Freeing Grace this year, and I had the pleasure of reading this very enjoyable book. After reading it, I was given the opportunity to interview Charity and ask her some of my questions about her book. Our thanks go to Sam from Allen&Unwin for her help, and for Charity for taking part in the interview!
Q1. Tell us briefly about your book 'Freeing Grace'.
Abandoned at birth, baby Grace Serenity is up for adoption. A childless couple delightedly await her arrival, but her young father has fallen for her during his contact visits and cannot bear to give her up. In a bid to keep their child, his family ask a friend – rootless New Zealander Jake Kelly – to trace Grace’s grandmother who has run away to Kenya. Simply by being born, this baby changes forever the lives of those around her. What is best for Grace – her troubled biological family or an adoptive couple?
Q2. Where did you get the idea for the story from?
I used to be a barrister in an earlier life, and often worked with families in danger of losing their children into the care system. The courts were faced with desperate dilemmas and sometimes there was no obvious solution. I met very young fathers who cared deeply for their children; they could seem sidelined in the process so I wanted to portray the feelings of a schoolboy father. Also my sister has two children who are adopted, so it’s something I’ve thought about a lot.
Q3. How difficult was the book to write? When I first read the synopsis, I thought it sounded very emotional, and after reading the book, I wonder how hard it was for you to decide how you would end the book - did you always intend for it to end the way it did, and what research goes into writing a book like this?
Writing the book was an emotional experience at times, as I dived into the story and sometimes it seemed more real than real life! It was fun too though, as the characters were good company. I hadn’t decided how it would end when I began to write; it wasn’t until I came to know the characters well that I realised what the ending must be. I did hours of research, although a family law background helped. I’m a bit compulsive about double checking every last fact.
Q4. Did you base any of your characters on anyone or from personal experience? I see Jake is from New Zealand, where you now live, and David is a vicar and you grew up in vicarages!
No character is a person I know – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! But I drew on personal experiences. Jake is a New Zealander who has lived in England most of his adult life, and so is my husband. They have lots in common – they would probably get on if they met – but they aren’t the same person. My father is a vicar and the tiny curate’s house in Birmingham, where David and Leila live, is very familiar. So is the general craziness of vicarage life!
Q5. I see that before becoming an author, you were a barrister. What prompted your career change, and do you enjoy being an author?
I worked for twelve years out of York and Newcastle in criminal and family law. My husband was full-time house husband and everything seemed to be going to plan. Then one day it dawned on us that our three children barely knew me. They still remember their mother as “a posh woman in black who ran in and out of the house shouting, and sometimes read us stories”. It was time for a change, and as I’d always wanted to write the answer seemed obvious. We moved to New Zealand where the cost of living is lower, settled in a tiny farming community in Hawke’s Bay and weathered the culture shock.
I love being an author and sometimes have to pinch myself, though it’s much harder work than I ever imagined!
Q6. What inspires you to write?
Ever since I could hold a pen, a blank page has been irresistible to me. As a child I used to scribble appalling poetry and melodramatic stories all the time. I still have this compulsion to weave stories, and once I begin it’s hard to stop.
Q7. Who/what are some of your favourite authors/books?
Hard to know where to start! The authors I read when I need a friend are Molly Keane (especially Good Behaviour), Bill Bryson and Daphne Du Maurier.
Q8. Are you working on a second novel? If so, can you tell us something about it?
I am. It’s the story of an English family who emigrate to New Zealand to escape from debt and depression. They find a house on the isolated and lovely east coast. At first everything seems idyllic. Then things begin to go horribly wrong …
Q9. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Be patient. Take time to let the story ferment. Write, rewrite and then rewrite again. Don’t be afraid to use that delete button. Look for a good agent, and be prepared to listen to their advice. Good luck!
Thank you so much, Charity!