Writing a romance presented a few challenges, primarily because you have to sustain the plot with issues rather than crime and mayhem as you would with a thriller. The premise of Don’t Look Back is that a woman who gives up a child for adoption is forced to face the ramifications when he turns up on her doorstep eighteen years later. The situation is complicated further because the boy’s birth father has no knowledge of his conception.
A few people have said that the protagonist of the novel, Catherine Hayes, is hard to like but I disagree. One of the reasons why this story is important to me is because, all the time I was writing it, I tried to imagine myself in the situation Catherine finds herself in and I don’t think I would have behaved any differently to how she does. Catherine is just a young girl of eighteen when she finds herself pregnant and the decision she makes casts a shadow on her life for many years to come.
All of the females who front my novels are different but there is probably a sprinkling of me somewhere in each of them. Catherine’s life is peppered with a series of disastrous choices and she never thinks things through. I’m lucky because I’ve never had to face some of the tough breaks that Catherine has but, were I to walk in her shoes, I don’t think I would come out of it looking any better than she does .
Don’t Look Back is my only novel that features my home town of Sheffield which again makes it a little but special to me. The action criss-crosses between Sheffield and Los Angeles and I think the culture clashes between the two lend the story both humour and diversity.
Anyway enough of me, obviously I like it given that I’m the one who’s written it. To give you a chance to see if it is something that you might want to read, I have included the first chapter, some reviews and an interview all about Don’t Look Back. So have a little look and see what you think ...
Catherine looked up from her computer screen to meet the eyes of her friend and colleague, Amanda Roberts.
“Come on, we are going to miss the happy hour,” Amanda complained upon seeing Catherine still seated at her desk.
“You go ahead; I can’t go until somebody phones back from Pittsburgh. We need to know how many places we have.” Catherine and Amanda worked together in the International Office at the University of Sheffield. It was Catherine’s job to secure placements for students wanting to take part in the student exchange programme. She was working to a deadline and needed to know if the University at Pittsburgh had any students open to exchanges. Amanda shook her head, causing her thick blonde hair to fall around her face.
“What do you want?”
“A mojito. In fact get me two. After the day I’ve had I’m going to need it.”
As the economic recession continued to bite, Catherine was finding it more and more difficult to find students who wanted to come to Britain which, compared to most places in the States, had a high cost of living. She was also competing with universities all over the country and Sheffield wasn’t as recognisable to most American students as cities like London, Manchester or Liverpool. The time difference meant she hadn’t been able to chase up unanswered emails until the afternoon and she was feeling thoroughly fed up of being given the run around by her American counterparts.
Finally someone from Pittsburgh called back and delivered the good news that there were three potential placements. Ending the phone call, Catherine quickly grabbed her bag, rifling through it for her lipstick. She applied a fresh coat using her compact mirror, shaking her dark curls to rid herself of the oppressive build up of her day. She knew better than to attempt any grooming, leaving the curls to fall as they may as she put the mirror back in her bag, pushing herself up out of her seat. At that moment, Amelia, the young receptionist, appeared at her door.
“You still here?” Catherine asked, looking at her watch. “I thought everybody would be gone by now.”
“I’m just going but you had a phone call while you were on the line to Pittsburgh. Somebody called Harry asked you to phone him back urgently.” Amelia stepped forward and placed the little memo where she had written the message on Catherine’s desk. Catherine stared at it for a moment, searching her memory for someone called Harry. She knew it couldn’t be any of her current exchange students, none of whom were called Harry and so dismissed the notion of urgency. It would probably be some fussy, over eager student and he could wait until tomorrow morning. Catherine’s mind was already firmly focused on her mojito.
As she made her way into the bar, it was steadily busy with people wanting to take advantage of the happy hour which lasted until seven. There was a mixture of students and university staff, as the bar was close to the university and so a popular choice. At thirty six, Catherine looked much younger and didn’t feel out of place with the younger crowd, who were getting louder and louder as they tried to drink as many of the two for one cocktails as they could fit in before seven. Catherine didn’t blame them, in fact she intended to do much the same herself.
She spotted Amanda seated at a table, already halfway down a drink and with three more lined up on the table. Catherine slid into the waiting seat wordlessly, taking a large drink from one of the mojitos that Amanda had ordered for her. She closed her eyes in appreciation as the cool drink soothed her harried nerves.
“Mmmm, that’s perfect,” she purred.
“Did they call?” Amanda asked absently.
“Yeah, we have three places.”
“That’s good. What do you think we should do this weekend?” As two single women of a similar age, Catherine and Amanda tended to spend a lot of time together. Most of Catherine’s other friends had settled down with husbands and babies. She knew that deep down that’s what Amanda wanted as well and that she was just a stepping stone until she found it. It didn’t bother her though as she appreciated that it was pretty much what most women wanted, she was happy to enjoy Amanda’s company while it lasted.
By seven, Catherine was feeling a slight buzz from the mojitos but resisted Amanda’s suggestion to move on to somewhere else for more drinks. It was only Wednesday and she knew she would struggle to get through two more working days if she opted for a boozy late night, especially when it was such a crucial time of year. Instead, she decided to head home and have an early night. Outside the bar, Catherine embraced her friend and they set off on their separate journeys to their respective homes. For Catherine, that meant walking up towards the hospital before turning off to wind her way along a maze of leafy suburban roads until she reached her flat above a dry cleaners on Ecclesall Road.
Over the years, she had lost count of the number of people who had urged her to invest her money wisely and buy a property but she was happy renting. It allowed her to imagine that her life style was temporary. That one day she was going to pack it all in and maybe travel around the world. The fact that she had been imagining it for the past ten years and had in fact been renting the same flat for four of them didn’t shake her deeply held conviction. It didn’t matter a jot that, as her more sensible friends liked to point out, she had probably almost paid off her landlord’s mortgage with the exorbitant rent that he charged her. Catherine liked to feel that she was just passing through, the thought of permanence felt too much like failure.
Review from http://a-womans-wisdom.blogspot.co.uk
I didn't think I was going to like the main character Catherine much as she came across as very self absorbed to start with but I ended up warming to her and her situation. The subject of adoption has been honestly tackled in this fictional tale by E L Lindley. She has taken a difficult subject and given her character Catherine true to life responses to a decision which changes the lives of everyone touched by it.
Catherine had an intense holiday romance with Bill, resulting in a pregnancy and a baby she just wasn't ready for. She made the decision to give the baby up for adoption and move on with her life in the way she thought she wanted it to be. Eighteen years later and she is still drifting but then her son turns up. Now she has to decide on the right thing to do because this time it isn't so easy to move on and pretend nothing has happened.
This was an absorbing read with well developed characters which acted true to their respective roles. Catherine, Bill and Harry are the main cast but they are supported by others who really add to the story. What I particularly liked about this book was the strong personalities of the supporting characters. While I sat and wondered about Catherine's attitude, her friend Jenny came in and said exactly what I was thinking. When Bill's father, Stan, could see things not working out he stepped in and proactively put a stop to the nonsense. I loved that!
This is an engaging read with a good dollop of romance, family angst and characters which can be related to. Mix that all together with a story which flows and is very well written and you have a fabulous read!
Review from whatnikkiread.weebly.com
Catherine is a woman who loves her independence and enjoys having a social life with no responsibilities. When an unexpected visitor turns up at her work her whole life goes into turmoil. She can't cope with everything that she now has to deal with and having to reconnect with her first and only love Bill everything gets too much. They try to sort out what happened years ago but what happened in the past will always put pressure on their relationship.
This was such an easy read and I read it in a day. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and I think it was a well thought out story. It would be 5 stars but it ended quite abruptly and I felt a bit cheated. I would love for there to be a second book to find out what happens next.
A review and interview from rosieamber.wordpress.com
This is the first book that I have read by the author, a romance which also deals with adoption, broken marriages and teenagers. The book is set in Sheffield and Los Angeles, mixing up the cultures and different life styles of the characters. There is a lot of anger and strong emotions throughout the book for several of the characters and I particularly wanted to throttle Catherine at times. Catherine has a hard time dealing with many issues in her life and consequently hides from decision making or acts rashly then regrets it afterwards. I’m glad she saw sense in the very end.
1) Where is your home town?
My home town is Sheffield in the UK, which is where Don’t Look Back is partly set. I left Sheffield to go to university in 1980 and didn’t move back until I was in my 40s. It’s a nice place to live because, although it’s the UKs fourth largest city, it doesn’t really have that big city feel. It’s been described as the UK’s largest village which I think sort of captures its essence perfectly.
2) This was the first book that I’d read of yours, how many other books have you written? Are they all romances?
I’ve written seven books in total and they all have an element of romance in them although they might not strictly be classed as romances. Apart from “Don’t Look Back”, I have written another romance called “Family Ties”, which is about a woman whose mother dies and her grief leads her to try and find her birth father whom she’s never met. I’ve written a thriller called “Dare To Lose” which is set in Brighton and is about an ordinary woman who finds herself making a stand against crime when one of her employees goes missing. It’s got a fair sprinkling of romance in it as well because she is thrown together with the missing girl’s father. I’ve also written a series of books called The Georgie Connelly Stories which are light hearted crime capers with lots of fun and romance. Georgie Connelly is a bit of a madcap heroine and she’s great fun to write.
3) What inspires you to write? Is it people you know? Situations you’ve been in or something else?
It’s definitely people who inspire me. I’m an avid people watcher and I’m always making up lives and stories for people. Sometimes I base my stories on people that I know or things that have happened to me but it’s usually exaggerated to such a degree that it becomes unrecognisable. At least I hope so – I’d hate to be sued for libel.
4) Do you carry out research into any of the situations that your characters go through?
I don’t do a lot of research because most of my stories are based around pretty universal issues such as love, grief, family etc which we all understand. For any factual information I tend to rely on good old Google.
5) In “Don’t Look Back” some of your characters visit a psychologist, was that hard to write or did you know how she would get the characters to open up to their deep issues?
Funnily enough, there’s a bit of a story here. I used the idea of a therapist in “Don’t Look Back” as a plot device because I had to think of a way to try and break down Catherine and Bill’s barriers. However, it had quite an impact on my life as I became very interested in the idea of it. I have revisited the theme in the novel I am currently working on by making the main character, Maggie, a psychotherapist. I did quite a bit of research on it and ended up applying to study psychotherapy myself. I start my course in September so how’s that for life imitating art?
6) I particularly liked Catherine’s friend Jenny, she was always there for Catherine, yet she stepped in and contacted Bill behind Catherine’s back, was it for self preservation or friendship?
I think Jenny is probably the character most of us can relate to and the friend we would all like to have. She’s been with Catherine every step of the way and seen her make some disastrous choices. She knew that Catherine wasn’t happy and I think intervened out of love for her friend. We’ve all probably been in situations where we’ve agonised over whether we should interfere in our loved ones’ lives for the greater good. In real life, it’s often a disaster when we interfere but I think Jenny did the right thing. Having said that, she has her own family to think about so maybe part of her motivation for wanting to see Catherine and Bill sort out their problems was self preservation.
7) We never met Catherine’s father, was that deliberate? Or could Catherine have put one more ghost to bed if we had?
I was very lucky in that I had settled childhood and a father who was dependable and supportive but I have friends who didn’t have father figures growing up and it’s had a huge impact on their lives. I’ve also worked with young people for a lot of years and seen situations where dads have gone off and had new families, leaving the old family behind. It’s almost like they want a fresh start and in order to do so have to somehow erase their old lives. The children left behind have so many unanswered questions and often end up feeling not good enough and adrift. I thought to have Catherine resolve her issues with her father would have been almost too neat and perfect. In real life, people more often than not, don’t get the answers they need or the sense of closure that Catherine might have had if her father had featured in the novel.
8) One reviewer suggested a sequel for us to see how the characters developed in their new life, have you considered writing that book?
I’d not considered writing a sequel until I read the review suggesting one. I didn’t want to make everything end perfectly because I didn’t think that would be in keeping with the characters. I suspect Catherine and Bill’s relationship is never going to be problem free but I sort of wanted readers to make their own minds up about what their future may be. Maybe I should just write the sequel though – who knows?
9) “Don’t look back”, is a popular title for a book, when I looked it up there were many other books with the same or similar title, how do you choose titles for your books?
In all honesty, I find thinking of titles harder than actually writing the books. I have no idea as I’m writing them what they will be called and tend to refer to them by the name of the lead character. So far a long time “Don’t Look Back” was simply called Catherine. Once they’re finished it’s never easy to come up with ideas and typically I try lots of titles out on friends. They hoot with laughter at my suggestions and the one that gets the least ridicule heaped on it is usually the one that sticks.
10) Are you writing anything at the moment for your fans?
I’m writing a novel about a woman whose sister goes missing. She’s a psychotherapist and she retraces her sister’s footsteps, so to speak, in the hope of finding her. It’s a thriller with lots of romance in there as well. My friend reads my novels as I write them, acting as my proof-reader, and she claims to have fallen in love with the leading man, who is a private investigator hired by Maggie to find her sister.
Well there you have it – if this sounds like the kind of story you may enjoy download your copy free between Sept 12th – 16th