To find out more, we caught Judy for some quick questions about her new book and the process of writing it.
I Do Not Sleep encompasses some quite serious themes. Where did the idea for the book come from?
There are many drowning tragedies in Cornwall; fishermen perish at sea, holidaymakers mistake the tides or can be caught off guard by sudden squalls. I’ve been aware of these real-life stories, and I wondered how a mother would cope if her grown-up child were to be lost at sea while on holiday in Cornwall. Molly’s passion to find Joey after he disappears in a boating accident is, I think, elemental to motherhood. She needs to find him, and if he is not alive, she needs his body to bury and mourn over. Molly’s love for her son and her journey to peace and reconciliation are the central themes of the book.
How carefully did you plan the novel in advance?
I didn’t really plan it beyond the initial accident in which Joey disappears. Molly’s grief and her quest to discover what happened to him unfolded as I wrote.
When and where did you write the book?
I started it in Cornwall but I also wrote at home in London, and even on holiday in France. Deadlines loom, and even though in an ideal world I would have completed I Do Not Sleep in Cornwall, needs must; actually, I found I could write almost anywhere this time, to my amazement.
You are so well-known for championing books and reading, especially through the Richard and Judy Book Club with WHSmith. How do you think reading so many books affected your writing?
We both love working on the Richard and Judy Book Club with WHSmith. Supporting so many excellent novels for the club inevitably means it’s more than daunting for us to write our own. We are always aware that we are both taking a risk. But I love reading and I think evaluating so many inspiring books for the club has added enormously to my knowledge, and my ability to write. I do feel that if you want to be an author, you absolutely must love reading. It’s wonderful when someone else’s novel opens up your mind and imagination.
There are some quite mysterious and supernatural elements in the book, particularly with Len, the Cornish Charmer; do you, personally, believe in such things?
The supernatural elements in I Do Not Sleep (and also in my first novel, Eloise) are very important to me. I’m never sure exactly where I stand on, say, believing in ghosts, or the strange psychic awareness of Cornish ‘charmers’ like Len, but I do believe that in this life we are surrounded by membranes through which we may not see, but can occasionally perceive worlds and truths other than those we know. I believe deep love, such as that felt for a mother for her child, can allow us sometimes to cross so-called psychic barriers. And I think love and grief can propel us into places we never knew existed.
Which characters in I Do Not Sleep did you most enjoy writing?
I always love my main female characters; Cathy in Eloise, and Molly in I Do Not Sleep both contain elements of myself. And I love their husbands, Chris and Adam, both baffled by their wives’ strange ideas and often irritated – even frightened – by the women’s behaviour, but ultimately loyal and loving.
Have you any plans for your next novel?
No idea, I’m afraid. I’ve got the kind of brain which exhausts itself by the end of writing a book, and needs, like soil, to lie fallow for a while before recovering its fertility. I hope and pray I get another idea soon!