Rutherfurd on Rutherfurd



Q. You then turned to China. Was this always planned?

A. As I said earlier, I’d had an adolescent enthusiasm for both Russia and China. But these highly researched novels are technically very challenging, and the effort of writing RUSSKA was so great, and China’s history so huge, that I gave up on the idea. I decided to read about and travel to China, but not attempt to write about it.

Q. What changed your mind?

A. Middle-age, for me as for many people, has been a time of family losses - nine in my case during the last decade or so. Most were elderly relations whom one knew one was going to lose. But long final illnesses and the burden of clearing up afterwards can often put a great strain on the close family.
It was after two especially draining family deaths that I developed pneumonia, and was ordered by my doctor to stop working completely, and to rest. Several friends, having recently retired themselves, urged me to do the same.

So I tried it. I enjoyed my wonderful family, saw friends, and listened to a lot of music. And I travelled - amongst other places to China.

I had a wonderful time. I toured extensively - as my children would ruefully tell you, even on holiday I’m thorough! I went to all the usual places, did the Yangtze River journey, was taken to my Hong Kong hotel in a green Rolls Royce, and stayed in a number of out-of-the-way places about which I had read down the years.

In the months that followed, I didn’t really work. I made a few notes for novellas or plays which it might be fun to write at leisure. But none of these concerned China.

But talking with family and friends the subject of China often came up. I found myself considering the events of recent years, wondering how best to explain them. And always it seemed to me that to understand the present one had to look to China’s great trauma in the nineteenth century.

And this was how, gradually, a novel began to form in my mind. I talked to my wonderful agent and editors, and thanks to their support and patience, I have been able to write this novel at my own pace.

Q. It’s been seven years since the last book.

A. I’m sorry about that! I had to take my time.

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