Friday, 29 April 2016

Where Curlews Cry - coming out on May 5th

All the books that I write have a huge part of me in them but none more so than this book which was written in 2004.
During the first years of the new millennium I had a really tough time. First of all I got breast cancer, after that my beloved mother died and then I lost my job with Hodder and Stoughton. I think all of that, plus the rubbish in my life which had preceded meant that I began to have depression, I just didn't know it at the time.
Depression is something which writers seem to have very often, perhaps it's something to do with the amount of time we sit staring out of windows and not doing anything but this book which I wrote amongst the heartbreak of that time is the most important book of all. My daughter disliked it because it is my own story and a lot of the incidents in it have been played out in my life with heartbreak.
I recalled I think with a little detachment the time that my husband died and the women in this book are all parts of me and the different things I went through.
Some of it's funny, most of it's true.
At the beginning of the book three women lose their partners in a train crash. The book is set in Hexham, one of my beloved northern towns. My mother and I used to shop there and I knew it very well.  The main male character is the solicitor, Sam Browne, who is friends with all these families and who tries to sort things out when tragedy strikes these people.
The woman most like me is Caroline. Unlike me she is left penniless and has to move in with her mother. Her daughter is like an earlier version in some ways of my own very precious child and I enjoyed that but Caroline joins a singles group. I took all of this straight out of life, the dreadful parties, the way that the men her age are talking to women ten or fifteen years younger, the appalling dinner she goes to.
'There was dancing. At her table was a tall, fair,  handsome man. He leaned over and Caroline waited for him to ask her to dance.
'You ought to get yourself a man and quickly,' he said,'by the time you're fifty there are twice as many available women as available men,' and he turned to the woman on his right and asked her to dance.
This finishes Caroline off, it didn't do me any good either.
Well, you know what they say? When you have a lemon you make lemonade. I have made money out of the horrors and heartbreaks of my life.

The other two women are young. One of them is a deceitful cow who is sleeping with one man while married to another which makes things interesting when they both die on the train. There isn't much of me in her but there are bits which are like me. And I like her. She's gutsy and modern and doesn't care.

The other young woman Jess, I think she has the worst time of all and again I used direct experience.

'A man with a van brought videos to the door. He was Jess's saviour, her Jesus, her Messiah, her Buddha. He was Santa Claus, a chubby man with a van load of goodies. She could be somewhere else, she could be somebody else, she could be a story.'

'Safe and warm, Jess listened to her favourite sounds, the ocean, the wine as it poured into her glass. On her television screen, Bruce Willis was saving the world and she could help him By the end of the afternoon they had put everything back to rights. It was so satisfying. The baddies died, the goodies were saved. Bruce Willis's character went home to his wife and children . Jess watched him, she watched his car as it got smaller and smaller on the screen. He and his wife, sitting in the back seat, going home to their children, their house, their Christmas.'
Jess has no husband, no child, no Christmas. And worst of all because she is young people tell her that she will get over it. When people said that to me I wanted to kill them.

There is also a lot of deceit in this book. Deceit isn't actually something I know much about personally. When people have hurt me they have done it directly but somehow I can transfer the pain of what I interpreted as other people's betrayal, of how they didn't care about me, to deceit.
My mother used to say I had become a bitter woman but bitterness and anger are very useful for writers. All that pain gets translated on to the page and it pays the bills and buys the wine and sees me on a Saturday night taking my children out to dinner. Loss is never total. There is always something left and I like that people read it. That's the most important thing of all to me. That somebody out there thinks I have written something they want to read. It means the whole world to me.

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