Culture Street

 

We want to tell everyone about our Book of the Week,†Second Chances by Charity Norman. Mothers will put themselves in Martha's shoes as she walks the tightrope of parenting.

We are delighted that the lovely author, Charity Norman, agreed to an interview.

UK front cover. Released in December. Not long now!

Martha and her family moved from the UK to New Zealand. A move you have also made. How did your experience help with writing the book?

I relived it in countless small details Ė remembering what itís like to uproot your children, pack up your life, say a hundred goodbyes, feel the wheels of your plane finally leave the ground. I knew many immigrants in Britain but until we did it ourselves I didnít fully understand what a massive experience it would be. All of our family battled to some degree with feelings of bereavement and homesickness. I hope this enabled me to describe Marthaís move with more compassion.

I was also able to draw upon my first impressions of this magical country Ė the things that baffled, delighted, dazzled and Ė yes Ė annoyed me; and the growing certainty that we had done the right thing, and this could be our home.

As a barrister you specialised in crime and family law. Have you drawn on your knowledge of the law and families in crisis?

Oh, yes. Very much so. When Martha is at her small sonís bedside in hospital she finds herself at the centre of a child protection investigation - a parentsí nightmare. Over the years Iíve acted in many, many cases where non-accidental injury was suspected, so the McNamara familyís situation was horribly familiar to me. This helped me describe the social workerís motivations as well as the parentsí defensiveness and terror. Martha harbours some shattering secrets, but she isnít a bad mother Ė well, no more so than many of us.† ††

What got you started (with writing)?

For as long as I can remember, the sight of a blank page has made me want to scribble words on it. Iím a cousin of Virginia Woolf, but I canít pretend she was my greatest inspiration as a child. I was far more interested in the Bronte sisters. Like them, I was a vicarís daughter living in Yorkshire and I used to idolise them. Iíd drift soulfully around, making up terrible poetry. One day a nun in York Minster found me sitting on the floor, writing a poem about the glorious Rose window. I no longer have the poem Ė thank goodness, because Iím certain it was appalling. The kind nun showed an interest, and it subsequently appeared in a Minster magazine. So that was my first published work.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Rewrite, rewrite and rewrite again. Never be afraid to hit that delete button. Listen to informed criticism Ė theyíve probably got a point. We are all of us learning, all the time. Above all, keep writing.

Whatís your greatest ambition?

Hmm, thatís so tricky Ö Well, when Iím sitting in my bath chair at the age of ninety-five (wildly optimistic, I know), I want to be able to look back on my life and feel that I used my time well. And if Iím very, very lucky, Iíll be smiling at the memories.

 

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