Interview with British Author Kerry Postle
Good morning, Kerry, and welcome to Vision and Verse, the Place for
Art and Authors. Tell us a little about what you've written.
Here are some websites:
https://theartistsmuseblog.wordpress.com/ (for paintings in the novel)
The Artist’s Muse, a novel about the life of Wally Neuzil, model to Gustav
Klimt then Egon Schiele, 2 of the most influential artists of the 20th
century. It shows the great impact she had on their work while showing
the toxic impact they had on her life and reputation. An unequal
partnership but one from which she learns and grows.
What is your favorite genre to write?
My first novel is historical/literary fiction. It was the subject matter that
appealed to me as opposed to the genre per se. I went to an art
exhibition in Vienna, saw rooms full of paintings of the same model,
Wally Neuzil, but could discover very little about her other than she
had been humiliated then discarded by the painters she served. I looked
into the history of the time – gender, art, politics – and was shocked to
see the deep-seated misogyny at its core. To see Wally’s life in this
context brought her story alive and compelled me to tell it through her
Oh! I love all food. My favourite? Spaghetti
alle vongole. Or mussels…or langoustines…
pretty much love anything Italian and seafood.
Tea or coffee?
Coffee. I love the smell of it. Though when
I’ve drunk too much I switch to tea.
Pizza or ice cream?
Wine or beer?
Wine. Red, white, sparkling. Sometimes
forget sparkling is NOT lemonade…
Where would you like to visit?
At the moment I’m writing a novel about the Spanish Civil War and so I
would like to visit Madrid, Malaga and Barcelona. However, my starting
point would have to be the small village of Fuentes de Andalucia as I
have chosen the atrocity that occurred there as the trigger for what
happens in the rest of the novel.
Favorite musical artist.
I have eclectic tastes and my favourite changes according to my mood.
Though if pushed, I would say that my enduring loyalty goes to David
Bowie. Favourite song ‘Heroes’.
Do you listen to music when you write?
Sometimes. Though sometimes I like to read my work back to myself
to see if the sentences flow. I look to give them their own musicality in
which case I then need complete silence.
What do you listen to?
Amy Winehouse, U2,
Patti Smith, folk music,
some jazz. I’ve even been
known to listen to music
from the country and time
I’m writing about, just to
get me in the mood.
What makes you laugh?
Great satire makes me laugh and can be so cathartic. People often
take themselves far too seriously and it does them and everyone else
good when their bubble is burst.
Favorite work of art or sculpture.
I have to say ‘Portrait of Wally’ by Egon Schiele although Botticelli’s
‘Primavera’ takes my breath away.
How old were you when you started writing?
I started writing in my teens, wrote articles in my 20’s and 30’s, though
didn’t finish a novel until my early 50’s. A late starter.
Do you plan out your book with outlines and notecards? Or just write?
Oh, to be a good planner! I try outlines, but when I start to write I end up
going completely off-piste. After The Artist’s Muse I was determined to
be stricter about planning but now I’m on my second novel I’m making
the same ‘mistakes’. I imagine that this way of writing (where I go off at
tangents) is the most natural for me. It takes me into directions I hadn’t
considered and when I look back at what I’ve written, it surprises me that
it’s usually better than what I’d planned.
Describe your perfect evening.
My perfect evening would be dinner out with my family. To share food,
wine and conversation with the people I love is, for me, one of life’s
Where do you get your inspiration?
Inpsiration for The Artist’s Muse
came from a visit to an Egon
Schiele exhibition at the Leopold
Museum in Vienna.
For images of the paintings go to
I wasn’t looking for a story to write but it presented itself to me
nevertheless. Images of the artist’s model were everywhere –
some beautiful, all challenging, others disturbing. I wanted to find
out more about this woman, so integral to the artist’s work. Then,
when I did, I wanted to tell her story.
Spanish Civil War, it was the treatment of
girls and women by Franco’s rebels that
propelled me into action. The brutal, sexist
punishments meted out to their female
‘enemies’ – such as dosing up with castor oil,
shaving their heads, raping…- inspired me to
write their story. I don’t see myself solely as
a feminist writer but female issues are central
to my work. Women have inspired me and I
owe it to them to tell their story.
What do you do when you get a writer's block?
I either go back to my source material
(eg. books I’m using for research) or I read
a few pages of a good book and study the
Who is your favorite author?
I studied A la Recherche du Temps Perdu
by Marcel Proust at university and I run a
Proust book group because Proust is my
favourite author. His writing it so layered,
full of cultural references, social and psychological observations and it is full of
humour. His scathing wit is merciless – no one is exempt, not even himself. For
me he is the most human of writers, and it takes so long to read him that when
you finish it’s like saying goodbye to a dear, dear friend. That’s why I set up the
book group – so that I could read my friend again and get to know him even
When I first started writing I used to work through exercises from Ursula
LeGuin’s marvellous book on how to write, ‘Steering the Craft’, where she
recommends you write in the style of a favourite author. I sometimes try to
do that but no one has noticed my attempts to channel my inner Proust yet.
Also, when I found out that he wrote his own early reviews (glowing, of course),
I loved him even more. So flawed. So human.
Best book you ever read.
A la Recherche du Temps Perdu.
‘The Life and Death of the Spanish Republic: a witness to the Spanish Civil
War’ by Henry Buckley (part of my research library for my second novel).
I’m currently reading ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood.
What would you do for a living if you weren’t a writer?
I would be a teacher. I used to be a Modern Languages teacher in a secondary
school until I was attacked in the classroom. It was because of that incident that
I became a writer. Here is a link to a radio programme about my transition http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05hcvxn from teacher to writer
(interview from 2hrs 10 minutes in). I would probably still be doing that if
the attack hadn’t happened.
Who is the one person who has influenced your personal life the most and why?
My friend Simon. He has shown me how important it is to love and be loved.
He doesn’t judge, always supports me and I try to do the same for him. He has
been my best friend for nearly 36 years and he has shown me that when awful
things happen they don’t have to define you.
a conversation with ONE
person, living or dead, real or
fictional, who would it be and
I would have like to have a
conversation with Marcel, the
narrator of A la Recherche
because, although he has so
many things in common with
Proust the man, Marcel, as
Proust’s fictional self, expresses
the essence of the man without being dragged down by the extraneous details of
his life. In the novel everything has been carefully chosen, his every word
intended to have significance. Therefore to enter this perfectly constructed world
and have a conversation with this perfectly constructed character who I know so
well and love so much would be a delight. Ideal venue would be at a party where
we’d sit in the corner. He would be talking about the other guests and I would be
laughing guiltily as he shows me how a misspent youth does not exclude you
from becoming a writer.
What advice would you give someone who aspired to be a writer?
Less talk, more writing. Although in fairness it’s all part of the process.
Write every day, write about anything. Join a group if you can find one, create
your own if you can’t. Don’t be too hard on yourself and remember to always