|People We Love starts by inviting readers |
to an art exhibition...
I, on the other hand, over complicate everything. I run multiple points of view and a number of storylines, and weave them in and out across 90,000 words like a mad tapestry. I wish I could keep things simpler!
While I was in India in January, I pretty much wrote a whole novella – 20,000 words. What a joy it was to write! Because of the length, I could only focus on one central couple, though there was a fair bit of back story too.
My new novel, People We Love, is probably the most complex I have written yet. It started with two major ideas. The first was triggered by a series of photographs I saw in a colour supplement, of shoes. Sad, battered, brave shoes, all of which had been worn by women fleeing the Blue Nile area in Sudan. Those images were so powerful that I wanted to use the emotion they provoked and, like my heroine, Lexie Gordon, I realised that 'shoes tell stories'.
The second was a memory of an incident my parents once told me, about an elderly neighbour with dementia who had been put into care in a town some twelve miles away. One day this lady walked the whole way back – along a busy main road – and climbed in the kitchen window of the house where she used to live. Why? What powerful instinct had propelled her back there?
As always, I am also interested in the effect of big incidents on families. In People We Love, it's the fallout of grief on the Gordon family from brother/son Jamie's death a year earlier. He was drunk driving – which was completely out of character. Why? This mystery runs through the book, and my characters can't move on until it's resolved.
My central character, Alexa Gordon, is also at the heart of a love triangle. And there are other characters with stories that need to be told as well.
Complicated? Oh yes.
For me, getting all this in to my story and still managing to make the book a page turner – as well as persuading my readers to invest their time and interest in my characters – is an enormous challenge. It's what makes the whole business of writing a novel so challenging, of course.
But why, oh why, can't I keep it simple?