Oh guys! Oh my word! I know, I know, it’s almost the end of March and I am posting about my favourite books in January and February only now! Mea culpa, really, but you know that life is a bitch, all the time getting in the way. I have so little time to read right now, moreover, not only have I a little time for it but I started to read so, soooo slowly – WHY??? OK. Whatever. Here are the two of my most favourite books this year and if you scroll down a little, there is also a Q&A with Alice Peterson – this lovely girl found some time in her tight schedule to answer my questions about one of the most special books in the world – “A Song for Tomorrow”. THANK YOU SO MUCH, Alice!
So let’s start with January. It was a really good bookish beginning to the year but there was one novel that made me laugh out loud, that made me cringe, that made me cheer the characters on and also made me feel inspired by the main character! It was “My Sweet Revenge” by Jane Fallon, a story that I’ll be getting back to many, many times – though I’d love to be able to read it for the first time over and over again! Here you can read my review.
So. And then there came February, bringing with one of my most anticipated releases this year. Alice Peterson belongs to my top favourite author but with “A Song for Tomorrow” she has overdone herself – this book is an absolute gem, a book like no other that turned me into a a weepy mess but that was also full of hope. Please, read my review of this heart – breaking novel here and if you haven’t read the book yet, do this immediately! Also, here is a link to my Alice Martineau’s favourite song “IF I FALL” – it’s is beautiful. The first things my daughter says when we get into the car is that she wants to hear the songs of this beautiful lady – she means Alice.
Q&A with Alice Peterson
- “A Song for Tomorrow” is a book full of incredible emotions – how hard was it to write this novel? To put all those feeling into words? To do Alice justice?
For each book I write, I put my heart and soul into all my characters, but this book is different in that my main character Alice is inspired by the singer Alice Martineau, who was born with Cystic Fibrosis (CF). In some ways, it was easier writing about Alice Martineau than a fictional character as I was able to talk to her family and friends, her boyfriend, her music manager, her vocal coach, her consultant, and people who live with CF, so I got to know Alice from every single perspective. I remember her father, David, saying to me with a twinkle in his eye, ‘you will know things about our Alice that I don’t know’. At times it was emotional writing the story because it was true. I found describing the mother’s point of view particularly poignant. I wanted to do Alice justice because she was a wonderful inspiring person but I also wanted to do her justice for her family and friends. I wanted them to feel the book truly celebrated her life and talent in the way she deserved.
- Alice is a true inspiration – did she inspire YOU in some ways?
Oh yes, in every way. CF is a genetic life-shortening condition that slowly, through repeated infections, destroys the lungs, but never once did Alice moan or feel sorry for herself that this was the pack of cards she’d been dealt. Nor was she some saint who sweetly put up with it. She was one of those people who turned her life experiences into something positive – which was her music. Alice also knew her time was short (life expectancy with CF in the 1990s was 31) so she lived life intensely – and by that I mean she threw herself into friendships and relationships. Clearly Alice had a huge heart and capacity to give, and people fell in love with her. Central to A Song for Tomorrow is the love story between her and Tom and this part of the book really inspired me. It made me realize the strength of having someone by your side. Alice’s success in becoming a signed recording artist with Sony (her album, Daydreams, was released in 2002) wasn’t only down to her own ambition – she was helped so much along the way with the unconditional love and support of her parents, her brother, her close friends and her boyfriend.
- Alice, what happened with Tom? I need to know – please, do tell us.
The lovely Tom has married and had children, but he remains close to Alice’s family. He still flies planes too!
- How much fiction and how much truth is in the story?
Alice in my book is very much Alice Martineau. I shall never forget Alice’s brother, Luke, reading the book for the first time and saying ‘Alice walks off the pages’. So, the heart of the book is true – Alice’s journey to become a singer when faced with the obstacles of living with CF. We also kept Alice’s medical condition, the love story and her family as close to the truth as possible. The surrounding characters, including the anti support group, are entirely fictional – as are many of the events that take place.
- I am sure there are many such inspirational people like Alice in the world – why did you choose to base your book on her and her story?
You’re right, there are many inspirational people out there, but as a writer you have to strongly identify with someone so this is why I chose to write about Alice. I read about her in a weekend magazine back in 2002. Immediately I was drawn to the headline: Alice Martineau – beautiful, talented and on a triple transplant list. There was a picture of a twenty-eight year old woman sitting on some garden steps attached to an oxygen machine. I admired Alice’s ambition to be a singer when she was attached to machines keeping her alive. I also connected to Alice’s courage when faced with overwhelming adversity since I too live with a chronic autoimmune condition. I understand the emotional and psychological impact an illness can have, not just on the individual but on an entire family. It’s their story just as much as Alice’s.
- Which of the books that you’ve written means most to you and why?
That’s a hard question! They all mean so much to me in different ways. If I had to choose, I’d say A Song for Tomorrow, just because it’s so closely based on truth, and I have greatly enjoyed working on the project with Alice’s family and friends. But By My Side is also close to my heart. And then there’s my own personal story, Another Alice – which is important to my family… Sorry, can I have three?
A Song for Tomorrow, Simon & Schuster, February 9 2017