Kerry Postle, Bristol resident and a former teacher of modern languages in Bristol secondary schools, is celebrating the publication of her debut novel, The Artist’s Muse, by HarperCollins imprint HQ Digital.
The novel is set in early 20th century Austria and is a fictional acount of the life of Walburga ‘Wally’ Neuzil and her relationships with the artists Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.
It is a period of history which fascinates the author: “The early 20th century in general, that most revolutionary of times, for both art and politics, has always fascinated me and after a trip to Vienna I knew that I had to write a novel set in that period in that city. An age and place of supreme cultural importance, where Freud, Klimt, Tito, Stalin, Schiele, Hitler, Mahler and many more angels and devils of European history rubbed shoulders. Sometimes sublime, usually challenging, often inspirational, occasionally rotten. I had to write about it. And after a visit to the Egon Schiele exhibition at the Leopold Museum in 2015 I knew what to write. The artist’s relationship with his model encapsulated much of this conflicted spirit of the age. It was perfect.”
The novel, in large part, examines how women were viewed and treated by society a hundred years ago. Postle beieves progress has been made since then but many hurdles still exist: “It would be disingenuous of me to deny the irrefutable progress that has been made in this area. However, the prevalence of internet porn and misogyny in music are ugly reminders of the obstacles all young people face when working out what’s acceptable and what’s not. Then there’s the locker room banter of the President of the United States…”
The influence of her many years of teaching has been an important part of Postle’s development as a writer. She says: “Everything you do is, in a way, connected. For me teaching was (is) about understanding people, bringing the best out of them and encouraging them to believe in themselves. I like to see the good in people no matter how hard they try to hide it. Writing, I suppose, is a similar process where you understand your characters and try to bring out the best in them. I’ve done this with Wally Neuzil. I’ve given her a very articulate voice. She does some dreadful things, makes some huge mistakes, but by giving her a voice the reader can understand and forgive her. She experiences some very hard life lessons but with strategic support she learns to fly. Also, I really adored teaching Molière, Voltaire and Pagnol at A level and thought it was time to try writing something of my own!”
The Artist’s Muse (HQ Digital, £2.99) will be published on 25 August, 2017.
Read more: Anneliese Mackintosh on her debut novel.