To coincide with the end of the Beneath the Shadows giveaway, Perth-based author Sara Foster herself has dropped by the blog to talk a bit about how it was writing Beneath the Shadows…(isn’t she gorge?)
Q: Sara, Beneath the Shadows is your second novel, after your debut Come Back to Me. Are you able to tell us
a bit about how you came to the idea behind Beneath the Shadows, and the experience of writing it?
The idea first came to me back in 2001, when I was going through a period of huge change in my life. I had decided that I was going to have to give up my publishing job, as I’d become stuck in a rut and had an exhausting four-hour commute. Plus I was beginning to realise how much I wanted to be a writer, but I had no idea where to start. The character of Grace came to me as this woman out of her depth, who was both fearful and determined, so I decided to put a lot of challenges into her life – a missing husband, a claustrophobic, mysterious village – and see how she coped with them.
Q: The story of Beneath the Shadows contains local village folklore and superstition. There’s a definite gothic feel to it – especially with the addition of the Wuthering Heights-style moors! What is it about snow and wind and moors and little villages that set the perfect backdrop for a mystery suspense story?
The landscape plays such an important role in this type of story, because the isolation, the alienation, and the aspects that appear hostile or threatening perfectly reflect the feelings of the characters themselves. I loved using different aspects of the moors to really bring this out.
Q: Grace, the story’s female protagonist, is spurred into action once she realises that both she and her daughter are in danger. Are you able to elaborate on what type of relationship they have, and how it relates to the story?
Grace’s daughter is fundamentally important to the story. Millie is Grace’s reason for living, and also is the catalyst for her courage in confronting her situation. Millie is also the most tangible link she has to her missing husband, Adam, whom she hasn’t been able to let go. I wrote the bulk of the story when my baby daughter was very young so I could really identify with what she might be feeling.
Q: If you had to choose, which is more important: great characterisation or great plot? Or does it depend on the book?
Well, ideally, both, but I think that when you have wonderful, original characters you can get away with some frailties of plot and still have a very memorable book, and I’m not so sure that would be the case the other way around.
Q: Are you a coffee, or a tea kinda gal? Do you have a drink of choice when you sit down to write, or do you have another routine writing habit you’re willing to share with us?
I like to go to a little café with a lovely view of the sea, and have a mineral water or an herbal tea, and then I set my laptop up and aim to lose myself in my writing. It helps when you don’t have an internet connection!
Q: You’re a fiction writer – are there any particular fiction genres you best enjoy reading, or which have most influenced your own writing?
I used to love police-procedural crime thrillers but I don’t read that genre so much any more. At the moment I like stories full of intrigue, whether quirky or true to life, with strong protagonists and character relationships. I’m a big fan of Maggie O’Farrell and Jodi Picoult.
Q: I noticed you’re working on a “love story by the sea” at the moment. Sounds ‘Undine-esque’! Are you able to tell us a bit more about that project? Any other big things in store for Sara Foster’s not-too-distant future?
Without giving too much away, I hope it will be a book about family, secrets, and passions – between the characters and for the sea. I can’t wait to get started on it. I’m also looking forward to Beneath the Shadows coming out in Germany and the USA next year.
We can’t wait for you to get started on it either, Sara!
If you’d like to learn more about Beneath the Shadows, Random House has a fabulous page set with book exclusives like bonus chapters, a look inside Grace’s house and even a short story with a secret revealed about one of the characters! Check it out here. Check out Sara’s website too, for everything Sara Foster-ish: http://www.sarafoster.com.au/