Daughter of Lucian and granddaughter of Sigmund, Esther Freud’s name is synonymous the world over with brains and intelligence; it’s not something she feels is as much of an issue in the UK as it is on mainland Europe though, but nevertheless she admitted to feeling happy to be experiencing the freedom that the people in the UK offer her.
At the book festival she came to promote hew new novel, her seventh since she made the switch from acting to novelist, Lucky Break. It was a move she made after a career in acting that saw her rejected from acting school, “but then acting is all about rejection—it comes with the industry just as it does in writing.” Later she added: “Failed actors often re-train and can be very successful in some cases, but a lot also tend to go into the healing industry.”
The move to writing finally came for Freud after her acting and writing partner qualified with an Equity Card and was soon off to America to make a film. Their acting company, Norfolk Broads, broke up and left Freud unsure how to progress, forcing her to face up to the fact that she would have to write alone for the first time in her life.
This was a real moment of epiphany for her, however, because it was during the writing of this first novel that Freud had her eyes opened. “I realised that I still wanted to tell stories, but to tell them in a different way.”
And just as with writers or artists that are obsessed with their work, be it a novel or a painter, Freud also came to the realisation that actors too are obsessed, “but because their art, their vehicle is their own bodies—hair, weight, shape, etc.—this obsession is often confused with narcissism,” a mistake that she regrets happening quite so often as it does.
Freud read a passage from her latest novel (it was such a good reading I would recommend her for any audio recordings of books), a book she says was very difficult to write after it was “rejected by my own husband,” she joked. “He said it wasn’t true to what acting was about, and sure enough when I re-read it, I could see that I had lost sight of what acting is about. So I re-wrote large chunks of it.”
Freud closed up with a statement that would appeal to actors and writers the world over, when she remarked: “Whatever way you approach it, writing a novel is hard work!”