How did this book come to you?
Everyone who knows me understands that I’m obsessed with fairy tales. I’ve always been drawn to fairy tale themes in art, literature, dance, music, anything really. But when I started to write my first novel, Losing Adam, it was about mental illness, not fairy tales. However, as the story unfolded I realized I was drawing on one my favourite fairy tales, The Snow Queen, albeit in a realistic contemporary way. I was also inspired by Sarah McLachlan’s ‘Wintersong.’ The lyrics are all about loss, and I began thinking about the different ways to lose someone. That’s when I began thinking about schizophrenia and what would it be like to have the person you love most become a stranger.
Favorite all time reads?
So many, but I’m going to choose one classic and one contemporary. Wuthering Heights had a huge impact on me when I read it as a teenager. For me, it remains one of the most passionate romances ever, not romantic in the clichéd, optimistic happy ending way, but intense, dangerous, and utterly unforgettable. In my opinion there’s never been more romantic line than, “Whatever souls are made of his and mine are the same.”
One of my favourite contemporary books is Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I love this book for many reasons, but most of all for its devastating prose and buried anguish. So many books bang you over the head, telling you over and over again how sad, mad, happy the characters are, but Ishiguro never does that – he doesn’t have to – you feel it in every word. There is nothing sentimental about this book, and yet I can still recall the passages that literally made me sob. Haunting and restrained, Ishiguro’s writing is the kind I admire most.
Favorite life quote or motto?
It’s not what the world holds for you it’s what you bring to it. - Anne of Green Gables
What authors or people have inspired you?
A lot of writers have inspired me in different ways, but the three that come immediately to mind are the Bronte sisters, whose collective power of imagination is incredible to me, Alice Munro for her beautiful prose that somehow transforms the ordinary into something extraordinary, and Stephen King for his passion for story in all its forms. Although my writing is nothing like Stephen King’s, I’m continually amazed by his dialogue that never has a false note. Reading Stephen King is like taking a master class on how to write good dialogue.
What has been the biggest surprise about the publishing process?
I’m continually surprised by how supportive and enthusiastic people have been about my writing dream. Writing can be a lonely business and it’s been a lovely surprise to connect with other people who seem to want to know about me and my work.
Tell us what you enjoy doing when not writing?
Read! There’s never enough time to read all the books on my list, probably because I’m constantly adding to it.
I love movies and have several favourites, but the three that come to mind are Pan’s Labyrinth for the darkly romantic fairy tale world it creates, Slumdog Millionaire, because I adore the lead character who possesses a genuine idealism that’s so rare in film these days, and Dangerous Liaisons (the John Malkovich version) because of the fascinating battle between true love and cynicism, and because it includes one of the most romantic lines ever: “The only happiness I have ever known has been with you.”
What advice would you have to aspiring writers?
Perseverance. Writers say this all the time, but it really can’t be said enough. Except for the lucky few there is just so much rejection in publishing. You need to believe in your work and keep putting yourself out there. This doesn’t mean rejecting criticism; I think you need to listen to criticism very carefully and use it to make your work better.
Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?
In my experience writing lulls only last as long as you let them. The best way to get past writer’s block is to keep writing. You might accumulate some really terrible pages, but eventually you’ll get through to something good.
If there is something you want readers to walk away with after reading your book what would that be?
I believe in the power of story to bring people together and I hope readers experience a feeling of connection to Adam and Jenny. I would like them to have the feeling of being transported to another time and place, and wanting never to leave. I think the best books make you sad to leave the characters you’ve grown attached to, and leave you wanting more.
Which fictional character do you most Identify with?
Keturah from Martine Leavitt’s book Lady Keturah and Lord Death. On the surface, Keturah and I have little in common, she’s a peasant girl living in the middle ages, and I’m a middle-class woman with two children, however, I powerfully relate to her need to tell stories, particularly stories about true love. Keturah is fascinated with true love and I guess I am too; it’s the theme I always come back to. I think I feel compelled to write young adult novels because I still very close to the girl I used to be – someone who doesn’t expect miracles but hopes for them anyway. I loved Keturah’s character so much I named by daughter after her, Juliet Keturah Clarke.