Richard Paul Evans is well known for his engaging holiday tales. In his newest release, Promise Me, the author confronts timeless challenges that every family would hate to face, no matter the season. In this revealing interview the author shares a behind-the-scenes look at Promise Me.
Your novels frequently include the magic of the winter holidays. What is your favorite part of the season?
I love everything about the season, but, most of all, the generosity of spirit. As Dickens wrote, “It’s the one time of the year that we view each other as we truly are: fellow passengers to the grave…” or something like that.
That and Egg nog.
Your writing does not shy away from heart wrenching topics such as abuse, infidelity, financial destitution and death of loved ones. Which of these topics do you find the most difficult to write about?
Most literature – let me rephrase that – most interesting literature, revolves around human drama, so I don’t find any of these topics difficult to write about, rather rich caches from which to draw an emotional response. To me, this is the magic of writing, kind of an emotional alchemy, to create joy or pain from ink on a page. That’s not to say I don’t get emotionally involved with what I’m writing. I definitely do. I even grimace and flinch at times, just as if it were true-life. Like the reader, I feel anger, sadness and even the desire for justice.
In Promise Me, Beth's beloved daughter is struck by an unidentifiable illness. What details did you use to convey Beth's anguish at seeing her daughter slowly waste away?
Evoking maternal emotion around a child’s illness isn’t difficult, as it’s something most every mother consciously or subconsciously fears. Every mother can understand Beth’s concern and frustration as she watches her child becoming thinner and weaker and no one can tell her what is happening, so I was purposely subtle in showing her emotion.
What is something that you know about Beth, Matthew and/or Charlotte that did not make it into the story?
Interesting question. I’d probably have to take a good look at my “morgue” to see what I threw out. What comes to mind is that Matthew wasn’t initially Italian. I changed his nationality while I was on the isle of Capri, Italy with my wife.
This is the first novel that you've written from a woman's perspective, what was unexpected about this point of view?
The biggest surprise for me was how naturally it came to me. When I first considered writing from a female POV, I asked my editor if she thought I could pull it off–she did, which was good since I had already decided to do it.
I’ve been intrigued to hear women’s response to my writing from a women’s perspective, which has been remarkably positive. Several readers have asked how I got inside a woman’s head and one reader accused me of really being a woman using a male nom de plume, which I find as flattering as my wife finds amusing.
Beth has a very special friend best friend named Roxanne who offers her support throughout these hardships. What was something that you were conscious of while crafting Roxanne's character?
I love Roxanne. As her character was taking shape, my daughter, Jenna, (who is now my writing assistant), said that she felt Roxanne was the most real and interesting character in all my books. In Rox I wanted to create a sassy, sharp, crusty, exterior with a soft, vulnerable heart. I know a few people in my life who fit this mold, so I had plenty to draw from.
Several of your novels have been adapted into made-for-tv-movies. Who would you choose to play Beth, Matthew and Charlotte if Promise Me was filmed?
With most of my books I have some idea in mind of a star the character reminds me of, for instance Lawrence in Timepiece was Morgan Freeman, not James Earl Jones. But, honestly, in the case of Promise Me I have no idea. I’ll happily leave that to a casting agent. Wait, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie would definitely work. Definitely.
Can you share a detail from your next project that RT readers can keep their eyes open for?
I just returned this morning from Rapid City, South Dakota after traveling 1200 miles researching my next book (appropriately named) Miles to Go – the second book in The Walk series. What made this travel so difficult was that for the entire distance, we stopped every 12-15 miles as we lived out the life of Alan Christoffersen.
The Walk (and its sequel) is the story of Alan Christoffersen, a Seattle advertising executive who, after losing everything – his business, his home and cars and, most of all, his beloved wife – decides to walk as far away from his home in Seattle as possible, which happens to be Key West, Florida. In the second book he walks from Spokane to the Badlands of South Dakota. Along the way he meets some very interesting people: think Travels With Charlie meets Eat, Pray, Love.
- Richard Paul Evans
You can pick up your own copy of Promise Me on shelves now.