Last week, I read and reviewed Elizabeth Noble's latest book Between A Mother and Her Child, which was an emotional rollercoaster of a novel that I really enjoyed. I was lucky enough to get the chance to ask Elizabeth some of my questions, and my thanks go to Kate at FMcM for arranging the interview, and to Elizabeth for answering my questions!
Q1. Please tell me about your new book, Between A Mother and Her Child.
Between a Mother and Her Child is the story of the Bartlett family, who you meet 2 years after their seemingly happy life has been decimated by the death of the eldest child of the family, Jake. It is a novel about the effects of grief on all the members of the family, as well as the story of part of their journey towards a kind of healing, a journey on which they are accompanied by a stranger who comes to live with them, Kate.
Q2. I loved all your characters in the book, especially Aly who I felt was such a wonderful character, and Maggie who is written so realistically. Where do you draw the inspiration for your characters, and do you have a favourite from this book?
I’m really happy you liked Aly – I adored her. She’s a normal teenager in utterly abnormal circumstances, trying to fix things beyond her control, and cope with her own confused feelings about everything happening around her. I think she’s my favourite too, although I love the whole Bartlett family. Creating characters whom I hope resonate and are plausible is probably my favourite part of the process. They are never directly lifted from real life, but rather amalgams of lots of different people.
Q3. I hope that you've never had to go through the hardships of the things your characters do such as Maggie and Bill in this book, and Barbara in Things I Want My Daughters To Know - how do you go about researching these topics to write about them empathetically, and also to do them justice?
I did a fair amount of reading, listening and watching on the subject of grief and grieving. It struck me how extraordinarily individual and personal the experience is. There are statistics, for example, about the increased incidence of divorce amongst couples who have lost a child, but Bill and Maggie are just two people having that experience.
Q4. What made you choose to use the 2004 Tsunami in your book with regards to Jake's death? It isn't often you find real-life events like this referenced in chick lit so I found it a curious choice, and wondered what inspired it.
I’m not sure why ‘chick lit’ writers would avoid real life incidents. It never occurred to me that I should. I did think hard about how Jake died – he could have been killed on his gap year in a thousand different ways – but as a plot device I was drawn to an event that affected millions – each one a private tragedy on a very public stage. Also, I needed to highlight how Bill and Maggie reacted to Jake’s death – Bill by throwing himself into things, and Maggie by hiding from everything – Bill’s trip to Thailand was an important stage in his grief and also in his estrangement from Maggie.
Q5. Your books are all very emotional reads, and deal with emotive topics that some may find quite upsetting, and I'm often in tears reading them! Why do you choose to write "weepies" (as I call them!) and do you find yourself often getting upset when you write about these things?
I have often asked myself the ‘why a weepie’ question! I’m not a miserable person, I hope… But the truth is that the sad stories are the ones which most appeal to me. And yes, I cried most days as I wrote the novel, putting myself in Maggie’s shoes and imagining the awfulness of her loss. I cried a lot writing Things I Want My Daughters to Know as well, for similar reasons…
Q6. You recently took part in a Q&A session on your publishers Facebook page, The Book Boutique, do you enjoy this interaction with your fans, and do you think social networking is an important tool for authors to use?
I know that social networking is becoming an essential way for writers to communicate with their readers. I’m a dreadful luddite, and doing my best to catch up, though I’m not sure I have an inner twitterer… I prefer face to face, but that isn’t always possible, and it is great for someone in an essentially lonely profession to have company, even if only through a screen!
Q7. How do you feel about the term "chick lit"?
I’m not a great lover of the term chick lit, mostly because I write more for hens than for chicks. I try not to take myself too seriously, but I do think it is too often used in a derogatory and dismissive way – often by people who don’t read much of it. I set out to write novels women will love, will save for their summer holidays, will pass on to others, and remember for at least a while after they’ve finished them. If I succeed in that, then you can call me whatever you like…
Q8. Some of your books have been given new titles for their American release (The Way We Were, The Girl Next Door). Is this new title the choice of your American publishers, and are you given any say in the new titles? Or is it that the UK titles are the changed ones?!
The UK is my primary market, so whenever one of my books has a different title in the US, that was their decision…with the exception of The Tenko Club, which the Americans called The Friendship Test, a title Penguin later adopted. My US publisher felt strongly that The Way We Were wouldn’t work in the US because of the association with Barbra Streisand…I did rather like their new title, When You Were Mine.
Q9. What do you enjoy doing when you aren't writing?
When I am not writing, I love to cook, to potter about the shops, to watch films and too many boxed set dvds, to exercise (a new habit!), spend time with friends and family, and to travel whenever and to wherever possible….and I have two teenage daughters, which any mother will tell you is pretty much a full time job in itself…
Q10. Are you working on your next book yet? Can you tell me anything about it?
My next novel is the as yet untitled story of two women who set up home and businesses together when they are divorced from two brothers, after long marriages, and find themselves alone and a bit hard up in their forties….
You can buy Between A Mother and Her Child in paperback and as an eBook now.