White Lies by Susan Barrett
Publisher: Create Space (August 30, 2016)
Category: Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction; Contemporary Fiction; Family Saga
Tour Date: April/May, 2017
Available in: Print & ebook, 164 Pages
The story is told from three perspectives: that of Beth, the natural mother of Tess, Liz, the adoptive mother, and Tess herself. The reader’s sympathy is engaged with each woman in turn, as the intricacies of the plot demonstrate how nature and nurture interplay in the formation of personality.
Beth is a guest at a wedding. The bride is Tess, her natural daughter, who’d been adopted as a baby. During the moments leading up to the marriage ceremony, Beth remembers the lifetime events that have led to her present state of sick fear. Recent revelations have made her suspect that the bridegroom is the first child she’d given up for adoption, and therefore Tess’s half-brother. Will she speak of this impediment to matrimony, as invited by the priest, or forever hold her peace?
White Lies gives the answer in a way that reveals the complexities of truth-telling in the context of parenthood and adoption. An entertaining page-turner, the novel also traces the social changes in family life over the last fifty years.
Praise for White Lies by Susan Barrett
“A beautifully written study of motherhood, loss and what makes us who we are. The characters are deftly drawn and the writer clearly knows her subject. The narrative is expertly woven and fast-paced, delivering pain and joy blow by blow. Sharp and incisive, heartbreaking and so relevant to today.”-Vanessa de Haan
“A beautifully written, sensitive, yet amusing, and intriguing, tale around a subject that is rarely covered in literature. A delight to read.”- Amazon Customer
“This is a gripping read. It is not only relevant to those who have been involved in adoption but to all of us. It raises questions about families, about the fragility and power of maternal bonds, about love and disappointment. It charts with particular accuracy the difficulties of the tangled web of secrecy and complication that was characteristic of adoption in the mid-twentieth century. It keeps you guessing to the very end!”-Sally Woods
“I’m looking forward to seeing how the book group I belong to find this. I was quickly gripped by it, feeling for the central characters, all of them very real. I partly wanted to read slowly to enjoy it, confident there would be a satisfying, un-folding, but partly wanted to race to find out what happened. Will enjoy reading it again.”-Amazon Customer
Interview With Susan Barrett
How much time and effort went into your research for the book?
I’m not one of those writers who spend a great deal of time and effort on research. I don’t write the sort of books that need to be firmly rooted in a historical period or a particular environment, outside and beyond the author’s immediate knowledge and experience. My material comes from my own lifetime’s experiences. That doesn’t mean my writing is autobiographical. Rather, what I’ve learnt, where I’ve been, who I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had – all raw material goes into the pot, gets cooked and forgotten, only to emerge, maybe years later, transformed to suit the fiction.
White Lies, in particular, is drawn from the first-hand experience of being an adoptive parent. My interest has always been in the interplay of nature and nurture in the development of personality. Also, I wanted to show the different perspectives of the triad, those of the natural and adoptive mothers and the adoptee. Another aspect I wanted to describe was the different attitudes to adoption, and the circumstances which lead to it, over the last fifty years.
What are you currently working on?
Before Christmas I began a new novel which I call “Greek Gold”. So far I have written the first three chapters, about 11,000 words of what is likely to be an 80,000 word novel. The previous novels I have written have all been around this length. The plot of “Greek Gold” is fairly well outlined in my mind but I know it will develop and change as I write. I find the fiction I write takes shape much in the way a river takes shape from the rivulets that appear at its source before they all come together in the main body of water. Unfortunately, the flow of this present novel had to stop in February with a visit to our son in New Zealand, followed by an emergency admission to hospital for me. Now I’ll be getting back to it, and I’m looking forward to that, in an apprehensive sort of way. Will the streams have dried up in the interim?
What is your favourite scene in the book? Why?
Using my memory as a prompt, I might have chosen a scene when Tess, now adult, remembers gathering greens with a local friend on the Greek island where she lived as a child with her adoptive parents. I like to recapture snippets from our own past to fictionalise as they need to be for the novel. However, riffling through the book, I came upon a more substantial scene, conjured entirely from my imagination. In this, Tess, the adopted daughter of Liz, meets her natural mother Beth in a café in London. This was a challenge to write. It’s hard to imagine what it must feel like to be adopted, as Tess was, or to have to give your baby up for adoption, as Beth had to.
I’d written the first section of the book from the point of view of Beth, so I felt I knew her well. Tess was more difficult. The scene lies near the beginning of her section, which is the final one. Still, she’d begun to gather substance in Liz’s section, and she was ready for the page. Now, looking back at the novel, I consider the three characters are drawn vividly and credibly enough to convince a reader of their fictional reality.
How do you create names for your characters?
Usually the names come easily when I conjure up the character. The factors that I take into account are their age, their background, the context of the time, and their parents. I ask myself – what would the parents of this character have wanted to call their child? That raises the question: do people become the sort of people who are called by that name? Another question to consider is: would this character have changed his name? A girl called Willow by her alternative life style-leaning parents might want to become much more ordinary as a schoolgirl by calling herself Ann. Vice versa, too.
A writer can convey a great deal about a character through their name and their attitude to it. The name Clyde comes to me now, as in this example of how a name can inspire an image:
Clyde is obviously an insurance salesman living in Columbus, Ohio. His hair is thinning but he can train a handful from low down on the right hand side of his scalp to the left. In the mirror this does the job. However, by peering at his reflection, he’s made two deep lines pucker between his eyebrows and the worry of that makes him worry even more. Yesterday, his boss, back at main office, made a remark about age in Clyde’s hearing.
Writing this answer, I’m reminded that I don’t always find names easy. In my present novel, “Greek Gold”, I’ve changed the main character’s name several times, and I’m still not entirely happy with it. He started as Denys, and then became Steve. Now he’s Alex. He’ll stay Alex for the next chapter and he may persuade me that he is an Alex.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from “White Lies”
There’s an actress who appears in television dramas over here, Olivia Colman, who would make a good adult Beth. She wouldn’t be able to play the teenage Beth, though. A more widely known American actress who could play the part would be Renee Zellweger.
If you could meet 3 people living, dead, or fictional, who would they be?
Barack Obama, for his gift for speaking and writing. I read his autobiography as soon as he became president.
Jane Austen, for her quiet modesty, wit, gentle satire, character descriptions, understanding of human nature and her writing style. Visiting her home in Chawton, you can feel her presence. I would love to have been a friend of hers, living round the corner.
My last person is Tess of “White Lies”. In my imagination, she is not a bit like my own daughter (by adoption). I had to forget Sophie when I thought up Tess. If I met her, I’d be able to ask her if I got her right. A strange idea, to ask a fictional character how real I’d made them!
Susan Barrett, March 15th 2017
About Susan Barrett
Born in Plymouth, Devon in 1938, Susan Barrett began writing fiction in the 1960s while living on a Greek island. Her first novel was published by Michael Joseph in 1969. Film rights were sold and renewed over several years. She went on to write six more novels which were published with mainstream publishers in hardback and paperback in UK and USA. A book on Greece’s landscapes, flora and fauna, illustrated in watercolours by her artist husband Peter Barrett, was published by Harrap Columbus in 1986. They have also produced many children’s books together, published in the US. In the 1990s she trained in humanistic counselling and gestalt psychotherapy and has practised as a counsellor for the last twenty years. Her latest two novels and a work of non-fiction are available as ebooks and in paperback editions.
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Giveaway White Lies by Susan Barrett
This giveaway is for 2 print copies and 6 ebook copies of ‘White Lies’, for a total of 8 winners. Print is open to Canada, UK, and the U.S. only however, ebook is open worldwide. This giveaway ends on June 1, 2017 at midnight pacific time. Entries are accepted via Rafflecopter only.
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