Sara Foster is the author of four suspense thrillers. Her latest, All That Is Lost Between Us, is a compelling novel about a young woman harbouring a secret from her family that leads to a dramatic turn of events she must struggle to control. Sara Foster talks to Better Reading about why she set her latest thriller in the English Lake District, parenthood, social media and why she loves to write psychological suspense novels.
Better Reading: Your fourth novel, All That Is Lost Between Us, is entirely set in the beautiful surrounds of the English Lake District. From your vivid descriptions it sounds like you know the area very well?
Sara Foster: I was born in Blackburn in Lancashire, which isn’t too far south of the Lake District, and we visited a few times when I was a child. However, it’s been thirty years since I lived there, so in 2013 I went on a research trip to reabsorb the feel of the place. Unfortunately I didn’t attempt to conquer any peaks as I was five months pregnant. Once back in Australia I watched Julia Bradbury’s BBC series Wainwright Walks while I was writing. It’s a very special part of England, and I loved learning more about the history of the area.
Better Reading: It’s a thriller that unusually involves lots of running – including fell running in the hills of the Lake District. What inspired this?
SF: Definitely not my abilities as a runner! To begin with, I had a scene from the 2011 film of Jane Eyre stuck in my head, when Jane runs across the English countryside to escape Thornfield and Rochester’s revelation. As soon as I came across fell-running during my research, Jane was swiftly replaced by my own teenage heroine, Georgia, who sprints over the wild landscape of the Lakes while trying to escape her own dangerous situation.
BR: Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different character, with Georgia’s mother Anya’s chapters in the first person. Was this a difficult narrative style to sustain throughout the novel?
SF: I enjoy working with different character perspectives so I loved writing from these four different points of view. Anya’s first person point of view happened naturally, and I love the effect it has of both isolating and highlighting her in the narrative. The trickiest part was the timeline – because if characters were doing things at the same time then it was potentially confusing for the reader. At a few points of tension in the novel, particularly towards the end, it was very hard to get the action to run on between the chapters.
SF: Yes, it is. My children are still young enough that we haven’t had to approach this topic yet, but when the time comes I’m really keen to impress upon them that while social media can be valuable in certain contexts, it can also overwhelm your life and has the potential to cause serious harm. A few people have asked how I plan to tackle this with my own children, and I think my answer is that I will try my best to fill their life up with other pursuits so they don’t have too much time to get distracted online. I’m sure they will have their own ideas about this, and it won’t be easy!
BR: All that Is Lost Between Us is your fourth novel and you also write short fiction. What is your preferred form?
SF: Novels. For me, they are a lot easier! And I say this with a wry smile, because novels are HARD! I find the focus of short stories a great challenge, and they can be very time-consuming. However, I also love the challenge of the short form, and in the future I would like to experiment more with it.
BR: How much of the parent/child relationships so skillfully depicted are drawn from your own experience as a parent?
SF: The depictions in the novel are an amalgam of my own experiences, observations and imagination. There’s a piece early on in one of Anya’s chapters when she says,
‘I didn’t realise how regularly your heart could be wrenched by giving them their freedom – the first time they sleep in their own room, or fall over, or go out on their own, or close their bedroom door on you. Each time this happened to me, I said goodbye to some part of my children, and to my power to control their world and keep them safe.’
I remember feeling this too at different stages of my young children’s lives, and it was something I hadn’t anticipated.
BR: You specialise in ‘psychological suspense’ fiction? What draws you to this genre?
I enjoy playing with tension, and the thrill of trying to keep a reader turning the pages. I also love getting deep inside my characters’ heads and discovering what makes them tick, and all the surprises they give me along the way. My aim is to write the kinds of stories I love to read – the ones I get lost inside, the ones I can’t bear to put down until they are finished.
BR: What writers do you enjoy reading?
SF: There are so many! Alice Walker, Liane Moriarty, Kate Morton, Maggie O’Farrell, Rosamund Lupton and Heather Gudenkauf, to name but a few. Closer to home in WA, my writing group of Annabel Smith, Amanda Curtin, Natasha Lester, Yvette Walker, Dawn Barker and Emma Chapman continually amaze me with their wonderful work.
BR: What are you currently reading?
SF: All These Perfect Strangers by Aoiffe Clifford. I’d heard lots of great buzz about this book and I’m finding it very hard to put down.