1) Tell us a little about your latest novel “The Right Time”
The Right Time centres around the four Beckett sisters. Ellen has just separated from her husband of nineteen years, Emma feels as though she’s been waiting almost that long for Blake to propose, and Liz has been waiting longer than she cares to admit for Andrew to leave his wife. It’s hardly surprising then that youngest sister, Evie, feels very content with her ordinary little marriage, until husband Craig turns that on its head. Each sister struggles with her own issues until something they didn’t see coming brings them all together.
2) Did you have a favourite character?
That’s like asking if I have a favourite child! I probably have a soft spot for Ellen, because I’ve been through a separation too and I poured a lot of the feelings I had at the time into her. And though Emma seems a bit over the top at the beginning, she has a lot more to her than first appears, and much of her behaviour comes from feeling misunderstood. I admired Liz’s integrity, intelligence and easygoing nature. And I was proud of Evie for the way she takes control of her life.
3) You must have grown up in a family of sisters to understand how you can love them and hate them all at the same time. Which of the four sisters did you identify with the most?
Yes, I have two sisters, and my mum is one of five sisters, so I have observed and participated in relationships with sisters all of my life. I probably identify with Ellen most, because as I said she’s newly separated and dealing with the huge life change that brings. However, Ellen is also very different to me, as she’s the eldest and I’m the second youngest of six. I don’t have her sense of authority, though I’m not quite as timid as Evie either!
4) Raising kids and family always seems to be central to your novels. Who is a role model of yours that manages to combine work, family and friends successfully?
Wow, I know so many women who do a brilliant job of all of the above, and they’re all my heroes. If you want someone well-known, Meryl Streep comes to mind immediately. She’s arguably the greatest actress of our time, and she has four children, a lasting marriage, she is committed to causes like the environment, but she’s not shrill or tiresome about them. And she always comes across as charming, funny and self-effacing. I would like her to adopt me!
5) Any part of the book you wished you had changed?
I think all writers wish they could keep changing things right up to the end. As I’ve said to my publisher many times when submitting – ‘Here just take it, I have to stop!’ Flaubert said a work of art is never finished, just abandoned, and I think that applies to anything creative. I try not to look at my books once they’re published, because it’s too late then! Having said that, there’s nothing substantial that I would change in “The Right Time”. I’m happy with the little family I created, and readers seem to be taking the Becketts to their hearts as well.
6) What message do you want readers to take away from this book?
I don’t really think in terms of ‘messages’, at least not while I’m writing. But on reflection, I’d be happy if readers were inspired by Evie and decide that an ordinary life is not good enough, or maybe to make hard decisions like Liz, and get out of a dead-end situation. Or perhaps they’ll relate to Ellen if they’re going through, or have been through, the breakdown of a relationship, and won’t feel like they’re the only one. Or if they’ve always felt they don’t fit in, like Emma, they will realise that their sisters would be there for them in a heartbeat when it really matters.
7) How long did it take you to write the book? What is your creative process?
The first draft probably took about six months of solid writing, though there is always a period of a couple of months of mulling before I can get anything much on paper (or should I say ‘screen’). It used to take longer when my children were young, but now I’m not constrained by school hours, and I can write long into the night or all weekend when I have to. And I have discovered an interesting thing: I write better when I write quickly. When I don’t have time to second-guess myself I really allow the story to take over and just go where it leads me. Because of this, my last three books have been exciting and surprising to write, for the most part, and they have required very little editing. So I guess my process is to fiddle about until the deadline begins to scare me, and then write like a mad thing until the story takes over and writes itself!
8) From your Authors note it would appear that this book is a little of life imitating art? Did the breakup of your own marriage assist with the authenticity of the pain of Ellen’s marriage breakdown or hinder your ability to write this book.
I couldn’t have put it better myself – my own experience has definitely informed the emotions Ellen goes through. And that is especially what I have drawn on, the grief and pain and bewilderment, not so much the characters or incidents. Though there are certainly some parallels to my own life, this is a work of fiction. But many of Ellen’s feelings reflect my own at the time – I couldn’t have written in back then, in the midst of it. That would have been too hard!
9) Where did the inspiration for Finn come from? Ever had a sexy mechanic like Finn in your life?
Don’t I wish! My car did have some pretty horrendous mechanical problems during a low point after my separation, and like Ellen, I felt the cosmos was against me. I found a very competent and kindly mechanic, but unfortunately he was no Finn! I generally need to have a picture of my characters in my head, and that is usually inspired by actors – you can’t really base the love interest on anyone you know in real life, that would be either weird or icky! So Finn was concocted from a delightful blend of Javier Bardem and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who actually do look a lot alike. Very rugged manly men … drool!
10) What is next?
I have just started work on another novel, so it’s probably too early to say much about it. It’s slow-going at first, trying to get to know the characters and waiting for them to take over and write the thing for me! My working title is The Current Wife … got you thinking?