The idea for the plot came about while I was on maternity leave. The shop I managed had gone into administration and in the space of four weeks I went from a retail manager, always organised and in control to an unemployed new mum who couldn’t even control when I slept! Writing was something that was just for me. The plot evolved from an experience I had with my newborn son. I was taking him out for a walk and had just hauled his pushchair out into the front garden when I realised my purse was on the bannister at the top of the stairs. I ran up backwards to get it, and although I could see my baby at all times I wondered (and worried) about how it would look to the cars on the main road outside, a pushchair with a baby left on his own in the front garden. It was fairly early days and I was convinced someone was waiting around every corner to call social services and tell them I was an awful mother. I realised even then how paranoid and irrational that was, but it got me thinking about how situations that might have a reasonable explanation to you might look to someone else, and how easy it was to judge others based on half a story. As I walked I thought about some of the things my neighbours might have seen and heard – my son had colic and cried until 2am whether I was holding him or not, I swore loudly when I couldn’t get the car seat clipped in. If they were told I’d harmed my son would they think about these occasions in a more sinister light? And the idea was born. The fact that I was constantly exhausted and questioning my every decision and action when I’d previously been so sure of myself was the basis for the main question that the novel centres around. How well do you know yourself?
I really enjoyed creating the character of Susan, nearly as much as I enjoyed creating Cassie. I feel they work together so well as a pair because they are polar opposites, the privileged, naïve and overly trusting Susan, who comes from a world where justice is served and people tell the truth, and Cassie, who comes from a world where you trust no one but yourself. Their difference is shown in the way they react to the arrival of Nick, Susan is predisposed to trust someone who appears respectable and professional – at this point she fully believes she is to blame for the death of her son and no one has lied to her at all – and Cassie is predisposed to assume attractive men cannot be trusted. By the end of the book they both begin to ease a bit towards the middle, Susan is less willing to blindly trust what she is told, and Cassie learns to let someone other than Susan in.
I didn’t have a real process. How I Lost You was my first full novel, I’d tried writing bits before and never managed to get past the first few chapters. Now I wrote in quick bursts while the baby slept, I was addicted and felt for the first time in three months like I was clawing a bit of myself back. I wrote in a linear fashion, and when I thought I might have something that resembled a decent beginning I submitted the first three chapters to a critique site, YouWriteOn. It was torn apart quite brutally, but with some amazing advice, so I rewrote, and rewrote, until the comments I was getting were nearly 100% positive. I made it into the Top Ten of the YWO charts which spurred me on, kept me going, and got me used to editing!