Thursday 27 July 2017

My author in the spotlight is...Annemarie Neary

I am delighted to welcome back to the blog, the author, Annemarie Neary on publication day of her latest novel, The Orphans 

Welcome back to Jaffareadstoo, Annemarie and thank you for spending time with us today

What inspired you to write The Orphans and how many rough drafts did it take before you were happy with the story?

The Orphans opens when the parents of two young children vanish on a Goa beach. Years ago, a friend told me about a woman she’d come across whose parents had vanished in similar circumstances. According to the story, the woman had fared OK, but her brother had floundered. Something about that floundering brother stayed with me. Years later, I was walking across the Common where I live in South London when I noticed a tall, very pale, young man standing by the side of the road. He was wearing a hi-vis vest that looked much too big for him and was staring fixedly at the parents and children leaving the school opposite. Right away, I had a character and the story went from there. I think I had about seven or eight drafts.

The Orphans explores the concept of abandonment. How did you research this and were you surprised by anything you discovered?

I focused on trying to get inside the characters. I did do some research, case studies and the like, but really I think you have to imagine the emotional impact from the inside out. You need to put yourself into the position of those children and the adults they might become. In the case of Jess, I suppose I worked backwards. I selected a risk-averse, cautious woman whose life choices have been built upon the desire to neutralise chance. I think there are a lot of people who try to control life like that, who are fearful, and I thought Jess might well have been similar. What I did research, however, was the particular psychology of her younger brother, Sparrow (Ro). I hope he’s convincing! 

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?

I wanted Jess to be able to change over the course of the book. I knew she would have to move out from behind her defences, though I wasn’t sure how that would play out. As for Ro, I was surprised at how attached I became to him, despite the terrible things he does.

How did you go about creating such a strong sense of time and place?

I’ve lived on a south London common for twenty years, so all it took was to keep my eyes and ears open. My previous novels have entailed much more location research – Berlin and Dublin during WW2, Belfast during the Troubles, an offshore Irish island in the recent past. The locations in my short stories are even more far-flung, ranging from Venice, Sarajevo, Algiers to entirely imaginary places. This is the first time I’ve had the luxury of just wandering across the road.

When you started writing The Orphans did you already know how the story would end?

No, I had no idea. When I started, all I had was those golden children on a Goa beach (and a strange young man twenty-odd years later in a high vis vest). 

And finally, what can we expect next from you?

I’m working on a suspense novel. It’s set overseas, at the shadowy margins of the oil industry, in a world of fixers and deal-makers, bluff and counter-bluff. Needless to say, my POV character finds herself seriously out of her depth.  It’s still early days, and I don’t want to jinx it, so I’d better just leave it at that.  

You can find out more about Annemarie and her writing on her website by clicking here

Follow on Twitter @AnnemarieNeary1

My thanks to the author for answering my questions about The Orphans so thoughtfully and also to Laura at Penguin Random House for my review copy of this book.

My thoughts about the book

July 27th 2017

The opening chapter of this thought-provoking novel really draws you into the story and sets the scene for what is to come. The idea that two young children can play happily on a sun drenched beach, only to have the realization dawn on them, particularly on the elder child, that their mother and father have quite simply disappeared, doesn't bear thinking about. What then follows, for both Jess and Ro (Sparrow), is their constant sense of searching, each taking a very different path, as they learn to cope, in their own very individual way, with such a devastating loss.

The Orphans is a story about family and of the ties that bind us together. It's about expectations and the dreams of securing a semblance of hope when dark shadows of the past continue to influence the future. In many ways, it's a deeply contemplative story, consisting of many layers, which when peeled back reveal more and more facets of the effects of abandonment, of loss and unresolved grief. Thoughtfully created, both Jess and Sparrow have been irreparably damaged by their childhood experiences. With thoughtful precision and clever writing, we learn what makes Jess and Sparrow act and react, and always, I think, regardless of the fact that we see them as adults, that there is always a sense of the abandoned child about them.

I can remember very vividly as a young child turning in a busy department store and not being able to see my mother, that heartrending lurch of the stomach and the overwhelming sense of panic that resulted when I searched and searched and couldn't find her. I remember being taken by the hand and led to a cluttered office where an appeal was made over the tinny PA system and the relief when my mother arrived filled with her own sense of panic.

To lose someone and never to find them is unimaginable, that constant feeling of searching must be so very difficult to accept. In The Orphans, the author fills this novel with that devastating and incomprehensible sense of loss and abandonment in a suspenseful story with all the fundamental principles of family at its heart. Beautifully written, cleverly crafted, and with a fine eye for detail, this is another great story by a talented writer.

The Orphans by Annemarie Neary is published by Hutchinson in eBook and hardback priced £14.99.

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