So, no better way to celebrate this than by interviewing an author whose books I have greatly enjoyed, Alice Peterson.
I recently read Ten Years On and loved it. What gave you the idea of removing one of the key characters so early on and was this always the way you intended to start it?
Firstly, thank you Sooz! I’m so glad you loved Ten Years On.
Yes, I always intended to remove one of the characters earlier on, although his presence remains in the book throughout, if that makes sense! Ten Years On deals with many themes, including grief and a love triangle. Interestingly I think that the love triangle, where one of the male characters dies, actually makes him much more of an obstacle to the two left, than if he were still alive.
You keep us guessing for about 70% of the way through re why the three friends lost touch. Did you employ any particular devices to keep the momentum going whilst keeping us in suspense?
I love keeping the reader in suspense for as long as I can and the way I did it was to give a little away often, so there’s enough to keep the momentum going, but the reader is hopefully always wanting more! I really enjoy returning to the past and feeding information about the characters and their motivations. My novels usually flick between past and present.
Guilt plays a large part in the novel. How did you decide who would feel guilty in which way?
Everyone feels guilt in this novel, but most of all our central character, Rebecca – Becca for short. Becca feels guilty when she meets Joe, her old college friend who she hasn’t seen for ten years. Joe was also best friend to Olly, her husband. She kept things from both of them, and seeing Joe again reminds her of her past and their guilty secret. She also feels guilty being a burden to her parents when she moves home after the sudden death of Olly. Finally she feels guilty when she falls in love again, especially when it’s with Joe. She feels as if she’s betraying Olly all over again.
Olly also has a secret, but again, this isn’t revealed until much later, simply alluded to. Did you ever think about making his secret a big bad one, rather than the much softer one than the other two’s transgressions?
It did occur to me that maybe Olly should have had an affair but each time I went down that road, I retreated. It would have been so hard to root for him and enjoy his presence in the book. I know it sounds complicated, since Olly died so early on, but his voice is in the book throughout in a moving and humorous way and I think it comes across just how much he and Becca loved one another, and I didn’t want anything to ruin that.
I loved the dynamic with the old lady who got a slot on the wine course. How important is writing minor characters to you and was she also your favourite in the novel, or was it someone else? If so, who?
I loved Janet! My grandmother, who was an incredible person with so much wisdom, life experience and a great sense of humour, inspired her. Like Janet, she also had this lovely outrageous laugh. I think minor characters are so important to novels. They add touches and depth. Makes me think of Judy Dench winning an Oscar for best supporting role in Shakespeare in Love, when she was only on screen for eight minutes. My favourite wasn’t Janet though – it’s tough to beat Joe, the hero!
I’d already read Monday to Friday Man a few years ago and was drawn to it initially by the cover. I loved this, too. Which of your novels is your favourite and why?
Oh, I can’t answer this. Each novel is special to me in different ways. Monday to Friday Man will always be close to my heart since it was inspired by my own dog, Mr Darcy – and I love the romance, the light-heartedness, the colourful dog walking world and the little sister, Megan, who gives it an extra depth.
Ten Years On is set in my hometown, Winchester, so I really enjoyed writing about the area, and I also fell in love with the idea that you can find true love twice.
Perhaps By My Side might be the favourite, in that it’s a love story again, but with a big difference. I’ll talk about it in the next question…
Can you tell us a little about your other novels and the genre(s) they fall into? I have already downloaded By My Side (one of my World Book Day purchases)
Most of my books fall into the romantic comedy genre – but each story does tackle a theme, which is often disability. In Letters From My Sister, one of the characters, Bells, is born with a cleft lip and palate. In You, Me & Him, a six year old boy has ADHD. In my latest novel, By My Side, my heroine, Cass, is in a wheelchair following a road accident, but with the help of a beautiful golden Labrador assistance dog called Ticket slowly she rebuilds her life. She also meets the lovely Charlie Bell on a skiing holiday and it’s the beginning of realising there is life and love after her injury.
I believe it’s important to represent people with disability in fiction, not make them worthy or angelic, but real characters. Jojo Moye’s novel, Me Before You, is a great example of this. I completely fell for Will, and soon forgot he was in a wheelchair, he was just Will and I was rooting for him all the way. My novels, especially By My Side tackle darker themes of pain, loss, disability and overcoming adversity partly due to my own life experience of living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), which I wrote about in my autobiography, A Will to Win, now republished as Another Alice. Aged 18 I was on the verge of going to America on a tennis scholarship when I was diagnosed with RA. Overnight my life changed, and I couldn’t play tennis again, a sadness that will always be with me. I have put all these experiences into my writing.
How did you go about tackling the serious subject of grief in the novel and how affects people in different ways?
Research – I talk to as many people as possible about their experiences. I’m always honest, saying I’m writing a book and I make sure people feel comfortable sharing their stories and memories. If I am tackling a different subject I must do it justice. It’s interesting talking to a variety of people because, while I don’t write their stories, I usually notice a pattern of emotions. My next novel is about addiction, and it’s the same; very different people, completely different stories but similar emotion.
I’ve compared Ten Years On, to Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You, not because it dealt with euthanasia, but because it dealt with serious topics, eg grief and wasn’t only about falling in love, handbags and cupcakes! If you had to align it with another novel, which would you choose?
That is such a compliment! Thank you. I love Jojo Moyes’s writing and couldn’t put Me Before You down! Ten Years On has been compared to PS I love you and it’s also been compared to One Day – but in the reverse! I rather like that… so I’ll go with One Day!
The relationship with Becca and her family, especially her sister is pretty fraught. I wanted to bash Becca’s sister’s head in for her insensitivity and selfishness, but yet she still had redeeming qualities. What can you tell us about the familial relationship and why you set it as you did?
I wanted to make Becca’s return to her childhood home uneasy to build drama into the story. You’re right, Becca’s sister, Pippa, is selfish. She’s used to having all the attention and her mother on tap for babysitting, so I thought it’d be interesting to then see how she reacts when focus is shifted on to a grieving Becca. Of course it’s going to bring up all kinds of problems – the most obvious being jealousy, but as the reader delves more deeply we see that Pippa is a rather sad and lonely figure. She’s also very proud, wanting to give off the impression that all is well in her marriage and motherhood, and I think often women see it as a weakness admitting that perhaps things are not quite as they seem. In the end we soften towards Pippa as finally she sees things from Becca’s side, and is also honest about how unhappy she has been for many years.
Who’s your Rupert Penry Jones? (everyone knows I am mad about him!)
I love Jim Sturgess (Dexter in One Day) – also love Wentworth Miller off Prison Break! Good choice by the way re RPJ – wouldn’t kick him out either!
If one of your books had to be made into a movie, which one would you like it to be and why?
By My Side - because it’s the most powerful and romantic, and it’s a real tear jerker too. That would be a dream come true.
Which book would you most like to turn into a movie which isn’t yours!?
I loved My Lover’s Lover, by Maggie O’Farrell and can really see that as a film – lots of suspense and romance.
What genres do you read and who are your favourite authors?
I read mainly the same genre that I write, although I do like thrillers too – I’ve really enjoyed books by William Boyd. My current favourite is Jojo Moyes and right now I’m reading, ‘The Girl You Left Behind’. I also love rereading Jane Austen.
Fave clothes type?
Love accessories – scarves, earrings with sparkle – I am girly girl – love all things pretty!
Best holiday destination ever (visited and also yet to visit)
Italy – I fell in love with Florence. I’m hoping to go on a cooking holiday in Tuscany (all good writing material!)
Pet person - yes or no? If yes, details pls!
Yes! I LOVE dogs and Mr Darcy, my Lucas Terrier, is in the inspiration behind Monday to Friday Man. I would not be without him – he’s the best.
Townie or country girl?
Both – couldn’t live in town all the time, or live in the country all the time. I love being a writer as I can take my laptop and go and stay with parents or sister in the country, and then come home to London.
Most romantic city in the world in your opinion?
Do you do anything special for Easter?
This year I am staying in London, seeing friends, eating out for lunch, taking Darcy for a long walk after indulging in lots of chocolate…
Final Note – thank you so much Sooz for having me on your blog.
Final final note from Sooz - Alice's latest book, By My Side is out in paperback on July 18th
Final final note from Sooz - Alice's latest book, By My Side is out in paperback on July 18th
You can catch up with Alice on her website - www.alicepeterson.co.uk
on Twitter - https://twitter.com/AlicePeterson1
and on Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Alice-Peterson/206854859340940?sk=info
Books/ebooks are available from the following sources:-
as well as the usual Amazon links - Ten Years On - http://amzn.to/WAZzLV (UK) & http://amzn.to/15XPFGW (US)
Back when I have some more time! Wish me luck! Sooz