Today I’m pleased to welcome author Sinead Moriarty to the blog. Sinead is the author of 11 novels including The Secrets Sisters Keep, Mad About You, This Child of Mine and The Baby Trail. Her latest novel, The Way We Were, was published by Penguin on 24 March 2016.
Sinead kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about The Way We Were.
The Way We Were is about a married couple, Ben and Alice, who have two teenage daughters and who love each other deeply but are going through a bump in their marriage.
Like all relationships theirs has got a bit stale. Ben is feeling restless. He’s having a mid-life crisis. Is this it? He wonders. He feels his life has become mundane and is slipping through his fingers. He wants to shake things up, to feel vibrant again. Ben craves adventure and when someone offers him the opportunity to have that adventure he jumps at the chance.
Ben’s fellow surgeon asks him to go to Africa, to Eritrea to operate with another colleague, Declan. Ben knows there is a risk involved as the country is very unstable, but he says yes.
He knows Alice will be worried about him, he knows it’s a dangerous place but he can’t wait to go and experience something new with a fellow surgeon.
Alice is furious and worried sick that something will happen to him. It turns out she was right and what happens next changes their lives forever.
The book is really about love and the power of memories. Alice needs to forget Ben to survive and be a good mother to their daughters, but he clings to her memory to keep himself alive.
What will happen to their lives? Can Ben survive? Will they ever see each other again? If they do, can they possibly get back to the way they were?
I wanted to explore the power of memory. I also wanted to look at how people change. What happens when the person you know so well is altered by life? When something happens to turn your life upside down and you have to change to survive?
2. What inspired the book?
Back in the late 1980s Brian Keenan and John McCarthy, among others, were kidnapped and taken hostage in Beirut. They remained in captivity for over four years and when they were finally released the two men talked about this incredible friendship that had kept them sane. You could see the deep connection and love between them.
To this day they are best friends and the bond between them remains. I was always fascinated by this and by the fact that John McCarthy’s girlfriend campaigned so tirelessly to get him released and then when he was released everyone presumed they’d end up together…but in fact they broke up and he married someone else. I wanted to somehow write a book with some of these themes worked into the storyline.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you? How long does the process take you from first line to completed novel?
I’m a planner and a plotter. After a couple of failed initial attempts at writing I realised that it was far too easy for me to go down dead ends and storylines that didn’t work out. So I now plot out my books. I literally do a chapter by chapter breakdown before I start writing. I may only put in two lines for each chapter but it allows me to see where any holes in the story may lie and helps me to keep the pace going. I find it really helpful. It’s actually a tool that I learnt at a creative writing course and I’ve used it for all of my 11 novels.
4. Having been through the creative process of writing and publishing a number of novels is there anything that still surprises you about the creative process of creating a book?
How it never gets easier, in fact it gets more difficult. I think as a writer you always strive to be better and for each book to be stronger, so you put yourself under pressure. I hope that with each book I have grown as a writer and that I have learnt something from each book. But no matter how many books you have written, that first day in front of a black screen is always a little terrifying.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I’m not very good at not writing. I get grumpy when I’m not writing, it’s as if something is missing. I try to catch up on my reading and go for walks and swim and catch up with friends and family when I finish a book, but I always miss the writing and go back as quickly as I can.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Great question – probably Ulysses because I haven’t managed to read it and everyone says it’s a very challenging read. So, it would keep me busy!
7. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
Which writer’s skills would you most like to have? I’d like Nora Ephron’s witty, warm, clever writing skill please!
Thanks very much for answering my questions and for appearing on my blog.
Thanks for inviting me on, it was a pleasure!
About the book:
“When Alice’s husband Ben disappears suddenly, her world falls apart. They shared twenty years and two daughters and life without him is unimaginable.
Having lost her parents while young, Alice understands her girls’ pain. At fifteen, Jools is at that awkward age and only Ben could get through to her. And eleven-year-old Holly looks for the answer to everything in books but this time she’s drawing a blank. Alice realizes that for their sakes she must summon up superhuman reserves of strength.
Somehow all three of them come through the dark days. In time, it’s even possible for Alice to consider marrying again, with the girls’ blessing. So when Ben turns up after three years, her world is again turned upside-down. The girls assume that their family can go back to the way they were. Alice is not so sure.
Once more Alice has to find the strength to be the mother her daughters need her to be. But this time what that means is far from clear…”
You can buy The Way We Were in bookshops or online and on Amazon.