On Love Books Group Blog today we have an interview with author Suzanne Leal, her novel The Teachers Secret is being released in paperback after it’s HUGE success last year.
Things aren’t always as they seem…
A small town can be a refuge, but while its secrets are held, it’s hard to know who to trust and what to believe.
The Teacher’s Secret is a tender and compelling story of scandal, rumour and dislocation, and the search for grace and dignity in the midst of dishonour and humiliation.
Perfect for fans of The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas, Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray.
SUZANNE LEAL is a lawyer experienced in child protection, criminal law and refugee law. A former legal commentator on ABC Radio, Suzanne is a regular interviewer at Sydney Writers’ Festival and other literary functions. She is the senior judge for the 2017 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. The Teacher’s Secret is her first novel published in the UK.
Suzanne lives in Sydney with her husband, David, and her four children, Alex, Dominic, Xavier and Miranda.
Visit Suzanne at suzanneleal.com or on Twitter @suzanne_leal or on her Facebook page @suzannelealauthor.
What book truly inspired your life and why?
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl has been an inspiration to me. By drawing on his own experience in the concentration camp of Auschwitz, Frankl challenges the notion that we should strive for happiness, believing that our goal should instead be a search for meaning in our lives. My first novel, Border Street, is based on the story of my late neighbour, Fred Perger, who himself spent time in Auschwitz. My friendship with Fred was a strong one and I was thirsty to understand how someone who had lived through such an experience could manage their life afterwards. Fred’s experiences and Frankl’s work taught me about forbearance, resilience and hope.
How did you pick who you dedicated your book to?
I dedicated The Teacher’s Secret to three people: to my father, who taught me that to write simply is to write well; to my mother, who spent many years as a teacher and to my husband, who kept spurring me on when my confidence flagged.
Did you do a lot of research for your book?
I am a lawyer and I work as a decision maker on tribunals. Many of the scenes in The Teacher’s Secret were based on situations I knew or had come across in my legal work. The character of Rebecca Chuma sprang from my work on the Refugee Review Tribunal in Australia, where I would determine whether a person applying for asylum should be granted refugee status. The character of Terry Pritchard developed from my work determining whether people appearing before my tribunal should be allowed to work with children or not.
What was your favourite read of 2017?
My favourite read of 2017 was The Tin Ring by Zdenka Fantlova. Zdenka Fantlova is a Czech woman, born in 1923, who survived the Holocaust and whose memoir, The Tin Ring, documents her experiences during the war. Part of her internment as a Jewish woman was spent in the Theresienstadt ghetto outside Prague, a place I am researching for my new novel. Zdenka now lives in London and when I was in the United Kingdom last year, she agreed to be interviewed by me. Her company was fascinating and her memoir is compelling.
If you had to take three books on a desert island, what would they be?
I’m approaching this question with optimism and assuming that my stint on a desert island is just long enough to enable me to finish those books I’ve been wanting to read but haven’t had time to start.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Moral Hazard by Kate Jennings
The Dry by Jane Harper
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?
I sent the manuscript for The Teacher’s Secret to my agent, Margaret Connolly, on a Friday and on a Monday she called me. She rang while I was at my daughter’s swimming lesson and there was an echoing in the indoor pool area, which meant that I couldn’t really hear what she was saying. I managed to catch enough to understand that she really liked the manuscript and wanted to take it on. I was euphoric. Allen & Unwin then published the book in Australia and Legend Press will release the new paperback edition in the United Kingdom in March this year.
Can you share with us a photo that tells a story?
This photo was taken in 1960 and is of my father (wearing glasses) with his three best friends. The one in the cap is Les Seiffert who he met at university. Theirs was a lifelong friendship, even though Les lived most of his life in Oxford while Dad stayed in Australia. The UK writer, Rachel Seiffert, is the daughter of Les Seiffert and even though our fathers have both since died, our friendship has remained. My father would be delighted to know this.
What would you like your readers to know before starting your book?
The Teacher’s Secret is set in the coastal community of Brindle. Although Brindle is a fictional town, geographically it is very similar to where I live in south-eastern Sydney. A cul-de-sac geographically, mine is a close-knit community and for me, The Teacher’s Secret is a lovesong to the place where I live. Although a secret is at the heart of the book, it is also a story of the importance of community.
As the mother of four children ranging in age from six to twenty years, I have spent a lot of time in the schoolyard and have, I think, some understanding of the dynamics of a primary school environment. For part of this time I was a single parent, an experience I used when I wrote The Teacher’s Secret.
Do you have any questions that you would like to ask your readers?
In The Teacher’s Secret, which character did you most identify with?
Which character did you least identify with?
Did you sympathise with Terry? Why or why not?
Does Brindle remind you of a place you know, perhaps even a place where you have lived?
In The Teacher’s Secret, each chapter is given the name of the character from whose perspective the chapter is told. How did you feel this affected the unfolding of the story?
We have one paperback copy of The Teacher’s Secret to giveaway. Head over to our Twitter page and check out the pinned post.
Thank you, Suzanne Leal and Legend Press for having me on your tour.
If you enjoyed the blog please leave a like and a comment. We would love it if you could share it on Twitter & Facebook. It really helps us to grow. Thanks so very much.