They say every family has skeletons in their closet… but what happens when you open the door and they won’t stop tumbling out?
For Adam and Beth the first secret wasn’t the last, it was just the beginning.
You think you can imagine the worst thing that could happen to your family, but there are some secrets that change everything.
And then the question is, how can you piece together a future when your past is being rewritten?
I’m delighted today to be part of the blog tour for You, Me & Other People by Fionnuala Kearney – thanks to Jaime for including me. This is Fionnuala’s first novel (although you’d never know it), available for Kindle since February and published in paperback by Harper on 18th June. You’ll find my thoughts further down the page, but first – it’s lovely to be able to welcome Fionnuala to Being Anne for a chat…
I really loved You, Me and Other People – I found it quite mesmerising. Where did the idea of it come from?
Thank you! The character of Beth came to me almost fully formed and I knew instantly that this woman would go through a marital betrayal. We are, alas, surrounded by relationship break-ups and I think the theme of love and loss is universal, something that so many readers resonate with. I also knew fairly straight away that although Adam would be the ‘wrong-doer’, I wanted readers to hear from him too. With that as the initial idea, I started to write and the story flowed from there.
It’s such accomplished writing that it’s easy to forget it’s your first novel. Had you always wanted to write? And what gave you the impetus to start?
Gosh, again, thank you! I have wanted to write from the time I could hold a pencil. When I discovered I could make up stories and write them with said pencil, I was delighted! Fast forward to later school and English was my passion. Reading, writing – anything to do with the written word. In my leisure time, I devoured Maeve Binchy novels and later Marian Keyes. I scribbled short stories (bad ones) on A4 sheets of paper. I dreamed of writing a novel one day.
Earning a living and being a young mother meant such dreams went on hold until about eight years ago I was in the lucky position of being able to give up work. It was time to see if the dream could be realised…I armed myself with ‘how to write’ books, joined internet forums with other like-minded wannabe writers and started what was a long, sometimes difficult, but hugely rewarding apprenticeship.
Did you have the whole book plotted out from outset – or did the characters sometimes surprise you?
I am such a ‘pantser’ meaning I fly by the seat of my pants! That said, I’ve had to learn to plot more because I have over the years written myself into too many holes. I think I’m a happy mix now. I like to know where the book is going, who is doing what, when and where but I also like to give the characters the space to grow organically. Very often, they are the ones to tell you which direction to go in, which was certainly the case for Beth and Adam. I use an enormous white board on the wall in my office for ‘plotting’ (though I still use the word rather loosely☺)
What was the hardest part of producing the book?
Probably the amount of times I have to read it through! By the time I have an edition that’s publishable, I reckon I can recite most of it!
Why did you make Beth a songwriter? It just seemed an unusual choice…
Part of my writing journey was spent with me having a stint as a lyricist. Alas, unlike Beth, I never made it big, but I did have a few minor successes. Writers are best, I think, when they ‘write what they know’ and in Beth’s case, I could relate to the creative process of writing lyrics and filter it through to her. I also felt it was an unusual role for a protagonist to have!
I really liked Adam – not so much at the start, but I really felt for him as the book progressed. If I say I sometimes liked him more than I liked Beth, would that surprise you – or did you want the reader to feel that way?
It doesn’t surprise me, no. Nor would I say that your reaction is common! I wanted people, in seeing Adam’s part of the story through his eyes, have a better understanding of him at the end of the novel. Like him or hate him, but maybe ‘get him’ a bit more. I’m glad you felt that way…
If it was made into a film, who could you see playing Adam and Beth?
Ah, a journalist asked me this yesterday and my original dream casting for Adam has now changed. Originally, I always dreamt of Liam Neeson, who I love as an actor, but… Yesterday, this lady suggested Tom Hardy and to be honest, I’m melting at the very idea. He’d be good, methinks? Beth has, in my head, always been Jennifer Connelly. I live in hope of Hollywood calling.
Will your life change now you’re a published author?
Well, I’m certainly busier! I have very little free time now but no complaints here. This is my dream job and I am getting to do it, to live the life of a working writer. I can’t see many other real changes. I do have a silly grin on my face nowadays when someone asks me what I do.
Who are your favourite authors – the ones you think “I wish I could write like…”?
Maggie O’Farrell would probably top that list. I love her writing, poignant and descriptive yet so easy on the eye and ear. I love anything she does. Khaled Hosseini is another. As a male writer, he gets into the heads of female protagonists so brilliantly.
And so, your next book – what are you writing, and when can we expect to read it?
My next book is still a work in progress, although I am nearing completion on it. I don’t have a title for it yet, but I can say it does explore similar themes of love and loss. Love in all its guises; unconditional, intimate, platonic and the loss of any or all. In the first few pages the reader learns of the potential devastating loss of one of the main characters Jess’s only child…It asks the question do we ever really know our children and do we ever really know ourselves? I’m really excited about it.
WARNING: You’ll need tissues!
Lovely to meet you Fionnuala – and I’ll put those tissues on my shopping list now, just so I’ll be prepared…!
I thoroughly enjoyed this book – the story of a couple whose marriage is breaking down, their pain as they try to move on with their lives and the secrets hidden over the years. As it begins, Beth is seeing a therapist (these scenes are wonderfully written), coming to terms with Adam’s betrayal, trying to rebuild her life. She has supportive friends, and a mother who cares deeply but believes nothing heals like a good manicure: her daughter Meg shares her hurt and anger.
At outset, you won’t think much of Adam either – I certainly didn’t. He’s really, really selfish – he doesn’t wants to stop sowing his wild oats, but even as he continues to do so really can’t see why his actions can’t be forgiven. The secrets he’s kept through the years start to surface, affecting everyone around him – and we realise he’s really only human and that imperfect humans make mistakes that can perhaps be forgiven.
It’s a wonderful read, real people feeling emotions that you feel with them – you cringe as Adam makes himself increasingly unforgivable, cheer for Beth when things start to go right, and other parts of the story will make you cry. This is an immensely accomplished first novel, a totally mesmerising and absorbing read – I can’t wait for her next.
My thanks to netgalley and publishers Harper for my advance reading e-copy.
Fionnuala discovered, age six, that she had in fact been christened Ann (that’s Ann with no ‘e’) and that her parents had decided, for some reason, to saddle her with a life of dealing with unnecessary vowels. At twenty she moved to London and marrying Mr. Kearney proved to be the best thing she ever did, apart from the fact that the vowel thing escalated further. Two daughters, both with deliberately simple mono syllabic names followed.
She worked, for many years, in London as a home search agent (like Phil and Kirstie without the cameras) until she decided, one fateful day, that it was time for a change – time to pursue the dream of being a writer.
Seven years on; time spent in her garret learning her craft, she is often found talking to herself with yellow ‘post its’ stuck to her forehead. She likes to write about relationships: couples, a mother and child, siblings, best friends… She likes to peel away the layers and see what’s going on beneath and then tell you all about it.
Follow Fionnuala on Twitter, or follow her author page on Facebook: she also has a lovely new website.