Truths I Never Told You is a story of story of motherhood and marriage. Can you tell us a bit more about the book?
1959: Grace is a young mother with four children under four. All she ever wanted was to have a family of her own, but there are thoughts Grace cannot share with anyone in the months after childbirth. Instead she pours her deepest fears into the pages of a notebook, hiding them where she knows husband Patrick will never look. When Grace falls pregnant again, she turns to her sister, Maryanne, for help.
1996: When Beth’s father, Patrick, is diagnosed with dementia, she and her siblings make the heart-wrenching decision to put him into care. As Beth is clearing the family home, she discovers a series of notes. Patrick’s children grew up believing their mother died in a car accident, but these notes suggest something much darker may be true.
What inspired this novel?
As with most of my novels, a seemingly disparate set of ideas lies beneath this story. I’ve wanted to write about post-natal depression for some time, but what’s held me back until now was that I couldn’t quite find the right concept through which to explore the subject. I’ve written about families before, but this time, I wanted to write about a larger set of siblings who had remained close into adulthood. I’d read some time ago about a particular referendum in Seattle that had stuck with me (I won’t say any more about that because…spoilers!). So all of these ideas floated around in the soup of ‘possible story fodder’ in my mind and then one day I heard a podcast about a particularly unique form of dementia. For whatever reason, that was the missing piece of the puzzle, because this story came together in a rush from there.
Can you tell us about your research process for this book?
I always start with reading broadly on a subject—my desk is usually buried under a diverse range of books for a few months during this phase! In the case of this story, I also listened to several hundred hours of oral history. I also put out a call for women who’d suffered from post-natal depression and who would be willing to sit for an interview with me. I had more offers of assistance than I could possibly have taken up, and in the end, I spoke with more than a dozen survivors of PND.
What do you hope the reader will take away from this book?
We live at a point in history where culture and society are changing rapidly. It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come just over a few short generations, but by the same token, we still have so far to go. I hope readers will finish this book grateful for the strides we’ve made towards equality, but also, thinking about how far we have to go. I also really hope they’ll be more mindful about how common and devastating post-natal depression can be.
What is something that has really influenced you as a writer?
A few years ago, I discovered that I could learn from every story I encounter, from musicals to podcasts to TV to conversations to movies to short stories and of course, other novels. Even books I read but don’t enjoy or leave finished have something to teach me. I want to grow as a storyteller– so if I approach every form of story with an open mind, I can learn so much. I feel like my writing has deepened exponentially since I came to this realisation.
What’s your daily writing routine like and what are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on another historical fiction novel at the moment, set during and immediately after the occupation of Poland during World War 2. And my daily writing routine isn’t so much a routine as a chaotic mess, unfortunately. Some days I’ll work for eighteen hours, other days I won’t do much more than go for a walk and daydream about how I can improve a scene! The one thing that’s consistent is that when I’m writing a first draft, I work round-the-clock until I reach the final scene. I try to get the basic idea out onto the page as quickly as I can, because I know my drafts are woeful and I can’t start the fun part – the refining and the editing – until I get the first draft done.