Monday 31 July 2017

Blog Tour ~ This Beautiful Life by Katie Marsh

 Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on This Beautiful Life Blog Tour

It gives me great pleasure to welcome the author Katie Marsh 

Hi Katie, what can you tell us about This Beautiful Life without giving too much away?

The book is the story of Abi, who has just survived cancer when the book starts. It opens with the letter she writes to her husband John and son Seb just after being diagnosed, and then picks up a year later, when she is told she is in remission. After a year of treatment she is excited about her second chance. However, while she’s been ill her husband has made some questionable decisions, and her son is just starting to face up to a secret of his own. The novel follows the three of them in the year after she is declared cancer-free, and it’s all set to the music on her survival playlist.

Abi is the main protagonist of This Beautiful Life. Tell us about her and why you decided to tell her story?

Before she is diagnosed, Abi is warm, funny and confident - someone who dances until dawn and who loves her family with her whole heart. However the year of treatment really shatters her confidence – she doesn’t trust her own body any more – and she struggles to deal with the secrets that come out as her and her family ride the shockwaves of her diagnosis and treatment. I thought of the premise for this book – what happens after cancer? - a long time ago, but was spurred on to write it when some friends got diagnosed with cancer in their 30’s. Their bravery was incredible, but they and their families were all left with changed perspectives on life and on themselves – and not always in the way I might have expected.

In this novel, Abi is in remission from cancer, in researching the book did you discover anything which surprised you?

I spoke to a lot of cancer survivors while researching this book, and I was constantly surprised by what they told me. The main thing was that before talking to them I had assumed that everyone who survives cancer rushes into their second chance with huge smiles on their faces, but it simply wasn’t the case. All of them knew they were lucky to be alive, but some were far more cautious and fearful than they had been before, going to the GP for the slightest chill or waking up at night to check if they had any new lumps or bumps to worry about. That was what I wanted to write about – the gulf between trusting your own body and not, and between confidence and the lack of it – the seismic change that having cancer creates in a life, both in the person who has the disease and also on those around them.

Throughout the novel, Abi has a survival playlist – did you choose the music to suit the words, or did the words suit the music, and which came easier – words or music?

Choosing the songs to set the book to was by far the hardest part of writing it. At one point I had three hundred potential songs on my wall, and I had to be utterly brutal to get it down to twelve. Abi lives her whole life to music – she is always singing or turning up the radio -  but she chooses her survival playlist entirely to remind her of the people in her life who really matter – the people she has to fight for: Vivaldi for her dad; Queen for her husband; Daft Punk for her son and George Michael for her best friend. Once I had spent several agonizing nights of the soul picking the tracks, writing the accompanying sleeve notes was an absolute breeze.

Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. Do they ever dictate how the story progresses or do you stick with a writing plan from the beginning and never deviate?

I always have a very clear idea of the premise, of where a story will start, and of the characters who will play their parts in a book. However, I never really know where a book is going to end – I like to find my way alongside my characters. The ending I thought I might be heading towards in This Beautiful Life isn’t the one in the final version, and so –yes – the characters led me to it. When I’m researching and planning a book, I tend to think in emotional moments – my attic wall is covered with them – and I find my way between them as I write, rather than plotting things out in a more formal way.

Your style of writing is very much ‘from the heart’. Does this take its toll on you emotionally, and if so, how do you overcome it?

I live my whole life from the heart - my friends and family would confirm this I’m sure - my daughter is a familiar with the concept of my ‘happy crying’ as she is with fish fingers or Lego cards. I do get a huge writing hangover when I’ve finished a book and I go to ground for a few weeks before gradually coming back to life and resting enough to get into gear for my next book. I can’t move straight from one to another – there needs to be some downtime in between.

When I first started writing twelve years ago I almost tried to avoid my naturally heartfelt tendency and I didn’t connect with my stories in the way that I do now. As a result my first two novels weren’t published and it was only when I took the emotional gloves off – and learnt from writers that I love like Rowan Coleman or Patrick Ness – that my writing really took flight.

Again, without giving too much away, what do you hope readers will take away from This Beautiful Life?

I hope that readers will be moved, uplifted and will feel the need to run off and tell their friends and families how much they love them.

You can find out more about Katie here
Follow on Twitter @marshisms

Huge thanks to Katie for being my guest today and for her kind invitation to be part of her blog tour, and, of course, for sharing her lovely story with me. 

Thanks also to Emma at Hodder for her invitation to be part of the Blog Tour.


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