When I think about my writing projects I see them as lines on the wall that indicate a growth spurt for me as a human being. What happens to these pieces after they’re written are never the motivation, as long as they’re nourished with love, gratitude and respect, here in my heart, then they can somehow survive and stand up proudly in their own right, even the ones that are not considered my best writing. For the works themselves, however, empathetic readers are always the main goal.
A long while ago, I wrote an autobiographical piece that was a kind of overview of the stand-out things that I remembered in my life. When it was finished, I briefly thought about offering it up to publishers, but an agent wrote back to me labelling it as a ‘misery memoir’ when to me, personally, it didn’t represent anything like that. In some way it felt like a betrayal for the piece to be marketed in that way, so I keep it in a cupboard, which is probably just as well for the real people I wrote about and maybe it will live on after me if any of my descendants are inspired to pick it up and read it one day. It is not the best example of my written work but it taught me to see and feel love in a completely different way and in doing so, it changed my life.
The Separated, on some level, is a continuation of that work, but this time I have been blessed with the appearance of a cast of characters who have their own story to tell which is not entwined with my own. Nevertheless, it felt more personal than my previous novels. So personal that there were times during the writing when raw feelings were excavated and it made me want to abandon the project completely, whilst at the same time I was also compelled to man-up and complete it.
The challenge wasn’t only emotional it was also structural. I had to find the key to telling the tale of both internal and external worlds simultaneously for two characters and I couldn’t use first person because they, Molly and Michael, have perspectives that didn’t always allow me to do that with clarity.
Also, the story presented itself with a series of holes that I instinctively knew were there but couldn’t quite locate, even after the fifth edit. However, my brilliant editor, Stephanie Roundsmith, gave me the insight to eventually achieve my vision.
The Separated is both a love story and a murder story involving a couple who are severely compromised, but it is also about persistence, making the choice to try even when things seem impossible and a forward step results in regression time and time again. Sticking with my vision has meant arriving in a better place, not just for Michael and Molly, a knock on effect has been mirrored in my own life and, magically, for certain members of my family too.
'I read it in two days, it kept me totally engaged. I think there may be a place for this in Mental Health-( I dislike that name) training. You have depicted the emotional and cognitive processes in The Separated sensitively bringing clarity to the external chaos for the reader.' Beverley Morris, BACP senior Accredited counsellor/psychotherapist
'I read The Separated in 2 days. I felt anguished the whole way through but couldn't stop reading. I felt like I was reading a biography and there was no "switch off" button along the way. Captivating, horrifying, and sad ... leaving me with a feeling of perhaps greater empathy but also impotence ... very powerful. Wow!' ES. Naples.Italy