Hello Reading Friends!
I’m delighted to share the next in my series of author Heart-to-Hearts💗 that focus on women’s issue-led fiction. This month I’m thrilled to introduce New Zealand based author, Charity Norman. Charity has had not one but TWO of her novels selected as BBC Radio 2’s Book Club choices and her work is regularly described as brilliant book club fiction – exactly the kind of novels that Heart-to-Heart💗 readers love. So, let’s get started…
Welcome to an author Heart-to-Heart💗, Charity and as we get comfy would you like to share a little about yourself?
Thank you so much for inviting me along!
A little bit about myself … well, I’m the youngest of seven children, born in Uganda where my parents were missionaries (it’s a long story), raised in North Yorkshire and inner-city Birmingham. My parents had an open door to whoever arrived at our house, day or night, so while growing up I met a lot of people in crisis.
I’m a distant cousin of Virginia Woolf, but my childhood passion was Richard Adams’ Watership Down. I have a signed copy; my brother queued in the rain to get it. I was also obsessed with the Brontë sisters, another Yorkshire vicarage family. I hated school, so reading was my lifeline. My childhood ambition was to be a novelist, but first I spent some years travelling and working overseas, followed by fifteen more practising as a criminal and family barrister in York and Newcastle chambers. I met my husband, a New Zealander, in the Sahara. We moved here to New Zealand when our three children were quite small, and that’s when I finally began to write books.
I have three eccentric cats and am lucky enough to sing with a cathedral choir. In spare moments I love walking by the river, reading with a cup of coffee or glass of wine, hanging out with my (now adult) children and fish-and-chips on the beach.
Cats, walking, coffee, wine, family, fish and chips on the beach – we’re definitely going to get along.You write in my favourite genre, contemporary issue-driven family drama, and readers would love to hear more about your books and writing…
I find them difficult to categorise, so thank you for your help with that! They’re all quite different, exploring the chaos and colour of human life – from addiction to manslaughter to gender dysphoria, teenage parenthood to a doomsday cult. I’m fascinated by people’s stories, by what makes them tick. I draw on my background as a criminal and family barrister and mediator, and a volunteer telephone crisis listener, as well as more personal experiences. In the end, though, I’m just trying to tell a good story.
It’s always fantastic to discover an author has a tempting backlist! But let’s focus on your latest release. What inspired you to write The Secrets of Strangers? And what do readers love about the story?
The central action takes place in one day: a siege in a London café –the bystanders caught up in it, the police negotiator, the young gunman.
I used to live in Napier, a quiet seaside town. In 2009 a man called Jan Molenaar shot and – tragically – killed a police officer before barricading himself alone into his home. We own the house next door, and had chatted to Jan. Our place was taken over by armed defenders; later, we had to fix dozens of bullet holes in the walls and windows. For days, the town held its breath while negotiators tried to persuade Jan to give himself up. I remember the sound of the final shot, when he took his own life. I think he felt he had no other choice.
Years later I was in a café, telling this story to a friend, when it occurred to me that I didn’t know anything about the people around me. Any one of them might be at the end of their tether, might be about to do something catastrophic. That was when the idea came to me.
Although it’s often described as a thriller, the story is character-driven. Perhaps the most frequent comment is from readers who love Mutesi, a Rwandan nurse who escaped the genocide.
Mutesi is a fantastic character, but gosh, what a terrifying experience for your family!…The Secrets of Strangers was one of my favourite novels of last year but, when you find time to chill, which authors do you enjoy?
There are so many brilliant contemporary writers, but when the world seems upside-down I often go back to the classics. I keep audiobooks of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre and others in my car; they’re my happy place, as is the world of P G Wodehouse. The 20th Century Irish writer Molly Keane is one of my heroines, especially her stunning novel Good Behaviour. Daphne Du Maurier is another: terrific storytelling, vivid but never self-conscious. I literally laugh myself to tears over Bill Bryson’s travel writing, and am always keen to read the next John Grisham. I read a wide range of non-fiction, for research or pleasure.
Can you tell us a little about what’s next?
I’ve just sent a draft to my editor, so am waiting with bitten fingernails! In this story, a woman returns to her childhood home under the Ruahine mountains in New Zealand, to care for her father who has Alzheimer’s. As his mind melts, she begins to glimpse appalling secrets. Perhaps some truths are best left buried?
Please save your finger nails! It sounds like another book club hit and I’m sure Heart-to-Heart💗 readers are looking forward to taking a literary trip to New Zealand. Thanks so much for making time to chat.
To discover more about Charity and her writing just follow the links below, but in the meantime, stay safe and happy reading!
The Secrets of Strangers is available in e-book, audiobook and paperback: An Amazon link to Charity’s author page: http://bit.ly/CNormanAuthorPage
And/or to support independent bookshops: https://uk.bookshop.org/shop/charitynorman
Follow Charity on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CharityNormanAuthor
Follow Charity on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CharityNorman1