A MESSAGE FROM THE OTHER SIDE
Some writers hate being asked, ‘Where do your ideas come from?’ but to me it seems a reasonable question, even if it can be quite hard to answer. My new novel, A Message from the Other Side, was sparked into life by a dream (bear with me, I won’t describe the whole dream!). I was in a huge space furnished by bookcases and long tables covered with bric-a-brac, with tall windows through which sunshine gleamed, casting long panels of light on dusty floorboards. When I woke, I realised this was too good to let go, so began to develop the idea of an abandoned factory, converted into a warehouse selling second-hard furniture, books and china. I decided to adopt the old Spirella building in Letchworth, one of Hertfordshire’s garden cities. A long time ago I lived in Hitchin, the neighbouring small town, and remember walking round this impressive, but long-deserted place. Because of the story I was now writing, I ruthlessly transported it to the Highlands.
There was The Factory, then there was Gilbert, who (after a fashion) runs the business. He’s the eccentric, charming but unstable young man who becomes the catalyst for the central plot. He was based – loosely – on someone I once knew. He’s also the character who makes a habit of going missing.
I have a theory that authors are like old computers: however often you tried to make them write in Comic Sans (remember that?) or some other font, they always defaulted to Times New Roman, 12 point. Authors default to the themes and ideas that run relentlessly through their work, even when they might want to try something completely new. The vague, kindly vicar in Agatha Christie, the crisis of spiritual doubt in Graham Greene, the decaying country house in Jennifer Johnston – you could make your own list. With me, it’s missing people. I’m fascinated by the power of the missing person to affect those left behind, and even spoil their lives. So although I start out meaning to write a novel where all the characters stay where they’re put, I’ve not managed it yet. In Waiting for Lindsay it was a child, lost long ago; in David’s Sisters, a troublesome brother; in Tell Me Where You Are, the difficult middle sister; in The Treacle Well – no, it’s a spoiler if I give that one away!
My novels always have sisters at the centre, so this time I wanted to write about a pair of brothers who have no love between them. I’ve not left out the sisters though – Catherine and Helen do love each other and yet, living miles apart, don’t tell each other the whole truth. The plot springs from these emotions and secrets.
I also wanted to write a love story. I’ve been focused on families: siblings, cousins and parents, and the tensions between generations. This time I wanted the core of the novel to be love, and how difficult it can be to make marriage work, when you come to it older and with doubt and hesitation. Also, in Helen’s case, wilful blindness. We see what we want to see about the person we’re in love with. Besotted and optimistic, we can miss the signs of danger.
If I had to sum it up, I’d say it’s a novel about doing something absolutely terrible – and getting away with it. Getting away with it, and living the rest of your life with that knowledge, unable to share it with anyone else, even the person you love most.
A MESSAGE FROM THE OTHER SIDE
Published by Sandstone Press, £8.99, 20/07/17
Facebook: Moira Forsyth – Author
Buy Button for novel: http://sandstonepress.com/books/a-message-from-the-other-side