What can you tell us about your new book Another Way to Fall?
My second novel, Another Way to Fall was a tough book to write, in fact it took many drafts before I was brave enough to really put my heart and soul into the story. My heroine Emma is twenty nine years old and has just received the devastating news that the cancer she thought she had beaten is back. Faced with the prospect that her disease is terminal this time, Emma begins to write the life she would want to live if she had been given the all clear.
But it’s not easy for Emma to write the life of her dreams. What would she choose is she could have anything her heart desires and more importantly is she brave enough to write about the kind of joy she will never experience beyond the confines of the written page? As Emma grapples with these challenges, her real life follows its own twists and turns and my heroine has the chance to experience some of the joys she thought would always be denied her.
What was your inspiration for Emma’s story?
Another Way to Fall was inspired by my son, Nathan. Without him, I wouldn’t be an author at all but this story in particular has been drawn from my experiences as a mother caring for a child with cancer. The working title for the novel was ‘Autumn child,’ and came from a poem I had written when Nathan was in the midst of his battle against leukaemia but the premise for the story came from my own feelings after my son died. He was only three years old and I was left wondering what he would have made from his life if only he’d had the chance. Writing Another Way to Fall gave me the opportunity to take a character who’s own life is being cut short and give her the freedom to create that perfect and, more importantly, complete life. It was a voyage of discovery for both of us.
How was writing your second novel different to the first?
When I was writing Yesterday’s Sun, I hoped but never really believed that it would one day be published. By the time I started writing Another Way to Fall I had a publishing contract but it wasn’t only the pressure of working to a deadline that made the task daunting, it was the subject matter. It was hard for me to knowingly create a character who had a terminal illness and it felt like such a responsibility – to take what is such a serious subject matter and write as if I knew what it was like to have a brain tumour. It felt arrogant almost and took many rewrites before I was comfortable with how I was portraying Emma and I can only hope I have done justice to those who fight her kind of battles in real life.
Is Emma’s character based on anyone in particular? Do you think readers will relate to her?
Emma wasn’t based on anyone specific, in fact I don’t think she’s even the character I imagined when I first started writing Another Way to Fall. I only started to know her as I went along and was surprised how emotionally attached to her I became and I was really proud of my Emma by the end of that last draft. She was an average girl who was forced to accept how unfair life could be. She faced her illness with incredible dignity and strength but she wasn’t superhuman, she had a vulnerable side and she had her faults and I think it’s this combination that makes her so easy to relate to. None of us can be strong all the time but we’d like to think that, for the sake of those we love, we can be strong enough when it matters.
What would you like the reader to take away from this novel?
I realise that Another Way to Fall is going to make many readers cry but I hope it will also be an uplifting and life-affirming read. Emma didn’t get to live her life to the full, some people don’t, even children, and none of us are immune to the twist of fate that can turn lives upside down and take away the things we took for granted. If I would want readers to takeaway anything away from this novel then it would be to appreciate what we have today and find happiness where we can.