Today I have the pleasure of the company of author of The Brazilian Husband, Rebecca Powell .
Now living in France, but born in Bristol, ‘Rebecca discovered an early love of stories from weekly visits to the local library with her mum, sister and brothers (novelists Gareth L Powell and Huw Powell) and from hours spent with her dad sitting around an old tape recorder making up adventures.
Inspired by her experiences of life, Rebecca followed the advice of just about every literary guru, and started to write what she knew: the joy and insecurities of motherhood; the early loss of a parent; and of course, the country she loved so dearly, Brazil.’
It was the beginning of a story which was to become her debut novel, The Brazilian Husband, which was published earlier this year.
Hi Rebecca and welcome to Swirl and Thread!! I’m delighted you could drop by for a chat today as I’m a little intrigued with the life you have led and your route to publication.
Hi there. Thank you so much for having me!
First off, can you introduce us to your debut novel The Brazilian Husband? Perhaps you could tell us a little about it and the path you took to publication.
The Brazilian Husband is the story of Jude Summers, a thirty-eight year old English woman, who has been married to Edson (the Brazilian husband of the title) for fifteen years. When Edson dies unexpectedly, Jude is determined to honor his final request. She sets off on a journey to Brazil with her teenage step-daughter, Rosa, to track down his estranged family and ‘take him home’.
As for how the story came about, on my return from a year working in Brazil in my early twenties, I started writing snippets of a story about a Brazilian street girl. Many years later, I went back to these scribblings and started shaping them in to a novel. It took several years to find the right story, but once I found the character of Jude and her teenage step-daughter, it all started coming together. With the Rio Olympics this summer, it seemed the perfect time to publish.
Rebecca, you have travelled quite a bit – France, Australia, Brazil?? What was it like living in these places? Were you a back-packer or did you put down roots in any of these locations?
As a teenager I loved languages and wanted to travel. I wasn’t interested in tourism, but rather in living and working in different places, to really experience life elsewhere. After my A-levels, I went to work in France for a year, first on an apple farm, then as a teaching assistant. A few years later, as part of my degree in French and Portuguese, I moved to the Northeast of Brazil, living with a local family and working both as an English teacher and at a shelter for women and children. That really opened my eyes to a whole different culture and way of life. On my return I wanted to find a way to tell the stories of these women. This is how The Brazilian Husband was born.
I read that you have done quite a bit of charity work in Brazil and in London. What drives you to help others?
I don’t know. It never occurred to me to follow a career path that wasn’t useful somehow. Maybe that’s down to my family – I’m one of four siblings with parents who always put others first. Or maybe it was being a Brownie Guide – you know, the whole ‘I promise to help other people and do a good turn every day’ thing. Who knows? I do know that I certainly don’t do enough though. One of my all time favorite songs is Pink Floyd’s ‘On the Turning Away.’ I defy anyone to listen to that song and not feel they should be doing more. It’s almost thirty years old but more relevant than ever.
An actress, a mother and now a published writer – where do you fit in the time, with such a busy schedule, for yourself? What is it you like to do in your downtime?
I’ve never been very good at doing nothing. I like to be busy. And I love immersing myself in the other world of writing. I don’t quite feel right if I haven’t written anything all day. Usually it’s only a few lines in a notebook, but it all adds up. I write at the swimming pool while my children are having their lesson, or in the doctor’s waiting room, or at lunchtime. A lot of my plotting is done in the car in the morning to the sounds of ‘Chérie FM’. As for hobbies, I love dancing – Salsa, Kizomba, Bachata, that sort of thing, and running – either cross-country or on the machine at home – either way it’s accompanied by loud music! I’ve also just started Japanese lessons with my teenage daughter on a Saturday morning, which is a great way for us to spend time together and I get to dust off those rusty cogs in my brain!
As a writer, I’m sure you must have some favourite authors whose books you like to read. Can you share with us who takes pride of place on your bookshelf and also what book you are currently reading?
Right now I’m reading A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale. I really enjoyed his Notes on an Exhibition. I also love Khaled Hosseini, Haruki Murakami and Margaret Atwood – the Handmaid’s Tale is brilliant – utterly terrifying. But there are so many great books out there and just not enough time to read them all!
The big question Rebecca…….Paper or Kindle?? And why??
I love books – the look of them, the feel of them, the smell of them…but I also love my Kindle! It’s so practical – I used to spend a lot of time sitting with the children when they were little and couldn’t sleep. With the Kindle I could be next to them in the dark, but still be reading my favourite books. Honestly, I don’t see any reason to choose. For me, it’s only ever about the story – that wonderful intimate relationship between the writer and the reader. However that story reaches me: paperback; Kindle; audiobook – it is the words themselves that contain the real magic.
Ok Rebecca, you are stranded on a desert island, what would be on your wishlist to have with you?
An infinite supply of great music, great books, paper and pencils – and a bucket full of hope!
Finally Rebecca, are plans afoot for a second novel? Are you at liberty to share?
Yes, definitely! I am well in to my next novel. I can’t say much about it as yet, but it’s planned for publication next summer….so watch this space!
“…scrawled in biro, the words which had brought me here…
‘Take me home’.”
Determined to honor her late husband’s final request, Judith and her teenage step-daughter, Rosa, set out on a journey from London to Brazil to track down his family and take his ashes home.
But when Judith’s search leads her to Ricardo, a handsome but haunted human rights lawyer, she begins to unravel a web of lies surrounding her husband’s past: a past which is about to come crashing into their present in the form of Rosa’s real mother.