Please welcome Iris Anthony, author of the new novel, The Ruins of Lace, as she talks about what inspired her to write!

by Iris Anthony

Thank you so much for hosting me today! I’m often asked what inspired me to write. The truth is my career as a novelist started out with a lie. Am I a fraud? Maybe. But considering that novelists basically make things up for a living, it was probably an auspicious start. You see, the lie was spoken during a French-language immersion course back in the 1990s as I was learning how to introduce myself (je m’appelle and all of that). Specifically, we were learning about occupations. I didn’t want to be identified with the job I had so very quickly (before the teacher got to me) I had to figure out something else to be. I’d always done well in writing assignments, I’d always thought I ought to try writing a book sometime, so I hurriedly thumbed through my French-English dictionary and looked up ‘writer’.

The language course was meant to prepare me for several years of living in France, so one of the goals was to provide students with a several-minute introduction that was handy for all sorts of social situations: your name, your nationality, your job, where you came from, where you lived…you get the picture. In consequence, the ‘fact’ that I was a writer quickly became incorporated into the monologue.

I figured it didn’t really matter. I’d already moved on from my old job, nobody in France would know me, and besides what were people going to make me do? Write a book? All went well until my first Sunday in country. I was introducing myself to someone at church with my handy-dandy monologue, but when I got to the part about my being a writer, instead of smiling and nodding, the Frenchman actually said, ‘You are?’ I would like to say that I thought twice about lying in church, but I didn’t. And besides, he’d already started talking again. ‘Because we have a writer at church! She’s English and she’s really good.’ And before I knew it, he’d dragged me off to meet her and was introducing me—me!—as a writer.

And darned if the woman didn’t come up to me every Sunday after that asking how my book was coming and wondering if she could read some of it. I had two choices: I could admit the truth, or I could just buckle down write a book which is what I did. Taking the coward’s way out, I decided to turn my lie into the truth. And as I was finishing up that first book, I got an idea for a second one. And on the heels of that book came the idea for a third one and somehow, the ideas just never stopped coming and somewhere along the way, I actually became a writer. Since then, I’ve gotten a lot better at making things up, but I’ve never really gotten any better at lying. Except in foreign languages. For some reason, that seems to work for me.

What inspired me to write? A lie I once told in church and a persistent Englishwoman who just wouldn’t quit asking if she could read what I’d written.