What's in a Page: The Betrayals' Bridget Collins on her very British writing routine
Picture an elite academy, tucked away in a secluded, idyllic location in the mountains. This is the setting for Bridget Collins' next book The Betrayals, but this isn't the campus novel it might sound like. The fictional Montverre trains its pupils for what's known as the grand jeu, an ancient competition that uses elements of art and philosophy and poetry, among others. It's hard to describe Collins' work without spoilers, so we turned to the author herself to tease what to expect, and how she gets it all done.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What is the first thing — ever — that you remember writing?
BRIDGET COLLINS: A sign for my bedroom door that said 'PROVYT'. It was meant to say 'PRIVATE', but I have no idea where the 'O' came from. I guess even then I wanted my own space to work… But the first story I remember writing was about a magic world where musical instruments came to life. I was always keenest on the kind of book where the protagonist steps through some enchanted portal, and finds the world turned upside-down (and yet strangely familiar). I suspect I'd stolen the idea, but I like to think I made it my own!
What is the last book that made you cry?
Unexpectedly, Salem's Lot by Stephen King! Mostly it's spine-chilling rather than sad, but there's one scene with a dead baby that just made me well up…
Which book is at the top of your current To-Read list?
Jane Eyre. I've read it before but it's going to be a very pleasant piece of 'research' for my current work-in-progress.
Where do you write?
Mostly at my lovely Dickens desk, in the back bedroom of our house, looking out over trees. It's less idyllic than it sounds!
Which book made you a forever reader?
The Black Arrow by R. L. Stevenson. It was the first grown-up book I read, and although I didn't understand all of it (it's written in a sort of Victorian cod-medievalese) I devoured it in one go.
What is a snack you couldn't write without?
Toast. And tea. Is tea a snack? Mainly tea.
If you could change one thing about any of your books what would it be?
The flippant answer is that I wish the early ones were still in print! More seriously… I wish I'd written the two sci-fi books (Gamerunner and Mazecheat) under another name — not because I'm ashamed of them but because they're so different to the others, and I suspect people switching between them — either way round — might be disappointed.
What is your favorite part of The Betrayals?
The Midsummer Game, and what happens after it. It's the climax of the book, both in terms of the grand jeu and the characters — there's a revelation, a romantic encounter, and a kind of redemption. It's hard not to give too much away!
What was the hardest plot point or character to write?
I think it was trying to evoke the politics — I wanted a sense of gathering menace in the background, but also I wanted to hint at the personal machinations within the government that Léo has to navigate. I felt like I didn't know enough about that… although my experiences on committees probably helped!
Write a movie poster tagline for the book:
Some games can't be won.