Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Interview with Caroline Moorehead

Last week I reviewed the powerful, fascinating and moving A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France.  Caroline Moorehead has long been a favorite author of mine -- her biography on Martha Gellhorn is brilliant! -- and so I'm delighted to share my interview with her.  Read on to learn more about her writing, A Train in Winter, and what she does when she's not writing.  There's also another chance to win a copy of A Train in Winter.

You've written a number of biographies as well as non-fiction books about international human rights and justice. What makes a person or topic a juicy enough subject for a book?

My best subjects combine social history, archives that have not been much used, and interviews with people who remember the events - but only just. I like writing about people who have not been too much written about (Martha Gellhorn, Lucy de la Tour du Pin), or doing historical subjects which lie just at the edge of what can be remembered by individuals (The Train). The one reporting book I wrote, Human Cargo, was about totally unknown individual refugees, in different parts of the world, each one or group involved with some aspect of the asylum/refugee story: camps, prisons, journeys, exile and so on.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

Yes! Black felt tip pen, lined paper, write by hand in the morning, type on to a computer and print out in the afternoons

Was A Train in Winter the original title of your book?

Yes, I am not very good at titles; a friend came up with this one. I wanted it to be slightly mysterious.

As you were writing A Train in Winter, was there a particular event, person, or anecdote that surprised you?

Many. I think that's what I love about interviews: the infinite variety of stories, of permutations in people's lives. I loved Cecile saying, when asked by her mother why she was working for the resistance when she had a child, that she was doing it precisely because she had a child; because she didn't want her to grow up in a world governed by Nazis and the Vichy government.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

Go to art exhibitions and concerts and opera; be with my children and friends.

Read any good books recently?

Just reread War and Peace; had forgotten how extraordinary and wonderful it is.

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My thanks to Ms. Moorehead for her time. For more reviews, check out the other blogs on tour.


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France to one lucky reader. To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/CA readers, ends 11/26.


  1. sounds like a fascinating subject for a book - I relate to the author's interest in interviews, and enjoyed reading this one of her!

  2. I love how she says that she likes writing about subjects that interviewees just remember, but the details can be filled in by her. I think that's fascinating. I'm on the tour for this one too.

  3. I just won this book from Goodreads and can't wait to read it!!! This is my favorite era to read.

  4. Great interview, as always! I'm even more intrigued to read this one now:-)

  5. Caroline Moorehead is an extremely interesting woman and author. I'm intrigued by her comment that she likes interviewing people who remeber the events subjects but only just. And she likes archives not used much. This has piqued my interest in her books which I will be looking up after this!
    I'm also really impressed by how hard she works, her writing schedule, she's really immersed in her work when writing and that's very cool.

    Thank you for this great interview. I enjoyed learning about Ms. Moorehead very much.

  6. this book sounds better and better with each post about it!

  7. I love that she writes the old-fashioned way! I can't wait to read this book! Great interview today!

  8. I am in awe of authors like Caroline who can bring to life women like this that history has practically forgotten. I can't wait to get my hands on this book!

  9. I find the process of finding titles so interesting; I'm always surprised how often someone outside the project contributes a phrase that suits the author/work perfectly!

  10. @BiP: As I do these interviews, I find authors either knew the title of their book from the start, or had absolutely no idea and someone random offered the magic phrase. It's so interesting!