Friday 20 September 2019

Blog Tour: Guest Post from Paul Tudor Owen Author of The Weighing of The Heart

Today I am lucky enough to be part of the blog tour for The Weighing of the Heart by Paul Tudor Owen. I have a guest post from the author today and if you like the look of that, you can click here to order yourself a copy of the book now. Don't forget to check out the other stops on the tour for more exclusive content and reviews!
Here's what it's all about...
Following a sudden break-up, Englishman in New York Nick Braeburn takes a room with the elderly Peacock sisters in their lavish Upper East Side apartment, and finds himself increasingly drawn to the priceless piece of Egyptian art on their study wall - and to Lydia, the beautiful Portuguese artist who lives across the roof garden.

But as Nick draws Lydia into a crime he hopes will bring them together, they both begin to unravel, and each find that the other is not quite who they seem.

Paul Tudor Owen's intriguing debut novel brilliantly evokes the New York of Paul Auster and Joseph O'Neill. 

Guest post – favourite character to write

My novel The Weighing of the Heart is about a young British guy living in New York called Nick Braeburn, who moves in with a couple of rich older ladies as a lodger in their opulent apartment on the Upper East Side. He gets together with their other tenant, Lydia, who lives next door, and the two of them steal a priceless work of art from the study wall.

The work of art that Nick and Lydia take is an Ancient Egyptian scene, and as the stress of the theft starts to work on them, the imagery of Ancient Egypt, the imagery in the painting, starts to come to life around them, and it’s intended to be unclear whether this is something that is really happening or whether it’s all in Nick’s head.

So Nick is the crucial character here and once I’d decided I wanted to write the novel in the first person, getting the narrator’s voice right was crucial.

I was always interested in establishing an unreliable narrator for this book who you initially trust and like, and then gradually become suspicious of – an interest that goes back to books like The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, a stunning novel about the prospect of wasting your life and the lengths you can go to to hide that from yourself. By the end of that book what the narrator, Stevens, is saying and what you as the reader take from that are two completely different things. It’s so skilfully done.

Another book I was thinking of when I was creating Nick’s voice was My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier, which is about a man who suspects the woman he loves is poisoning him. Throughout the novel, Du Maurier demonstrates an incredible ability to keep two entirely contradictory interpretations of the plot completely plausible in your mind, and I was aiming for something along those lines too.

And then from an early stage of drafting it I wanted Nick to be a Brit in New York, an outsider. Partly this was to allow myself to live out in writing a fantasy I had had since my late teens of living in New York – something I was lucky enough to be able to fulfil during the writing process. But partly it was because New York is a city of immigrants and newcomers and a melting pot for artists from around the globe and around America just as it is for everyone else, and I felt that that idea would come across most effectively through a foreigner.

In my view, some of the best writing and art and music about New York often comes from outsiders to the city who are looking at the place with fresh eyes. PJ Harvey, for example – whose Stories from City, Stories from the Sea is a quintessential New York album – is from Dorset, and I’ve always loved her description of a conversation on “a rooftop in Brooklyn / At one in the morning … We lean against railings / Describing the colours / And the smells of our homelands / Acting like lovers.”

Perhaps most significantly for my book, which is strongly indebted to The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald was from the Midwest, and his narrator in that unsurpassable depiction of New York, Nick Carraway, takes care to point out that all its key characters, “Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life.”

I wanted my narrator, Nick Braeburn, to share some of these qualities, and gave him a similar name for that reason.

About the author

Paul Tudor Owen was born in Manchester in 1978, and was educated at the University of Sheffield, the University of Pittsburgh, and the London School of Economics. 

He began his career as a local newspaper reporter in north-west London, and currently works at the Guardian, where he spent three years as deputy head of US news at the paper's New York office.  

Paul Tudor Owen’s debut novel The Weighing of the Heart is published by Obliterati Press and has been nominated for the People’s Book Prize 2019 and the Not the Booker Prize 2019

Twitter: @paultowen
Instagram: @paultowen

Thanks to Paul for stopping by today and readers, remember to stop by the other spots on this tour!

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