Hello and thank you to take part in this interview for Lettres it be. Firstly, a basic but absolutely necessary question : who are you Lize Spit ? What have you done before to start writing your first novel ?
I was born and grew up in a little village in Antwerp, Belgium. When I was 17, I moved to Brussels, to study scriptwriting for films. For my thesis, I didn’t write a film script but the first chapters of a novel.
After I studied, I went working halftime in a shop and sold maternity clothes to earn my living, until the day I won a big writing Dutch competition with a rewritten version of my novel (I shaped it into a short story).
There were different publishing houses who wanted to offer me a contract for a book, but it took me a long time to find the one person for who I really wanted to write the book. In that time, I already rented a little office where I travelled to every day, to exercise my writing. I wrote some short stories for literary magazines and some poems. Instead of signing at one of the big publishing houses, I signed a contract at Das Mag, a little publishing house that yet had to be crowdfunded. The crowdfunding was successful, my book was the second book they published.
You have met a wide success, firstly in Belgium and after in the Netherlands, and your novel is just about to conquer other countries in Europe. How are you living this emerging popularity ?
I think it is the greatest gift a writer can get, to have so many readers. It has helped me understanding my own way of writing. Because the success changed my life (suddenly I was recognised on the street, I needed to travel a lot, I earned more than my living with it), I tried to change as little as possible in my daily life. So I didn’t change anything in my house, I kept the same boyfriend, I didn’t make a lot of new friends, and in the restaurant I still choose the cheapest meal on the menu.
I’m insecure enough to stay humble. I don’t think the success was my merit, it was only luck. And maybe now I will run out of luck, so I need to stay realistic.
Is it an additional pressure during the writing of your next novel ? Besides, some scoops about it ?
The second book is always the hardest, I’ve heard. I’m working on it, and it is really a struggle, also because I have to travel a lot during writing for the promotion of the translations, and that is not always good for my writing-rhythm. I think a lot of people will be disappointed in it, I know that this second book will benefit from the success of the first, but also will take the punches. That makes the writing difficult. There hasn’t been a day in this second writing process on witch I didn’t feel scared for the reactions of others.
Het Smelt is the novel of an adolescence which is fleeing and leaving many troubles. Unavoidably, we think during our reading about other linked references as movies or photos from Larry Clark for example where teenagers are highlighted differently than that we are used to see. Why this will to tell a so important part of life ?
I knew that I could write about growing up and shame in an accurate way, because I grew up myself in a body I was ashamed for. I always write detailed and realistic, because writing is a way of controlling reality. That’s why the book sometimes is so brutal, I wanted to be consequent: I could not use a protagonist who was a good observer, but that would close her eyes when things became a bit too awkward for a reader. I learned that shame is a good feeling while writing, it means that you give something away that you don’t want others to see, and often this is the recognition readers are longing for.
In your novel, you seem to borrow some elements to many literary genres (the breathless plot of a thriller, the nostalgia of a family novel...) Is Het Smelt a classifiable book ? What were your aims during the writing of this novel ?
I just wanted to write a literary work that had enough tension to keep the reader reading. Maybe this book meant for me what the cube of ice meant for my character.
A question in the form of confidence : from which character are you closest ?
I sympathize the most to Tesje, because I shaped her out of memories of my own sister . I think readers feel that the most of love and warmth in the book goes out to her.
Eva, the protagonist, is the most related to me, because I shaped her out of memories of myself. The way I felt growing up, being a woman, growing up in the village. She has my way of observing and my sense of black humour.
Last year was marked by the success of the novel from Inge Schilperoord, La Tanche, an other dutch and dutch-speaking author. The main theme in this book is serious (paedophilia) and it speaks about that as never before, in a puzzling way. How could you explain this renewed interest for disruptive themes in modern literature ?
Hasn’t it always been that way, that writers tend to write about disturbing situations, about the things that are going on around them? As long as human exist they will be sweet but in the same time be brutal, so there will be brutal situations to write about.
Also, I think it is easier to write about extremities, because that is what stands out. I, myself, find it easier to write about the things that hurt, than the things that are beautiful. Things that hurt, you can only make them better/useful by writing about them. Things that are beautiful you can hardly capture, you can screw them up by writing it down wrong. So maybe I chose the coward-way?