I am delighted to welcome back to Jaffareadstoo
Cath, thank you so much for coming back to us to chat about your latest novel
The Silence Between Breaths
Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for The Silence Between Breaths?
I was thinking about setting a novel on a plane, ship or train, inspired by some of the disaster stories that I loved to read when I was a teenager. I liked the idea of a closed environment, the company of strangers thrown together in dangerous circumstances. Quite soon I knew that a train would work best for the stories I wanted to tell about life in the UK at the moment, and about how our everyday, mundane and precious lives can be suddenly torn apart.
Without giving too much away – what can you tell us about the story?
Eight people board the same train carriage in Manchester, bound for London Euston. But among them is a terrorist carrying a bomb. The story is about what happens and how people respond to great danger and the aftermath of trauma.
Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. How did you feel about them when the book was finished? Did they turn out as expected?
Because I was writing with a large number of viewpoints, nine in all, it was really important that I knew the characters inside out, and that they were distinct from each other on the page. I spent a lot of time creating them and getting to know them before I started writing the novel itself. They did turn out as I’d imagined but their fates weren’t always what I thought they might be at the beginning. The characters are still very clear in my head, as if they are real people who I know well – and I guess I did spend months in their company.
Your writing is very atmospheric – how do you ‘set the scene’ in your novels and how much research did you need to do in order to bring The Silence Between Breaths to life?
Thank you. I did a lot of research on that train route, making notes about the journey and thinking about where people would sit and how they would begin to interact. I also researched a particular location which I’ll not name (no spoilers) but which gave me some great ideas for scenes. Most of the rest was really understanding the characters and imagining how they would feel.
When do you find the time to write, and do you have a favourite place to do your writing?
Writing is how I earn a living so I do it everyday and treat it like a job (albeit a very pleasurable one). I write in an armchair looking out of a window, in longhand, and then type up my work on the computer in my workroom.
Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?
Yes, The Girl in the Green Dress comes out in September. It’s about a hate crime, the murder of a transgender teenager at her sixth form prom and the fight to get justice for her and her family.
Huge thanks to Cath for spending time on the blog today and for giving us such a special insight into the writing of The Silence Between Breaths
You can find out more about Cath and her writing on her website
or follow on Twitter @cathstaincliffe #TheSilenceBetweenBreaths
Jaffa and I recently read The Silence Between Breaths - these are our thoughts..
I think that anyone who travels on public transport these days can't help but have a heightened awareness of their surroundings. The Silence Between Breaths shows just how ordinary lives can be stripped bare, with lives lost and irretrievably ruined by a moment of madness.
As the 10.35 train from Manchester Piccadilly starts its fateful journey to London Euston we are introduced to those passengers whose life stories will resonate throughout the book. They're just ordinary people going about their ordinary lives. Some are leaving behind worries, whilst others are taking their worries with them. They all have hopes and dreams. They all have plans for the future, a perfect job, a wedding, an interview, a last holiday by the seaside. Simple pleasures which make us feel human and alive.
Nine very different viewpoints come together and coalesce, with stories that cleverly overlap and intertwine, and which show not just the effect of the journey on the travelers who will ultimately be caught up in the disaster, but also the jitteriness of the bitter young man whose ideology will bring utter devastation to the west coast rail line.
I was utterly engaged by this story from the very beginning, not just because, this is one of those scenarios, which God forbid will ever happen, but because the author has written the story so beautifully that you can't help but be emotionally involved with all the characters. I had my favourites as I am sure other readers will have, but I also had immense sympathy for thirteen year old Kulsoom, who acted so responsibly, and the wonderful, Naz, who tried so hard.
Powerful, heartbreaking, devastatingly sad, The Silence Between Breaths is written with great insight by an author who knows how to hold the reader in the palm of her hand.
Holly, Jeff, Nick, Meg, Caroline, Rhona, Naz, Kulsoom.... and Bob, their stories will stay with me for a long, long, time.
Best read with...Bitter coffee, from a paper cup...scalding hot..