Melbourne Writers Festival: How Louis de Bernieres survived being a bestseller

The Dust that Falls from Dreams by Louis de Bernieres.
Nanjing Night Net

British novelist Louis de Bernieres will speak at the opening of the 30th Melbourne Writers Festival. Photo: Penny Stephens

British novelist Louis de Bernieres will speak at the opening of the 30th Melbourne Writers Festival. Photo: Penny Stephens

The Dust that Falls from Dreams by Louis de Bernieres.

British novelist Louis de Bernieres will speak at the opening of the 30th Melbourne Writers Festival. Photo: Penny Stephens

The Dust that Falls from Dreams by Louis de Bernieres.

British novelist Louis de Bernieres will speak at the opening of the 30th Melbourne Writers Festival. Photo: Penny Stephens

Louis de Bernieres. Photo: Penny Stephens

Read a review of The Dust That Falls from Dreams 

In the early part of his career, Louis de Bernieres, fuelled by coffee and cigarettes, wrote four novels within four years. He’s grateful that the first three had been published before the fourth, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, became a gigantic hit, selling millions of copies.

It changed his life, bringing fame, fortune and critical acclaim. But without the early publishing experience, he doubts he would have been able to cope. “I would have spent the money, despaired – and taken to drugs and alcohol.”

The British novelist, fuelled these days by red wine (“it slows you up a bit”),  is in town to talk at Thursday’s opening of the 30th Melbourne Writers Festival.

“I was suddenly invited all over the world. People wanted to know what my favourite smell was and all that rubbish. I had less and less time to write and less continuous time in which I could concentrate.”

That was partly why his subsequent book, Birds Without Wings, took such a long time to write. “It was also the first time in my life I had any money and I spent quite a lot of the time spending the money rather than working.”

More recently he’s been hard at work on The Dust that Falls from Dreams, the first part of a trilogy inspired by the discovery that the grandfather who had vanished in the 1940s had been living in Canada until he died at the age of 96. “What that did was kick off a lot interesting possibilities.” The missing man had married de Bernieres’ grandmother, whose first fiance had been killed early in World War I.

While his subjects are often love and war – war, he says, brings out the strongest stories – de Bernieres baulks at the label of romantic novelist.

“I am very interested in love, but all the different kinds – the love between parents and children, between siblings, or between human beings and animals. There are so many different kinds of human love and I am determined not to get stuck on the romantic one. I’m probably more interested in how you love your daughter than how you love your wife.”

He knows where he’s heading with the trilogy, even if he hasn’t mapped the whole thing out. Indeed he’s written the last chapter: “I’m pleased with it because it’s in the form of an epitaph, so that’s sad but it implies a very happy ending.”

When he returns to England, he has another pressing task. Nelson Woss, producer of the film adaptation of his book Red Dog, has asked him to write the novelisation of the cinematic prequel, Blue Dog, that is in post-production.

“My first reaction was no chance, this is just prostitution. Then he sent me the script and it’s really good. I’m going to get it done by Christmas so it can be out in time for the film.”

But apparently there’s a question of revenge. “You know how scriptwriters always mess around with your story? I’m going to get revenge by messing around with his.” He seems serious. FIVE PICKS AT MWF

Rob Thomas: Veronica Mars to IZombie.

Thursday, 9pm, Deakin Edge

Annabel Crabb & Kate Grenville: Wives & Mothers

Friday, 7pm, Deakin Edge

Laurie Penny on Feminism

Friday, 5.30pm, Deakin Edge

Mark Latham: Politicians as Journalists

Saturday, 2.30pm, Deakin Edge

Aussie Bestsellers: Liane Moriarty & Graeme Simsion

Sunday, 10am, Deakin Edge

mwf南京夜网419论坛

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Related Articles

0 Comment