Q1 How did you come up with the idea for All Rivers Run Free?
The starting point for writing this book was I wanted to tell a story that dealt with the issue of mental illness, whilst exploring the nature/nurture aspect of why we behave in a certain way.
It is a story about isolation, cruelty and suffering and about healing the past in order to escape the present and subsequently finding peace in the future.
With Ia I wanted to create a character that we could root for from the very start, a woman who despite living in a lonely, abusive relationship, finds pleasure in small things and never gives up hope despite a lifetime of adversity. The world she creates to protect herself was central to the story, her love of nature, the collecting of found objects and her constant looking beyond the cove for something life-changing. She is a woman stuck in stasis, a woman who has lost family in the past and through her unborn babies has lost her future family; she sees no way out so she creates an alternative.
It was important to me to explore both the perception of reality and what was imagined and the fine line that runs between. We understand why Ia creates an ideal fantasy life with Geeva because of all she has been through, a lifetime lived tethered between guilt and grief, she crafts a world to shield herself from hurt.
Despite the heartache, I wanted All Rivers Run Free to be an uplifting story that followed Ia on an emotional journey through her transformation of innocence into horror and horror into tenderness, opening a window on the horror that might be buried in the everyday and dealing with that horror in whatever way possible; in Ia’s case she creates something new and that creation she uses to escape.
It was vital that this story said something important about the human condition, a presentation of suffering and cruelty played out against a beautiful, harsh background of a recently collapsed Cornwall.
Q2 The story, from the descriptions of the landscape around the main character, gave the impression that some big catastrophe had taken place; was it inspired by a real life event of the same magnitude, or completely fictional?
It was completely fictional, but saying that, it was important for me to create a world that could easily be imagined; I call it Justopia, it has either just happened or is just about to happen.
Fiction is the best way to deal with some of the social and environmental issues of our times. Most people sense that if we disconnect from the natural world, along with income inequality and other economic matters, the future might be quite frightening. I think the job of the writer is to lift the reader above the dreaded sense of impotency to the very human experience of understanding through imagination.
Q3 Were Ia and any of the other characters inspired by people you know?
To some degree, yes. Folk I grew up with on our council estate who were poor like us, but you could sense there was more going on in their lives through their behaviour, or you could see signs of neglect or abuse. As a child these were things I couldn’t explain, but they stayed with me and helped to write Ia’s character. The violence of Bran her cousin was based in part on my own violent father, the punched holes in walls and doors all come from childhood.
Ia’s positivity and resilience is all me.
Q4 Were any of what took place throughout the book based on true events?
That’s the best bit about being a writer; you get to throw ideas around to create something new.
Q5 Through the book, are there any messages you want to give those who read it?
In All Rivers Run Free mental illness is at its core. It is not a subject that many people find easy to read in fiction but it was important for me to explore it openly. It is something that affects us all for different reasons and at different times in our lives. It was my main priority to write Ia’s story truthfully and with compassion and it was really important to have her determination to get better a big part of her story, as well as having the strength to escape her abuser.
The main message of this book is to never give up hope. It is a story of positivity, but you have to journey through the bleak reality of Ia’s life to get there first.
Q6 What inspired the title?
I wanted a title that reflected Ia’s journey downriver toward hope and freedom.
And thank you Natasha, for answering my questions 🙂 .
This is not like my usual posts, so I’ll not be signing off entirely the same way.
Follow your dreams, no matter what you may face. Follow your heart as well as your head, and you’ll go far.