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A Q&A with Victor Jestin on Heatwave

Posted on 21st July 2021 by Mark Skinner

The compelling story of an adolescent who witnnesses a horrific incident on a camping holiday, Victor Jestin's debut thriller Heatwave is a bestselling phenomenon in the author's native France and looks set to see similar success in the UK this summer. In this Q&A, Victor discusses the novel's genesis, his writing background and the future projects he is involved with. 

Heatwave is your début novel, tell us a little bit about it and where the idea came from.

It’s my first published novel but not the first novel I’ve written. Others came before it but weren’t accepted by editors. Regarding Heatwave, the idea came to me from my own memory of a violent and intense time on a camping holiday while I was a teenager. It was this that I wanted to fictionalise.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Yes, I’ve wanted to become a writer since I was a child. My two other passions are music and cinema. I would also have loved to become a conductor but I didn’t follow the right academic path. As for films, this is my second profession. I am also a screenwriter.

Who are your favourite writers/literary inspirations?

I particularly like Emmanuel Bove for his precise sense of detail and his concise and dense writing. He is my favourite writer. Some other favourites are Faulkner, Bernhardt, Zorn, Céline, Camus...

The novel is set in the South of France at the peak of summer – the sweltering heat almost lifts off the page. Were you somewhere equally as hot when you wrote it?

I didn’t write this novel in a heatwave, besides I can’t write when it’s too hot and I don’t like the heat. On the other hand, I know these sweltering summers well and the memories they left me fed into my writing.

The crux of the novel is based around the protagonist’s discovery of a fellow teenage holidaymaker hanging from a swing by the neck. Why do you think Leonard reacted in the way that he did?

I don’t know why he reacted like that. I like not knowing. It’s this that allowed me to write it because the novel itself stems from this irresolvable problem: why?

Without giving away the novel’s ending, is Leonard a character you’d ever want to return to?

I don’t know. I would like to do other things. However, Leonard is like me in certain ways that will remain central to my future novels: a complicated relationship with desire, celebration and joy.

Heatwave has been a critical success and has won many literary prizes in France. Did you ever imagine that this would be the case? 

I never thought that this would happen and I am delighted. I know that a book’s success is important for anybody who wants to write: success brings money and money allows you to write without having to do another job. It’s this that I want for my life, to be able to write.

What’s next? Do you have any other future novels currently in the works?

I’m working on a second novel, which will come out next year in France. It’s about nightclubs. I’m also working on a long script with a director who’s a friend. I hope that both these projects will see the light of day in the UK.

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