The truth is it all stemmed from a haunting. Or rather a haunting image.
A long time ago when I was a television reporter in London I was sent to cover a campaign launch on a little green opposite the house of commons. I arrived with my TV crew to find a group of women releasing dark balloons against a clear sky.
I learned, to my great sadness, that they were all mothers and each balloon represented a child they could not find. The stories of the estrangements were many and varied. Runaway children. Custody disputes. Crime...The list went on and on. But though the stories were all so very different, the look in the eyes of all the mothers was the same.
I was young. I was not a mother then but it still broke my heart. I interviewed a number of the women and one took me back to her house to show me the bedroom that she had kept exactly the same since the day her two children were “lost” to her.
I have always been a little haunted by the memory of those balloons and when I was looking for an idea for my second novel, I realised that I wanted to write a fictional story that would capture something important I learned that day. For those brave women taught me the real difference between empathy and sympathy. Through their campaign they gave each other strength and hope and a lot of love. They were able to help each other so much, I realised….because they truly understood each other.
My second novel tells the story of two women who strike up a powerful bond of friendship born of an empathy they don’t at first understand…as they each deal with secrets from their past. The story is entirely made up, of course. It’s a novel and I would never use the facts of anyone’s true story for my fiction. But I do hope I have captured the emotional landscape of what it means to search for someone you love. And the huge importance of true friendship…and the healing power of love.
The book called Last Kiss Goodnight was published in March 2016 and has received more than 100 wonderful reviews. Thank you, readers. It means so much to me to see people enjoying the result of watching those balloons. One reader recently wrote: 'One of the best books I have read this year'. That certainly made my day!
I hope your own writing life is full of wonderful inspiration.