Episode 192: On Writing and Identity — Interview with David Plante

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Hey there word nerds!

Today I am delighted to have David Plante on the show!

David grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, within a French-Canadian parrish, much the same way as Jack Kerouac did in Lowell, Massachusetts, in an area which was known in the 17h century as La Nouvelle France. David has written several books rooted in La Nouvelle France, most notably in The Family, a contender for the National Book Award.

He then went on to live in London for fifty years where he wrote several memoirs including Becoming a Londoner and Worlds Apart. David is also the author of the nonfiction book Difficult Women which has recently been republished by The New York Review of Books Press, and has been a regular contributor to the New Yorker with short stories and profiles of people he knew.

David is calling in to the show today from his home in Lucca, Italy, to discuss his most recent novel American Stranger. Listen in as we chat about the elements that went into crafting this novel, and how writing can give you a voice and identity belonging to only you.

Also, just a quick heads up if you have not yet read American Stranger. We got so excited talking about the book that we may have disclosed a few spoilers… so SPOILER ALERT!

In this episode David and I discuss:

  • How he unboxed Franco-American culture through the eyes of an outsider.
  • Why not having identity can actually be liberating, and can also help you find your writing voice.
  • Crafting a timeless novel by grounding the story with details.
  • The best way to deal with a bad review… (all authors get them!).
  • Drawing inspiration from a writer’s day in Italy.

Plus, David’s #1 tip for writers.

About David Plante

David Plante grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, within a French-Canadian parish that was palisaded by its language, a French that dated from the time of the first French colonists in the early 17th Century to what was then most of North America, la Nouvelle France. His background was very similar to that of Jack Kerouac, who was brought up in a French speaking parish in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Plante has been inspired to write novels rooted in La Nouvelle France, most notably in The Family, a contender for the National Book Award. As a young man, Plante moved to London, where he lived for some fifty years; years in part accounted for in his memoirs Becoming a Londoner and Worlds Apart and in The Pure Lover, an elegy to his forty-year relationship with Nikos Stangos.

He has published a number of novels, some referring back to his parish but also expanding into European and Russian settings. He has been a regular contributor to the New Yorker with short stories and profiles of people he knew, including the painter Francis Bacon, the aesthete Harold Acton, and the historian Steven Runciman. His renowned book, Difficult Women, a non-fiction work that profiled Jean Rhys, Sonia Orwell and Germaine Greer is being reissued by The New York Review of Books Press in 2017. He has dual nationality, American and British, but lives in Lucca, Italy, and Athens, Greece.

David’s latest novel American Stranger is out now.

American Stranger

Brought up in a secularized Jewish household on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Nancy Green knows little about her parents’ past. She knows they were World War II Jewish refugees who were able to escape Germany with precious family heirlooms that are constant reminders of a lost life and a world about which Nancy knows very little.

In David Plante’s novel, American Stranger the longing Nancy has for some kind of spiritual connection first leads her into an encounter with a Hasidic Jewish man who, unable to find meaning in his own religion, has taken vows to become a monk. She then becomes romantically involved with Yvon, a Catholic college student in Boston where she is studying for her master’s degree in English literature. Yvon, trying to escape the clutches of Catholicism and his overbearing mother, finds temporary refuge in Nancy and sees her as an escape from the insular enclave of Franco-Americans where he has spent most of his life. Their highly erotic, tempestuous relationship frightens both of them until a tragedy in Yvon’s life eventually pulls them apart.

Devastated by the breakup, Nancy ends up marrying a Jewish man from London, hoping to find herself with a man of her own religion. However, her new relationship pales in comparison to her deep emotional connection with Yvon and, sadly, ends, inspiring Nancy to go back to Boston to track down the man who, she realizes, is the great love of her life.


If you decide to check out the book, we hope you’ll do so via this Amazon affiliate link, where if you choose to purchase via the link DIY MFA gets a referral fee at no cost to you. As always, thank you for supporting DIY MFA!

Link to Episode 192

(Right-click to download.)

If you liked this episode…

Head over to iTunes, Stitcher Radio or Google Play and subscribe so you’ll be first to know when new episodes are available.

Also, remember that sharing is caring so if you know anyone who might enjoy this podcast, please tell them about it or leave us a review so other listeners will want to check it out.

Until next week, keep writing and keep being awesome!

Enjoyed this article?