This week Another Way to Fall goes on general release and I’m really hoping that readers fall in love with my heroine Emma as much as I have. She is a young woman who has barely tasted life but is forced to face her own mortality when the brain tumour she thought she had beaten returns.
I have to admit that I felt distinctly uncomfortable creating a character who had cancer but it was a story I had to write because the basic premise had been drawn from my own experience. When my son Nathan died, it wasn’t only that sweet little boy who had been stolen from me but his entire future, and for a while, mine too. I desperately wanted to know what he might have gone on to achieve if only he had been given the opportunity but at three years old, I had only the merest hint of the man he was meant to be.
Nathan was a little charmer, I knew that much at least. He was chatty and mischievous but he could also be quite shy. He hid behind his Thomas the Tank Engine sunglasses during our lengthy stays in hospital and occasionally when a new visitor came to see us he would simply say, ‘me too busy.’ He wasn’t perfect, he cheated at cards and he had an eye for the ladies. He fell in love twice, once with my nephew’s girlfriend Paula and later with his nurse, Pat. But these were only tantalizing glimpses of the life he might have led and I was left to imagine how those empty pages in his life’s story might have been filled.
In Another Way to Fall, Emma gets to fill the empty pages of her life by writing the story herself. She finds answers to all of those ‘what ifs,’ and for me that was very satisfying despite the book being an extremely difficult one to write. It took many, many drafts because I put a lot of pressure on myself to do justice to the story, not for the sake of my fictional character but out of respect for those people who are forced to face the realities of cancer and in particular those with high grade brain tumours. I might have the misfortune of being able to write a story like this from a mother’s perspective but I couldn’t claim to know what was going on inside Emma’s head, either from a medical or an emotional point of view. That was when I turned to BT Buddies (http://www.btbuddies.org.uk) and I am indebted to the time and effort Natalya Jagger took in helping me with my research. It was important to me and I think to Natalya too, that my book was based on reality. There are no miracle cures in the real world and there couldn’t be for Emma. Her fate was sealed in many respects from the very beginning. I don’t claim to have all the finer detail correct and there has been some poetic license in terms of Emma’s seizures but I can only hope Another Way to Fall has captured at least a fraction of the real life battles faced by brain tumour sufferers. If you get a chance, please visit the BT Buddies website and give your support.