Author Charlotte Gringras talks to JLife’s Sarah Nelson about the release of her second book, Not in Our Hands, and the personal ties that influenced it.
“The book is really for anyone who remembers being 22 and searching for their place in the world.”
It was back in 2012 when JLife last spoke with Charlotte Gringras, fresh from the publication of her debut novel, The Purple Rose. And now, almost three years later, the Manchester-based writer is making a return with her follow-up release, Not in Our Hands – a project that she is relishing just as much.
The coming-of-age tale depicts the escapades of young Jake Taylor in an idyllic town in the Umbrian hills as he studies Italian and attempts to take control of his life against “a feast of Italian food, forbidden love and hidden history.”
While the novel signals a change in route to Charlotte’s first authoring outing, there are a few common threads running throughout; the most dominant being that the protagonist, Jake, was last seen as a boy of 12 in The Purple Rose, whereas now he is a 22-year-old struggling to cut his ties to home.
On her decision to return to his story – which she insists “isn’t a sequel”- Charlotte said: “I didn’t plan it, but during The Purple Rose I became quite fond of the character and as the conclusion was open-ended, I began to wonder what would happen to him.
“It’s the best of both worlds; the story stands on its own, but it will also be nice for The Purple Rose readers to meet Jake again.”
Another similarity between the novels lies in the author’s ability to draw upon her own personal experiences for inspiration – her knowledge of Italy and the Italian culture helped solidify the backdrop of Not in Our Hands.
“I’ve studied Italian so it was fairly easy to use it as a setting. But it was actually just as I was finishing the novel that my husband, who has been a great support, and I took a trip there and visited the places and Jewish Italian culture that Jake comes across in the book.
“My editor also found a proof reader who lived in Italy, so both events have added authenticity to Jake’s journey.”
It’s within the Tuscan setting that the main character stumbles into agro, both from violence at a football match and falling in love with “the wrong girl.” But through this “conflict comes reconciliation and the will to resolve other problems. Tension between Jake and his father eases, and he realises just how much he values the friendships he has made in Italy.”
For Charlotte, the writing process required not only tapping into “the research and methodology” skills she picked up while gaining an MA in Jewish Studies at Manchester University, but attending the creative writing group which she cites as key to her initial decision to produce a novel.
“It means that I can test my poetry and prose on people who know what they’re talking about. Feedback and taking it on board is important.”
It’s those words that Charlotte returns to when asked as to whether she has any advice for anyone seeking to follow her into the world of writing.
“I’ve found that it’s a lot about gaining life experiences and writing whenever you can. Have the courage to write for a group and be prepared for their response. Most importantly, don’t forget to read – I’m constantly surprised by how little people actually do.”
And with her passion for books firmly felt, has the prospect of a third one entered the author’s mind?
“I honestly don’t know; I haven’t really thought that far ahead. For now, I’m going to continue writing shorter pieces and attending appearances and talks for Not in Our Hands.
“I find it rewarding sharing the inside story of the book.”
To order a copy of Not in Our Hands, email email@example.com or visit Amazon.co.uk.