Where did you get your inspiration for this book from?
The idea for the story came initially from a news report about a married man who had disappeared without trace a year earlier. I began to think about how awful it must have been for his wife to have someone she obviously loved and who she presumed she knew so well, to simply walk out of her life without explanation. Jo goes through those initial feelings that I imagined any wife would experience, starting with perhaps no more than mild anxiety and uncertainty. She doesn’t realise that she has just stepped into a terrifying nightmare that will see her pushed to her limits of mental endurance.
Did you know from the start what fate had befallen David or was this something you discovered as you wrote the novel?
Yes, I knew exactly what had been going on in David’s life, how he felt on the day he went missing and why he didn’t come home. What I hadn’t worked out so clearly was how his family would react to his disappearance and that was a journey of discovery for me as much as for my characters. With each draft of the novel, I had to put myself in their shoes until I knew them well enough to know instinctively how each of them would behave and feel.
Jo’s progress through the stages of grief is described in detail – did you find it hard to leave the emotion of this story behind when you weren’t writing?
Jo’s grief was a difficult one to describe because she doesn’t know what it is she’s grieving for. She has no way of knowing if David is dead or alive, so she can’t know if she has lost a faithful and doting husband or if she has been living with a callous and conniving adulterer. The disintegration of her life and more especially her mental health is a gradual process in spite of David’s sudden departure, and because it was such a tortuous process, it did affect me. I can honestly say I spent plenty of sleepless nights wondering how Jo would be feeling as I tried to decide where I needed to take her next.
You also torture the reader with Jo’s acceptance (or not) of her baby – how did you find it to write this angle?
Jo is pregnant when David goes missing and it was second nature for me to write about a character who had wanted a baby for a very long time. However, because so much has happened to Jo by the time the baby is born, I knew her feelings towards her son had to be affected. With her confidence shattered, she fears that the baby is rejecting her in the same way that his father had. It was certainly difficult to navigate my way through Jo’s emotions, starting with her looking forward to the birth right through to her not wanting to bring the baby home from hospital, and while her reaction wasn’t something I could relate to personally, I could understand why she felt the way she did. Jo’s belief in herself and everything she held dear has been challenged, if not destroyed. She convinces herself that she won’t be a good enough mother and while that’s probably something many first-time mums can relate to, myself included, with Jo those feelings of self-doubt are off the scale.