Today on the Open Book Blog Hop we’re talking about the backstory from one of our novels; why we wrote it, why we settled on the story, how we came up with the main characters, why we chose the setting that we did, and what research we had to do before we could start writing.
I thought I’d explain to you how I came to start writing ‘A House Without Windows’. To clear up a misunderstanding, it wasn’t because I’d just read ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue as some readers have mentioned in the past; if truth be told I’d never heard of ‘Room’ until after I’d published my book and received a review. The inspiration behind the story stemmed from a news item I had seen on TV; three women had been rescued from a house in Lambeth, South London after 30 years in captivity, and one of them was aged 30. This got me thinking that one unfortunate woman had never seen the outside world at all.
I originally thought of telling it all from 9 year old Amy’s point of view as she gradually became aware of the world outside through reading Enid Blyton’s ‘Island of Adventure’, given to her by her captor Edwin Evans, but I decided that the book needed other characters as well. I added in Amy’s mother Beth, to provide an adult viewpoint, and then branched out to include Beth’s fiancée Liam who would obviously have been searching for her. This made me think that after 10 years of searching, Liam would have assumed Beth was dead and so might have started a new life. I therefore introduced Patti, Liam’s new partner, and their son Toby. Other viewpoints clamoured for a place too, and the last two additions were Edwin Evans’ perspective, and that of his son Joss.
I chose the settings of South London, Kincardine, and The Beaches, Toronto, because I had grown up in South London and knew the area like the back of my hand, and had also flown out to The Beaches and Kincardine for a holiday in the summer of 2013, and the visit was still fresh in my mind. I remember being quite amazed on seeing the Mennonites riding along the side of the main roads in their Victorian carriages, and wanted to include them in a small way in the story. I looked back at my holiday photos and came up with the Canadian settings, and wished I had made notes at the time. However, my 15 month old grandson was with us, and somehow I never got to write a word!
I’ve always been interested in psychology throughout my life, and enjoyed writing about how the trauma of incarceration affected both Beth and Amy. People wonder why Beth was affected more than Amy, and I can simply say that children adapt to their surroundings so much easier than adults.
I am surprised that the book has gained so much attention over the two years since it has been published. It gained a New Apple Book Award in 2014, and a Readers’ Favorite Gold Award in 2015. Readers either love the book and lavish it with five stars, or hate it, but thankfully the 49 positive reviews outweigh the 9 critical ones. There seems to be a shortage of in-between reviews. One of my WordPress friends called it a ‘Marmite’ book, and I think she’s right! It is still my best-selling book to date, and at the moment is being translated into German. It is also available as an audio book.
What is P.J MacLayne’s backstory? How did she come up with her main characters? Click on the link below to find out. A computer geek by day and a writer by night, P.J. MacLayne grew up in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania and sets much of her writing in that landscape. She currently lives in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. You can check out her Amazon author page here http://www.amazon.com/P.J.-MacLayne/e/B00HVE8WZI/ and her blogs here http://pjmaclayne.blogspot.co.uk/
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