JW; I’d like to start by asking, have you always wanted to be a writer? And where did the idea of The Bleeding come from?
JG: No, I didn’t know yet! At the time I was answering: an actress! Hahaha! I studied in Paris at a famous acting school at the same time as working as a journalist for the press and TV, and I dreamt of becoming an actress. I was on stage in Paris and had an agent, but I really didn’t like this business. I didn’t like learning the texts, or going to auditions, which was problematic, as you can imagine! It took me a while to realize that what I liked was the text itself! I have always been an avid reader and was very fond of crime novels so, years after that, I started writing and that, I tremendously enjoyed!
The idea of The Bleeding was a mix of crazy and completely different desires: writing about La Belle Epoque, Maxine, and Lina, who came first in my mind and had to be fleshed, setting up my characters in Québec, which I fell in love with thanks to Roxanne Bouchard a friend and fellow writer at Orenda Books.
JW; How much research did you have to do for The Bleeding? Especially the settings as they are so visceral!
JG; It was a lot of research, about the Belle Epoque and witchcraft, but it was fun and I spent a few phenomenal months! I started researching something that had nothing to do with what The Bleeding ended up talking about: I wanted to write about the secret society of the Golden Dawn, and with this terrible habit I have to research more and more and some more with every detail which I find thrilling, I ended up in the caldron of quite a few witches!
JW; The 3 women in The Bleeding are all strong characters, was it important to you to portray them in this way even during the eras?
JG; It was key to me. I wanted to showcase the battles we, women, go through. Battles that can become wars. And some of those battles haven’t changed, despite changing centuries. We have still so much to fight for and against.
JW; As a child growing up, were you an avid reader or watcher of television? Did any part of your childhood make you the writer you are?
JG; I became an avid reader after plunging into my first Agatha Christie, around the age of 7. It was The Mysterious Affair at Styles that made me one. Then I devoured books. I don’t know how I became the writer I am today, but reading, from poetry to dark gritty crimes, surely played its role.
JW; As we’re now in September, which books that you’ve read this year have been your favorite? OR which are you most looking forward to?
JG; I have been reading quite a few but mostly for research for a project I cannot yet talk about. Reading about neurology mostly and memory. And I really found fascinating “Livewired” by David Eagleman, a neuroscientist explains how our brains work.
JW; Do you have a favorite Author or favorite book of all time?
JG: Agatha Christie and French poet Charles Baudelaire. French writer Marguerite Duras is too… “Murder on The Orient Express” and “Les Fleurs du Mal” (Flowers of Evil) are two of my favorites. And actually, traveling on the Orient Express train is still on our dream list with my father, who is also a big fan!
JW; Have you ever been starstruck by meeting one of your heroes in real life?
JG; As a journalist, I met Samuel L. Jackson with whom I shared breakfast (well, I did not eat a thing). I was interviewing him for the movie Snakes on the plane, and he welcomed me saying: “that was a shit movie, don’t you think? Let’s talk about something else. Where are you from?” And we ended up talking about Provence and golf, and god knows what else, whilst he ate his eggs and bacon! And I met Harlan Coben, in 2019 at the Harrogate festival, and there too: starstruck!
JW; What is something you are passionate about aside from writing?
JG; Oh yes! Dancing! I used to be a ballet dancer, and I would love to go back to some sort of dancing: flamenco being my top choice, but I have absolutely no time to dive into anything but writing, which is also my passion, as my three boys take up all my time!
JW; If you could go back in time, to one historical event, to witness it, what would it be and why?
JG; Oh god. There are so many. But I’d chose Paris during La Belle Epoque, like in The Bleeding. The international fair. Another era. The Beauty of Paris in the making.
JW; Can you share a shelfie (photo of your bookshelf) with us?
JW: You can pick 4 famous people, dead or alive, for a dinner party, who would you pick and why?
JG: Agatha Christie. Almodóvar. Poirot (David Suchet will do if I’m not allowed to have a fictionalized character). Dalí. I think the night would be completely mad!
JW; What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
JG: That hard work is the key. Consistency and hard work always pay off. It was, of course, my parents. They taught me it is not over when you lose, it only is when you quit. And of course, they were right!
JW; What’s next? Are you writing a new novel?
JG; I just handed in my next novel to my French publisher, called The Island of Yule, which Karen Sullivan, my UK and US publisher Called “Christmas Island”, on the spot. The novel is taking place on the island of Storholmen, just in front of the one I live on, in Sweden, where a young girl is found hanged close to a manor said to be haunted. It is out in France in January 2023.
You can buy The Bleeding HERE from Orenda Books
Johana Gustawsson has her own website HERE