1. How did you feel when you were nominated for the Wales Book of the Year Award?
It was a strange feeling, The Memory was published around the first week of the first lockdown and, I felt, became subsumed in all the disruption and anxiety of the pandemic. So, when I first heard that the book was being nominated, it was a complete surprise. Naturally I was also thrilled, because The Memory is so different from my other novels, which are all historical family sagas. And I wasn’t sure how it would be received by readers. To be recognised by Literature Wales for the Wales Book of the Year Award 2021, The Rhys Davies Trust Fiction Award, was a great accolade for me.
2. What made you want to write the Memory?
I believe we are all affected by our pasts; experiences that shape our present and future. And, as writers, memories feed our stories. Families fascinate me: the love, the loyalties, the rivalry, the complex relationships. Layers that are in all families. The casual acceptance of one another in a family can bring the best and the worst out in all of us, so there is a wealth of human emotions to work with. This is how The Memory evolved. Some of the background comes from a time when I was a carer for my aunt who lived with us. She developed dementia and I kept a journal so we could talk about what we’d done each day. Many years after she’d died, those memories crept into The Memory. And then there are memories from my childhood, when I had a friend who was a Downs Syndrome child. The affection she gave, the happiness that seemed to surround her, is something I remembered long after she died of heart failure at the age of eleven. And I wanted that love to be a huge part of the book, a main theme. Fundamentally it’s the story of a secret that is never discussed within a family, but which has had a profound lifelong effect on the relationship between the mother and daughter. The Memory is sometimes poignant, sometimes sad, but is threaded throughout with humour.
3. What would your words of advice be for aspiring writers?
The way you see the world is different from anyone else, so write from your heart. If you don’t feel the emotions as you put the words on the paper or screen, no reader will feel them either. Basically, your job is to write the story in the best way you can; you will know if you have. And then accept that not everyone is going to like your work; just understand that every reader will have a subjective opinion of your book.