I am so pleased to welcome Sarah Painter to the blog today. I loved Sarah’s last book In The Light of What We See and have really enjoyed her latest, Beneath The Water, which is published today. Happy publication day Sarah!
Before we move on to the spotlight feature, here are my thoughts on the book. I really enjoyed this story about secrets in the past and present. Sarah Painter created a great sense of place in the village of Arisaig with the cold and wet weather adding to the atmosphere of the book, creating a sense of claustrophobia in this small place where everyone knows everyone. A close knit community, rumours abound and grow and spread so quickly.
I particularly liked Stella. It was interesting to see how the heart condition she had as a child still affected her decision making, how sometimes she settled for ‘good enough’ in case good enough was all she had time to experience. Throughout the book she really developed as a character and became more confident in standing up for what she wanted and believed in. She began to trust in the strength of her body and began to recognise that she deserved to be valued and loved.
The letters at the beginning of the chapters were very intriguing, letters from Jessie Lockhart in 19th century Edinburgh, telling her sister of the early days of her marriage. Set amidst a time of great medical advances, there is a link to the present day where Jamie, the current owner of Munro House, is also looking to make his own kind of medical breakthrough. I would perhaps have liked there to have been more about Jessie and her husband and especially about how her letters ended up in Munro House. I don’t mean that in a negative way, more that this part of the story was so clearly well researched and really piqued my interest.
I also very much enjoyed the romantic element to the story and the rather dramatic conclusion to the book. Overall, a very compelling read.
And now time to find out more about Sarah. First of all Sarah, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
Sure! I live in a small village in Fife with my two children, husband and a grey tabby cat called Zelda Kitzgerald. I’m lucky enough to write fulltime, and I also run a monthly podcast called The Worried Writer in which I interview other authors and discuss tips for overcoming fear, self-doubt and procrastination.
What inspired you to start writing?
I have always been an avid reader and I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first ‘book’ aged around seven. It was about a magical cat and I used rainbow-coloured A4 lined paper, so I had a keen sense of the importance of good stationery even then!
Tell me about your journey to publication
I wrote my first (terrible!) book in an hour a day while mothering two pre-schoolers and running my own business. I received some encouraging rejections from agents and wrote another, slightly better book. I landed my first agent with that one and then gathered rejections from publishers. Then I wrote another book which my agent wasn’t keen on, almost gave up, did a masters in creative writing at St Andrews University, parted company with my agent, wrote my fourth novel, landed Agent Fabulous (AKA Sallyanne Sweeney), rewrote that book with her guidance and, finally, signed a two-book deal with Carina. Phew!
In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?
Beneath The Water is set in both Arisaig on the west coast of Scotland in the present day and amidst the medical community of Edinburgh in 1847. Stella Jackson is broken-hearted after her finance leaves, and she runs away to Scotland to stay with her best friend, but she ends up working for the mysterious Jamie Munro. It’s a gothic love story set in a stunning part of the world with a historical strand which explores the background to some of the medical breakthroughs we take for granted today such as obstetric anaesthesia.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
I honestly gave it no thought whatsoever, which sounds awful, I know. It simply dropped into my mind one day and I thought it was perfect. I used it as my ‘working title’, never expecting it to remain (all of my previous book titles have been changed by the publisher) but, to my great surprise, Lake Union loved it, too!
How do you plan to celebrate publication day?
I’m writing this a couple of weeks before publication day and, if it’s anything like previous publication days, I will spend all day on social media chatting to lovely folk. One of the nicest things about being a writer is the fantastic, supportive community of readers, writers and bloggers. I will also probably have a glass (or two) of Prosecco. I mean, that’s mandatory, isn’t it?
Do you have a work in progress just now?
Always! I’m writing a fast-paced urban fantasy which is pure fun, and makes a nice change from the more weighty emotional arcs and historical research of Beneath The Water. My next idea is historical and psychological again, though, so it’s not a genre I’m ‘done’ with. I just love writing different things and following my mood and inspiration (or, as some people might put it, my obsessions!).
What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!
Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner with the wonderful DI Manon Bradshaw, Alice Hoffman’s The Rules of Magic, and How To Stop Time by Matt Haig.
What are you reading just now?
It’s January, 2018, and I’m racing through Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and it’s funny, moving, and just as brilliant as everyone says it is!
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
One of the many things I love about reading (and writing) novels is that you get to live hundreds of different lives, all in perfect safety and comfort. For that reason, I’d probably choose to be a minor character in Harry Potter so that I could attend Hogwarts but stay out of the drama and danger!