This week, The Book Diner welcomes Beatrice Colin. A successful novelist whose work has even been picked up by Disney, her latest book, To Capture What You Cannot Keep, is out here today! I originally met Beatrice when we both read at the St. Clementin Literary Festival in France, so it’s a great joy to help her celebrate her UK publication here. Since I am a huge Francophile, I cannot wait to buy this book!

Welcome to the Book Diner! Can we take your order – coffee, tea or soda? Eggs sunny side up or over easy? Home fries, French toast or biscuit?

Tea and toast please.


When did you realise you were a writer?

I used to write a lot as a child and ran a fanzine when I was fifteen interviewing bands. I suppose you can consider yourself a writer when someone pays you to do it. I started writing visual art reviews for a magazine called The List and was paid £15 for each review. I was writing short stories too and one was accepted as part of the BBCs First Bite festival for young writers. That encouraged me enough to keep writing fiction.


Are there particular symptoms you think people should look out for if they suspect they may be coming down with Writer Syndrome and do you think there is any cure?

 They should probably take up a real job for the fallow periods, such as plumbing.


Can you tell us about your latest project?

 A novel called To Capture What We Cannot Keep. It’s set in Paris in the 1880s.


What inspired you to write it? Where do you generally draw your ideas from?

I used to go to Paris regularly when I was a fashion editor for a Scottish Sunday newspaper. I would always avoid the Eiffel Tower as it is always really crowded with tourists. One day, I glanced at it from afar and realised I had no idea who built it and why. That was the starting point of the novel.

I get ideas from all sorts of places, but they are usually concerned with learning something new.


Can you talk to us about one or two of the characters from your latest work? How do your characters emerge?

My new novel has two characters, Cait Wallace, who is a widow and is entirely fictitious and Emile Nouguier who was one of the team of engineers who designed the tower for Gustave Eiffel.  There isn’t much recorded about him, a few pictures and the notable work he did, so I was able to construct a character for the book. I think you have a sense of a ,but only by writing them do they fully emerge.


Is there a particular theme or message you’d like readers to take away from this book?

I’d like to remind them how far we have come since the late nineteenth century in terms of personal relationships, but also how incredible innovative and creative the period was.


What kind of writing process do you have? Are you very disciplined in terms of having a set work routine and doing a lot of planning, or are you more of a pantster? (You fly by the seat of them – Zinkologism.)

When I’m not teaching I try to write between 500-1000 words a day. I’m an obsessive word counter, a hangover from my days as a journalist. I also drink a lot of tea and go for walks, if stuck.


Do you write longhand or on a computer or both? Do you believe that writing method makes a difference to style?

On a computer. I find it hard to read my own writing sometimes.


How do you approach research?

I buy a lot of books and read them. I also use the net to look at images. As the story was set in Paris, I had an excuse to make multiple research trips (very necessary).


How do you deal with autobiographical elements in your work? Do you worry about offending people or baring your soul too much?

I don’t worry about it. I feel the stories aren’t autobiographical.


What’s your editing process?

I usually edit the writing from the day before and then start writing new material. It’s easier to see what you have when you have finished the whole book and then I hack it around until it makes sense.


Name one book you wish you had written and explain why it’s fabulous.

I loved The Green Road by Anne Enright. It read as if she really didn’t care what people thought of it.


What advice would you offer to writers just starting out?

Write as if you don’t care what anyone else thinks of it.


 Write as if you don’t care what anyone else thinks of it.


What would you say are the toughest things and the best things about being a writer?

The best thing is creating a world/story/narrative that didn’t exist before and that people read, believe and hopefully enjoy. The best moment is finishing the book. Publication day is usually a bit of an anti-climax.


How do you handle the rejections and bad reviews all writers experience?

Rejection is par for the course. You have to accept and keep going. Not everybody will like your work. That’s why the person you should write it for is yourself.


Rejection is par for the course. You have to accept and keep going. Not everybody will like your work. That’s why the person you should write it for is yourself.


How do you deal with the Inner Critic who likes to tell us our work is worthless?

Sleep on it. It will probably look better in the morning.


What are your feelings about the growth in self-publishing? Would you advise emerging writers to self-publish or pursue a traditional book deal?

I think it depends on the genre. Some self-published work does very well. I would always go with a traditional book deal as I haven’t the energy you need for self-promotion. I would rather be writing than tweeting.


You can find out more about Beatrice and her work at