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Author Talk: September 17, 2010

Much to the delight of American readers, bestselling author Tatiana de Rosnay is returning with her second English-language novel, A SECRET KEPT, which follows the trials and tribulations of Parisian architect Antoine Rey after his sister unveils a haunting truth about their mother’s past. In this interview, de Rosnay discusses her fascination with family secrets and the appeal of stepping outside the bounds of conventional literary genres. She also reveals what inspired her to mix a masculine hero with a motorcycle-riding, female mortician, shares some of her favorite books and authors, and sheds light on the quirks --- and perks --- of being a writer who is half French and half English.

Question: The secret holds an important place in your work, specifically in A SECRET KEPT.Can you tell us about this?

Tatiana de Rosnay: I’ve always been fascinated by important family secrets and their impact, particularly on the following several generations. We often do not take into consideration the effect that things left unsaid in a household have on the children who grow up there. It can influence their personality and orientation, their choices in life. We don’t always measure the effect a family secret can have on later years. Antoine Rey, like Julia Jarmond in SARAH’S KEY, is here confronted by an oppressive silence and the violent return of his past. The truth is not always easy to admit, but for Antoine, the secret that is finally revealed will in some ways liberate him.

Q: Is A SECRET KEPT a detective story, a psychological suspense novel or a love story?

TDR: I would say it’s all three at once, following the example of my literary idol, Daphne de Maurier, who mixes these genres so well in REBECCA. I’m fond of the ambiance in suspense and thrillers. From LA MEMOIRE DES MURS to SPIRALES, and in passing with MOKA, I loved clouding the outcomes and flirting with mystery, without strictly respecting the rules of genre. What’s new in BOOMERANG is the love --- I’ve never written a love story, and I took great pleasure in doing so.

Q: Why did you choose a masculine hero like Antoine Rey in A SECRET KEPT?

TDR: It was very exciting to put myself in a man’s shoes…I was inspired by all the men around me, by their strength and, at the same time, by their fragility. More than anything, I also wanted to create the portrait of a modern man caught between a tumultuous family life and a love he could no longer wait for.

Q: Where did you come by the idea of Angèle, the sexy mortician in A SECRET KEPT?

TDR: To create this character, I interviewed female morticians and I watched “Six Feet Under.” I wanted a surprising heroine. Angèle has character --- she drives a Harley Davidson! Why does she have this strange profession? It has to do with her history, her past. She, too, has secrets. And it’s this astonishing woman, for whom death is a part of everyday life, who brings Antoine back to life.

Q: What do you enjoy doing in you spare time that inspires you while you’re working?

TDR: I’ve been a bookworm since I could read. And I also spend a lot of time surfing the Internet. I write a blog. I also enjoy traveling, art, music and movies.

Q: Where have you lived in your life?

TDR: From Paris, I moved to Boston when I was eight; my father taught at MIT. We spent three years there, and then moved back to Paris. I went to college in England when I was 19 at the University of East Anglia, where I major in English Literature. I’ve lived in Paris since 1984.

Q: Who are your favorite authors?

TDR: I admire Daphne du Maurier, Virginia Woolf, Henry James, Irène Nemirovsky, Emile Zola, Guy de Maupassant, Oscar Wilde and Charles Baudelaire…and Paul Auster, Joanna Trollope, Anita Shreve, Penelope Lively, A.S Byatt, JM Coetzee, Maggie O’Farrell and Tracy Chevalier.

Q: Tell us anything about yourself as a working writer that you think might be interesting or unusual.

TDR: Being half French, half English makes me “unusual”, I guess, and the fact that I grew up learning two languages and that I lived in France, England and America, as well. I never know which language I dream in. But I always knew I wanted to write SARAH’S KEY in English.

Q: What are some examples of books that you compare or identify with your own work?

TDR: THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS by Douglas Kennedy; CHARLOTTE GRAY by Sebastian Faulks; RESERVATION ROAD by John Burnham Schwartz; MY DREAM OF YOU by Nuala O’Faolain; SOPHIE’S CHOICE by William Styron; SUITE FRANÇAISE by Irène Némirovsky; AFTER YOU’D GONE by Maggie O’Farrell; RESISTANCE by Anita Shreve.

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