How did the setting of your story impact your writing?
The setting for The Darkest Heart came before anything else. I wanted the story to take place in a lawless, remote place, where the characters are forced to live on their wits if they are to survive the difficult situations they find themselves in.
How or why is the setting important to who your character is?
Zico has run away to a small, frontier town in central Brazil to escape the brutality of his past life in a Rio favela. The town represents his opportunity to start again, in a place where nobody knows him. The journey he takes along the river Araguaia towards the Rio das Mortes becomes a test of his moral strength.
Which location did you enjoy writing the most in your story? Why this one?
The river. I drew on my own experiences and had the chance to relive some of the moments I spent with my brother as a teenager. We lived for a number of years in central Brazil and had many adventures on the river Araguaia, miles from anywhere.
When you visited France, which location did you prefer?
I’ve been to France a few times, but haven’t ever spent more than a week there in one stretch. As a child I occasionally crossed the channel to Boulogne or Calais for the day, and I recently visited Paris with my family, which was a chance to see the sights. I remember a holiday in Nice when I was a young teenager, and I was struck by the beauty of the coastline – and there’s nothing quite like a fresh breeze drifting in across a glittering sea. I would definitely visit again if I had the chance.
What gave you the greatest cultural shock when in France?
I don’t think I had a cultural shock. During my childhood I travelled all over the world, from Africa to Asia to South America, so I’m pretty used to accepting other people and their cultures. Mind you, it would have helped if I could speak French a bit better!
Which part of the French archetype did you discover to be wrong? Right?
Ugh. Archetypes are awful aren’t they? And they usually turn out to be a load of nonsense. There’s a misconception about people being rude in France, but I suspect it has come from people visiting major cities, like Paris, where everybody is busy and rushing around. If you go to London, you’ll find the same is true.
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