Everyone Brave Is Forgiven – Chatting with Chris Cleave


The Reading With Robin Book Club had a special Sunday edition with Chris Cleave. I’ve never done this before, but Chris’ answers were like short stories so I decided to share some of what transpired.

Reader–  “I am reading the book now and it is quite intriguing.  How did you come up with the idea for the book?”

Chris– “I began thinking about the book when my maternal grandfather gave me his memoirs to type up. They had a lot of information about the time he spent in Malta during the war, and I began to research the story of my grandparents during those years. That led me to been writing the novel. Good info into to my process is here.”

Reader-” Did you know that your Grandfather was keeping all of these notes? It’s one thing to do research for a book but such another when it’s personal.”

Chris– ” No, I didn’t know that my grandfather had written much about the war. It was a surprise, because he rarely talked about it. That was something I admired about him: that he didn’t tell war stories, despite having fought a very hard war.”

“It was certainly a very immersive experience from my point of view, to go so deep into my own family history. I haven’t gone there in a novel before.”

“There are so many stories hidden in the memories of that generation. There is considerable sadness in contemplating how much experience will be lost with them. I often wonder how my grandparents’ generation would view the way we live now.”

Reader– “The characters seem to be very well developed throughout the story. How do you come up with your characterization?”

Chris– “Thanks for your kind words. Well, I think my only special technique is the amount of time I spend writing a novel. This one took four years, and I suppose you could say that the characterisation really OUGHT to be okay after that length of time! I try to let my protagonists talk to each other a lot, and not necessarily in ways that move the plot along. I let them act naturally, like animals in the wild rather than specimens in a zoo. I’m really suspicious of plot and story, which are often artificial, and I try to keep the plot in the service of character rather than the other way around.”

Reader-“Everyone Brave Is Forgiven has got to be one of the best titles -ever. Did this book have other working titles?”

Chris– “Thanks, you won’t be surprised to know that I spent a long time thinking about the title. In my first draft I called the novel DAVID & MARY – after the real names of my grandparents. Then in draft 2 the title was IF NECESSARY ALONE, which is taken from a line in one of Churchill’s most defiant speeches. Finally I took my title from a line of dialogue I liked in the novel, in which Mary is talking with her mother. She says ‘I was brought up to believe that everyone brave is forgiven, but in wartime courage is cheap and clemency out of season.’  It’s the most personal one for me so far, and I think it’s the one I’ve most enjoyed writing.”

Reader– “Everyone is wondering-  are you thinking about a sequel?”

Chris– “I’m working on a sequel to EBIF, which has the same characters (I became rather fond of them) and is set in the years immediately after the war, which are relative untrodden by novels. And yet they seem to me just as engaging as the war years themselves. Those are he years in which the society that we live in now was forged.”

“I suppose WWII was such a huge plexus of stories that one could continue to draw them out of the bundle – fiction and reality alike – for ten thousand years with our ever once repeating oneself. There’ve been six or seven good WWII novels just in the last five years. I think it’s because WWII is far enough away now for us to be somewhat more objective about it, and yet not so distant that we have lost our living familial connections to it. I think novels work well at that historical distance. I think readers respond with excitement to any novel that the writer is excited about writing. That’s my only rule for myself as a novelist: only to tell stories that I find moving too.”

Reader– “I loved Little Bee and am so looking forward to reading the new one! I find it interesting to know if you had a favorite teacher or someone special that encouraged you to write?”

Chris–  “Yes, I had a great teacher called Bill Brown who used to put a title on the blackboard and ask us to write a story for an hour. I always loved that, and realised that story writing was something I could do. I wish creative writing was given more emphasis in junior education, because I think (a) it IS teachable and (b) it teaches us skills that are useful in understanding one another & developing empathy.”

Reader– “Please remind us of your other titles.”

Chris– “I’ve written four novels: INCENDIARY (2005), LITTLE BEE (2008), GOLD (2012) and EVERYONE BRAVE IS FORGIVEN (2016). Thanks for your kind words about my writing style. I think I’ve got a little better as I’ve gone along. I suppose I am learning on the job, as we say here in England!”

Thanks so much for the invitation to join your group, Robin. I’ve enjoyed everyone’s excellent questions & was honored to participate. I think I’ve replied to everyone – apologies if I’ve missed one! I must excuse myself now, as it’s Sunday afternoon here in London and I need to go & help the kids with their homework. All my best wishes to everyone I’ve chatted with today. Thanks and hope to talk with you again!”


Thanks to you, Chris. This was fabulous!!








6 thoughts on “Everyone Brave Is Forgiven – Chatting with Chris Cleave

  1. blanchard1954 says:

    It was so good to see the post on Chris Cleave. I saw some of my questions up there and that made me smile. It was such a wonderful and vastly informative chat with him. I learned so much. Thank you Robin. If it wasn’t for you, we would never get to meet or chat with all the wonderful authors that you introduce us all to. xx

  2. Holly Robinson says:

    Love this interview. The book is on my nightstand–tonight I’ll move it to the TOP of the pile! Thanks for this, Robin.

  3. Keriann Koeman says:

    wow- thanks for sharing this Robin!!!!

    *Keriann Koeman, Co-Founder & Sales Manager*

    EcoTulips LLC, *The only supplier of organic tulip bulbs in the US!*

    Ph: 434.242.6369 keriann@ecotulips.com| http://www.ecotulips.com

    *Plant a Pollinator Friendly Garden with Organic Flower Bulbs!*

    *Let’s Connect!*




    On Tue, Jun 14, 2016 at 11:23 AM, Reading With Robin wrote:

    > robinkall posted: ” The Reading With Robin Book Club had a special Sunday > edition with Chris Cleave. I’ve never done this before, but Chris’ answers > were like short stories so I decided to share some of what transpired. > Reader- “I am reading the book now and it is quite ” >

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s