Photography by David Leyes Image by: Photography by David Leyes
Canadian Living: What inspired She's Not There?
Joy Fielding: The basic idea originated with the Madeleine McCann kidnapping [in Portugal in 2007]. The parents went out to dinner and left their three children alone in a hotel room; when they came back, the little girl was gone. That story haunted me, as I'm sure it haunted most parents. One day, I sat down and the outline poured out of me. I think my subconscious had been working on it for quite a while.
CL: How do you write from the perspective of a mother who experiences such massive guilt?
JF: I think any mother understands automatically. Nothing makes you feel guiltier than your children, no matter how healthy they are or how much you do for them. But to feel responsible for losing a child—I don't think that guilt would ever go away, especially for someone who is never allowed to forget it. [In the book], the story is dredged up in the media with every anniversary, and the mother is constantly being judged.
CL: Has your writing changed over time?
JF: When I was younger, I would identify with the daughter. Now, my sympathies
are totally with the mother. I have a very different perspective, but I can understand the younger perspective because I've lived through many stages and I see all the different points of view.
CL: Do you have a specific space where you write?
JF: I can write anywhere. When I started, I wrote at my parents' kitchen table, and it was like being in the middle of a hurricane. In my condo, I have an office; I have my desk, my chair, my computer. But if somebody took it away, I'd work somewhere else.
CL: What do you do if a book isn't coming to you easily?
JF: I have a very good inner sense of how long it's going to take me to do something. Sometimes, I just push through it. Other times, I'm not ready or it needs more time to cook. When I used to finish a book, I would think, Oh, my God. I'll never have another idea as long as I live. Now, I don't worry so much. I think that's a function of growing up!
For more on Joy Fielding's new book, She's Not There, check out these fresh spring books to read.
This story was originally part of "Q&A Joy Fielding" in the April 2016 issue.
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