What inspired you to write Yesterday’s Sun?
Yesterday’s Sun was borne of my own personal desire to change fate. There was nothing more desperate for me as a parent than sitting at the side of my son’s hospital bed and not being able to take the cancer from him or fight his fight. I would have gladly taken Nathan’s place and while that was impossible in the real world, I did get to create a story where my character was given a choice. Her life for that of her child. I carefully constructed the story in such a way that Holly’s decision was completely unfettered. Through the mystical powers of the Moondial, she knows she is going to die giving birth to a baby who hasn’t even been conceived yet. Without giving too much away, she learns what it is to be a mother.
What sort of research did you do for Yesterday’s Sun?
Because Yesterday’s Sun was based around an imaginary Moondial, I had free reign to create the mechanism as I saw fit so there was no need for research…or so I thought. It was only as I started to develop the history of the dial that I realised I had to put some hours into mapping out a plausible history. I researched Aztec Mythology in particular and discovered the Moon Goddess Coyolxauhqui (pronounced Coyal-Shore-Key) and then all I had to do was create a fictional explorer who retrieved a mystical moon stone from the ruins of a temple.
Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
The easiest character to write was Billy even though he went through quite a major transformation from the first draft. He was easiest because he wasn’t central to the plot, he was only ever meant to be a bit of light relief. It was only in later drafts than he took on a more important role and I have to say, I like the way he turned out. He’s still fairly understated but I think of him with quiet admiration.
The hardest character to write in some ways was Holly. When Holly begins her journey, she has no desire to be a mother and the idea of having a baby horrifies her. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a mother and so summoning up that fear and trepidation was alien to me.
What were your favourite scenes to write in Yesterday’s Sun?
The scene I imagined right from the start was the moment that Holly realises she can chose between her life and her child’s, in fact it was the germ of the idea from which the entire novel was formed. I could put myself in Holly’s shoes and knew with absolute clarity how she would feel and I couldn’t wait to write it. There’s another scene which I can’t really describe without giving too much away but there’s a spine tingling moment which I only added in the final draft of the book. All I’ll say is it involves a pane of glass and a finger tracing the raindrops.
How did you first come to think of the idea of the Moondial?
When I’m writing, I love those unexpected flashes of inspiration which come out of nowhere and magically connect all the dots and the Moondial was one of them. I didn’t have a fully developed idea of what the dial would look like or precisely how it would work, even as I launched into the first chapter. I knew I needed something that held a mystical power which could transport Holly into the future and it seemed right to set time travel scenes in the middle of the night, so the connection with the full moon was a natural progression. It was only when I thought about the way that light was being reflected from the sun onto the moon and then onto the surface of the device I was trying to create that I realized that if light could be reflected, why not time too? Everything just fell into place and so the Moondial was born.
The rules which govern the dial’s use took much longer to develop. The more I thought about how Holly might be able to influence her future, the more I realised that I was giving her too much opportunity to meddle with her fate. I created the rules to keep the story from falling into chaos and the life for a life rule was of particular importance as it ensures that there are only ever two options for Holly, her life or Libby’s.
Did you base the house and village on a real place?
The gatehouse and the village are simply figments of my imagination. The gatehouse is based on the many such houses scattered throughout England that have somehow become detached from the grand estates they once guarded whilst the village I’m afraid is possibly based on watching one too many property programmes.
The feel of the gatehouse however, or at least its potential to be a perfect family home for Holly and Tom, is based on a real place, my grandparents’ house. I grew up in a terraced house in Liverpool and although my grandparents lived nearby, their house seemed worlds apart. They lived in a traditional semi that had something we didn’t, a garden. Some of my favourite childhood memories are based in that garden and I can remember it so vividly, creeping into my granddad’s shed crammed full of carpentry tools, picking fruit for my nan to turn into jams and fruit pies or endless hours playing on the swing that hung from an apple tree grown from a pip that my mum had planted when she was a child. It was an idyllic setting that may have had its roots in the city but could easily be transplanted into a country setting.
Did you always know how Yesterday’s Sun would end? [SPOILER ALERT]
Now here’s a confession, yes I did but it’s not the ending I’ve written. Yesterday’s Sun begins almost at the end of the story with Holly about to go into labour, knowing that she will die and those opening paragraphs have changed very little from the first draft. That was how I intended to end the story as I began to write the first chapter. Holly’s sacrifice was satisfying my own frustrations and there was no doubt in my mind that she would get to make her sacrifice. It was only when I started writing more about Jocelyn, adding flesh to her bones, that her character took on a life of its own and it was one of those magical moments of inspiration where I suddenly realised that I had unconsciously created a pivotal role for her in the story. I don’t suppose I can take any credit for saving Holly; that was most definitely Jocelyn’s doing.