Interview with Sara Foster
January probably isn’t the best time for a hike above Lake Windermere in the UK’s Lake District. In summer the view of the lake is to die for—a sapphire jewel shrouded in mist and emerald hills, quintessential Beatrix Potter country. Right now it is the perfect setting for a gripping psychological suspense, a suitable backdrop against which to discuss the exciting new novel from Australia’s Sara Foster, All That Is Lost Between Us.
RH: Sara Foster, welcome to your very own Lake District-inspired portion of Writers Block. It’s rather rugged. How do you feel about a gentle hike through the fells as we chat? I do have plenty of water, snacks and good reception on my mobile, and just in case we take a wrong turn I’ve left a route and time estimate with Callum Turner and his rescue crew. What do you think? Up for it?
SF: What a great idea! I’m always up for a country hike, especially in such a beautiful part of the world. Sounds like you are perfectly prepared, and I’m sure Callum and his mates will help us if we get lost.
RH: Great! I’m extremely grateful you didn’t suggest running… *sets off, backpacks secured, shoes laced, and a prayer she doesn’t get too breathless to talk*
RH: So let’s talk about this wonderful new novel of yours, All That Is Lost Between Us. It’s due for release in February and early reviews are glowing. It’s been described as ‘a gripping, tightly woven family drama’, ‘a tense thriller’ and ‘beautifully paced’, with one reviewer stating, ‘My attention was grabbed immediately…I could hardly put it down.’ Congratulations! It’s certainly a spellbinding read and I found it an incredible portrait of a family torn by secrets. Being busy with a new daughter, it’s been a little while since you released your previous novel Shallow Breath, so share with us how it feels to have another novel out and to receive such early praise.
SF: I’ve never had a book garner such early reviews before, and it’s been a very positive experience. I’m thrilled that readers seem to be feeling the story as much as I did when I was writing it. I didn’t realise I would feel so nervous about it coming out, but because there has been a few years’ gap between this one and my last novel Shallow Breath, I feel almost as nervous as first time around. I can only hope the great feedback continues!
RH: I’m absolutely certain it will!
About the Novel
Seventeen-year-old Georgia has a secret – one that is isolating her from everyone she loves. She is desperate to tell her best friend, but Sophia is ignoring her, and she doesn’t know why. And before she can find out, Sophia is left fighting for her life after a hit and run, with Georgia a traumatised witness.
As a school psychologist, Georgia’s mother Anya should be used to dealing with scared adolescents. However, it’s very different when the girl who needs help is your own child. Meanwhile, Georgia’s father is wracked with a guilt he can’t share; and when Zac, Georgia’s younger brother, stumbles on an unlikely truth, the family relationships really begin to unravel.
Georgia’s secret is about to go viral. And yet, it will be the stranger heading for the family home who will leave her running through the countryside into terrible danger. Can the Turner family rise above the lies they have told to betray or protect one another, in order to fight for what matters most of all?
Set against the stark, rugged beauty of England’s Lake District, All That is Lost Between Us is a timeless thriller with a modern twist.
Getting into Character
RH: All That Is Lost Between Us is a wonderful portrayal of the Turner family. Anya is struggling to hold her family together as they grow apart; Callum’s keeping his own secrets; Georgia is on the brink of womanhood and tortured by a secret she can’t share; and Zac, who has a crush on his cousin, is unwittingly drawn into Georgia’s secret.
RH: I found Georgia the most complex and compelling character (Zac is great too). I love the way you write teenagers—Maya in Shallow Breath is also a great study in teen angst—and how you show the relationships between teens and their mothers. Tell us a little about how you develop your characters and specifically how you’re able to get so far into the head of a teenager.
SF: I just listen and observe. I think teenagers have a lot to offer the world but that their time of life has become a bit of a cliché, which widens the divide between ‘them’ and ‘us’ adults, and it’s really important to support them as they grapple with their own issues and the complexity of the world. That said, I’m pretty sure I’m better at writing about teenagers than I am at talking to them!
RH: *laughs* That’s probably true of most of us. *offers Sara a bottle of water—hiking the fells in winter is amazingly hot work—and wonders if it’s too soon to break out a muesli snack* Would you ever consider writing a novel for young adults?
SF: It’s timely that you should ask about YA books, because I’m actually researching mother-daughter relationships for YA fiction for my PhD, and I will write a novel as part of that.
RH: Oh, fantastic. I must be clairvoyant *laughs at own joke*
Choosing Point of View
RH: In All That Is Lost Between Us each of the Turner’s relate their stories. Quite apart from the mystery surrounding Georgie’s secret and the hit-and-run on Sophie (and letting us speculate whether they’re related) you paint a searing portrait of a family in crisis, though few would realise that from the outside. Zac, Georgie and Callum are all told in third person; Anya’s is the only one in first person. Share with us a little about why you chose to tell the story through multiple points of view and why it was important to give the first person point of view to Anya. How and at what point in the writing process do you decide on point of view?
SF: Anya was written in first person from very early on. I was relieved when my publisher and editor liked this, because I have tried writing a mixture of 3rd and 1st person before (in Come Back to Me) and we ended up changing it. It’s a way of adding a different slant to Anya’s story – of highlighting her and isolating her at the same time. While she is central to the family, she also feels very alone in her life and with the things she’s dealing with, and I think that’s a very interesting contrast.
RH: Her isolation came across beautifully—poor Anya! *pauses for breath and another drink break, screaming leg muscles forgotten as she takes in the view*
RH: I can see why you chose this setting. It’s incredible. Your previous novel Shallow Breath was set around West Australian beaches, but with All That Is Lost Between Us you’ve made a return to a UK setting. This time it’s the Lake District and the tiny village of Fellmere where teenager Georgia is a mad-keen Fell Runner, and you use this sport beautifully to showcase the landscape, which plays a significant role in the novel’s events. Landscape was also important in Beneath the Shadows, set on the Yorkshire moors (very spooky!). Why did you decide to return to the UK for your setting and how does your choice of setting shape the story?
SF: The locations I choose are always places that have inspired me, landscapes that remind me how immense and fascinating the world is. They always fit the tenor of the story in some way – the isolation Grace feels in Beneath the Shadows is paralleled in the North Yorkshire moors, while in All That is Lost Between Us the characters are floundering within the seemingly insurmountable challenges of different stages of life. The Lake District makes a great backdrop – it’s much easier than you’d imagine to get lost in what looks like an open and inviting landscape – hence the need for mountain rescue teams!
RH: *Grateful that for once in her life she planned ahead and followed procedure* Up here, among the crags and trees, Sara, I find getting lost all too easy to imagine!
The Writing Journey
RH: Let’s talk a little about your writing journey? Your biography states you worked in publishing, so I’m interested if writing was what drew you to publishing or was it the other way round.
SF: Yes, writing definitely drew me to publishing. It was while I worked at HarperCollins back in the early 2000s that I realised I really wanted to be a writer rather than publish the books. I loved being around books every day, but I wanted to create stories too.
SF: Some advice to those who want to make writing their career:
- Read and learn from other authors.
- Persevere – most people take a long time and need a few books under their belt to really get their career going.
- Absorb everything you can about the industry.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment. You don’t want to simply copy what everyone else is doing.
- Don’t be afraid of the blank page – a page full of words might need a good edit, but it’s better than nothing.
RH: Perseverance—I think that applies as much to this hike as it does to writing. Thanks for slowing your pace for me. I’m more used to flat beaches than mountains! That’s my excuse anyway. And thank you for sharing your time and knowledge with us, Sara. It’s always great to get insight into the writer behind our favourite books. Okay, shall we head for home? *thinks downhill has got to be easier* I hope you’ve enough energy left to answer a few more questions, because as it’s time for your …
RH: What is your all-time favourite book and/or movie?
SF: Aaargh! That’s too hard! The first book that sprang to mind was Beloved by Toni Morrison.
RH: What are you reading now?
SF: The Lost Swimmer by Ann Turner.
RH: Great book! What is your favourite word?
SF: Again, so hard! Puggle is definitely in the top ten!
RH: What is your worst writing habit?
RH: What is the best bit of advice you ever got (about writing or life in general)?
SF: Intention is everything.
What’s Next for Sara Foster
RH: With your fourth book just about to be released I don’t want you to feel any pressure, but I have to ask—what’s next for Sara Foster?
SF: Well, book five is almost finished, and it’s a twisty little thriller. And book six – which will be some sort of YA crossover dystopia – is waiting in the wings.
RH: Ooh, I love a twisty thriller! And I can’t wait to see what you do with dystopian YA. Sara, it has been great chatting with you. Thanks so much for joining us today. Where can we find All That Is Lost Between Us and your other works?
SF: You can find All That Is Lost Between Us in all good bookshops and online e-tailers. If you have any trouble locating my older books then there is a store on my website – www.sarafoster.com.au.
SF: I’ve loved our hike together – thanks for having me!
RH: A pleasure. Now let’s find a nice comfy pub…
About the Author
Sara Foster is the critically acclaimed author of three bestselling psychological suspense novels. Sara lives in Perth, Western Australia, with her husband and two young daughters. She is also very proud to have been one of the original editors of the bestselling Kids’ Night In series, which has been raising money for the charity War Child since 2003. Read more about Sara Foster
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