I recently had the opportunity to put some questions to Sarra Manning about her latest novel ‘House of Secrets’.
This novel is the split story of Zoe and her husband Win and the story of Libby a lady from the past. Zoe and Win move into a new home for a fresh start after a recent loss. Zoe finds a suitcase containing correspondences and keepsakes from the life of Libby, who has suffered the same loss as Zoe and Win. As Zoe continues to read about Libby’s life she sees optimism and hope as Libby finds happiness in her life once again. Zoe gathers strength from Libby’s story, a story that later makes a turn that could mean Libby loses the happiness she has found, however, there is a twist in the tale…..
Have you ever been to Australia or Tasmania? If so what are your impressions? If not what do you know about both places?
I haven’t been to either Australia or Tasmania but have links to both places. Like a lot of Brits, I have relatives who emigrated to Australia; one of my mother’s sisters settled in Melbourne and one of her daughters, my cousin Natasha, now lives in Tasmania with her family. Added to that, I have an aunt and uncle who live in London but spend our winter, your summer, in their house in the Blue Mountains, so they keep me up to date with sightings of my books in NSW!
Have you always wanted to be a writer? What have been your other career aspirations?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Have always written stories from when I was a child so I never contemplated or tried to be anything else. Having said that, I do wish I’d studied history for my degree because it’s a subject that I love and one of the reasons why I made the move into writing historical fiction in my last two novels.
This book House of Secrets uses the story of two women across time both suffering losses and demonstrating that the human experience is universal across time. What would you hope people take away from this novel?
In House Of Secrets, both Libby in 1936 and Zoe in the present day, have failed to carry a pregnancy to term, which leaves both of them devastated in so many ways; not just physically but emotionally too. I think this is a subject that is still quite a taboo, even though one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, so I would hope that any woman reading the book who might have experienced a similar loss would feel that they weren’t alone. And with every book I write, I hope my readers are entertained, lose some sleep because they want to read just one more chapter before they turn out the light and I do love it when I make people cry. Job done, as far as I’m concerned!
Do you have an epiphany when you know a novel is finished?
Not an epiphany so much as I can’t bear to look at it again! I hand in a third draft to my editor, then will do usually another two edits after that, plus copy edits and page proofs so by the time that’s all done, I am pleased to be finished with it. However, I never feel that a novel is truly finished. Without an editor breathing down my neck, I would rewrite, tweak and edit for all of eternity and still not be completely satisfied.
Is it difficult saying goodbye to your characters?
Although I still retain such fondness for a lot of my characters, as you can see from the process I’ve described above, I am kind of pleased to see the back of them. Also, I’m already thinking of the next book and the one after that and the one after that, so there’s always new characters to fall in love with.
Have you found a particular book or character has resonated more with your readers?
As far as my YA novels are concerned, people really love Edie the heroine of my series, Diary Of A Crush. Especially as it first started life in a British teen magazine called Just Seventeen (now defunct) so a lot of people grew up with her. With my adult novels, I think Neve’s story in You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, about a woman who loses half her body weight but can’t shed the person she used to be, really resonates with a lot of readers, who also seem to adore Max, Neve’s love interest.
House of Secrets is published by Hachette