Sally Hepworth has lived around the world, spending extended periods in Singapore, the U.K. and Canada, where she worked in event management and Human Resources. While on maternity leave, Sally finally fulfilled a lifelong dream to write, the result of which was Love Like the French, published in Germany in 2014. While pregnant with her second child, Sally wrote The Secrets of Midwives, published worldwide in English, as well as in France, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 2015. A novel about three generations of midwives, The Secrets of Midwives asks readers what makes a mother and what role biology plays in the making and binding of a family.
The Things We Keep is being published by Macmillan Australia in January 2016.
“Rosalind House might not be the first place you’d expect to find new love and renewal, but within the walls of this assisted living facility two women hav
e their lives changed forever.
Anna Forster, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease at only thirty-eight years of age, knows that her twin, Jack, has chosen Rosalind House because another young resident, Luke, lives there. As if, Anna muses, a little companionship will soften the unfairness of her fate.
Eve Bennett also comes to Rosalind house reluctantly. Once a pampered, wealthy wife, she is now cooking and cleaning to make ends meet. Both women are facing futures they didn’t expect. With only unreliable memories to guide them, they have no choice but to lean on and trust something more powerful. Something closer to the heart.”
You can read my review of The Things We Keep later today. But first please read on to learn more about how Sally came to write The Things We Keep…
When It’s Not Personal
It makes sense that when a writer chooses a topic for a book, it’s personal. After all, if someone is willing to spend months (or years) on a book, the themes and issues must mean something to them. For some, it’s a memoir. A true tale of inspiration from the writer’s own life. For others, it is a work of fiction inspired by a piece of truth. A farm that has been in his or her family for generations; a culture they call their own.
When a book comes out, everyone wants to hear the personal angle. Why did you write this book? Why is this meaningful to you? For my first book, the answer was easy. The Secrets of Midwives was a novel about mothers and daughters. I wrote it while I was pregnant (with a daughter). For extra kicks, it took me nine months to write. Sure the book was fiction, but the inspiration came from the experience I was living.
My next novel, The Thing We Keep, was also a book I was itching to write. From the time, five years ago, when I watched a TV segment about a woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 31, I’ve toyed with the idea of writing an Alzheimer’s love story. For years, it was a little kernel of an idea that refused to pop. Finally it burst open and became The Things We Keep.
But here’s the thing: it’s not personal. I’ve found myself struggling with this a little lately. At writer’s festivals, people gather to hear the true stories behind books. What, in your life, inspired this book? The truth is I have no personal experience with Alzheimer’s. There is no one in my family with the disease. I didn’t study neuroscience at university. I haven’t worked in dementia care. My main connection to the illness is a five-minute TV segment I saw years ago.
Of course, since then, I’ve watched a lot more news segments. I’ve read countless books. I’ve spoken to the families of people with Alzheimer’s, and I’ve spoken to the staff who care for these people.
And somewhere along the way, it has become personal.
For me, writing is never about the burning desire to tell a particular story … it is about the burning desire to explore topics that interest me, through fiction. I am at the beginning of what I hope is a long writing career. There are many, many topics that aren’t personal to me now. But they will be. And, for me, that’s what writing is all about.
The Things We Keep is available via