason Donald, author of the “beautifully observed” novel Dalila.
The list of places Jason has lived hints at some intriguing plot twists in the story of his life: Pretoria under apartheid, the deprived Glaswegian district of Govan, and, most recently, the luxury Swiss resort of Gstaad.
I made the trek (three trains and a bus journey) to the Bernese Oberland to meet the self-described nomad and economic migrant. You can read the full story here.