Author Interview: Janet Somerville

Yours, for Probably Always is a curated collection of letters between Martha Gellhorn and the extraordinary personalities that were her correspondents in the most interesting time of her life. We spoke with author Janet Somerville about the inspiration for Yours, for Probably Always, her favorite audiobooks, and more!

Yours, For Probably Always

By Janet Somerville • Narrated by Ellen Barkin

“The inestimable Ellen Barkin delivers a performance that has an astonishing ring of verisimilitude, bringing Martha Gellhorn to life in a way that isn’t ghostly, but as if she were in the room with us right now.”

Rex Pickett, author of The Archivist

Please tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book and how this story took shape for you.

After reading everything I could by and about Martha Gellhorn, I had the luck of being connected to her literary executor through the kindness of a stranger. As a result, I was granted access to her restricted papers at Boston University where I spent week-long peregrinations over the course of 18 months, wholly immersed.

When I decided to write narrative non-fiction grounded in her extraordinary correspondence, I needed to frame it, so decided to begin with her dream of becoming a foreign correspondent in 1930 Paris and end it with her adoption as a single parent of an Italian orphan in 1949.

In two sentences or less, what’s something that might surprise listeners about your audiobook?

Listeners may be surprised not only by how relevant Gellhorn’s words are to our broken time—most of them written 80+ years ago—but also how beautifully they are expressed.

Have you listened to your own audiobook? What struck you about the narration?

I’ve listened to excerpts. I am listening slowly, because Ellen Barkin’s performance reveals how much she understands the intrepid, singular Gellhorn from the inside out, and I want to savour her nuanced work.

Are you an audiobook listener? What are some of your favorite audiobooks?

I listen to audiobooks daily. In the car, walking the dogs, working out. I love being transported not only by the narrative, but also by the performers.

What have independent bookstores and/or booksellers meant to you personally and professionally?

Without a serendipitous meeting with a bookseller at Faulkner House Books in New Orleans, I would not have found my way to What There Is to Say We Have Said, the correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell. That book made me want to write a book like it, which is how I wrote my way in to Yours, for Probably Always.

I try to visit independent bookstores when I travel and buy the work of local writers as well. I’ve spent happy hours in Grove Books in Ilkley, Faulkner House Books in New Orleans, Shakespeare & Co. in Paris, Paagman’s in The Hague & Ben McNally Books at home in Toronto, to name a few.

Anything else to share with us?

I’m an inveterate letter writer myself. The only new year’s resolution I’ve ever kept is to write a handwritten letter each day & put it in the post to friends and strangers alike, who welcome ramblings from a LitNerd like me. I’ve been doing that since 2014. If anyone reading this would like to be added to my #LetterADay recipient rotation, they may contact me via Twitter @janetsomerville or through my website.

Janet Somerville’s Audiobook Picks:

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary

By Susan Elia MacNeal • Narrated by Donada Peters

Beautiful Ruins

By Jess Walter • Narrated by Edoardo Ballerini

The Dutch House

By Ann Patchett • Narrated by Tom Hanks

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

By Kathleen Rooney • Narrated by Xe Sands

One for the Money

By Janet Evanovich • Narrated by C.J. Critt

M Train

By Patti Smith • Narrated by the author

A Moveable Feast

By Ernest Hemingway • Narrated by James Naughton

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *