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Sarah Rayner | On Writing “Fresh” Fiction

December 22, 2014

Sarah RaynerANOTHER NIGHT, ANOTHER DAYHello, everyone, I’m Sarah Rayner and it’s great to be back at Fresh Fiction on the release day of the follow-up to the international bestseller, ONE MOMENT, ONE MORNING. My new novel, ANOTHER NIGHT, ANOTHER DAY is published today, December 23, from St. Martin’s Griffin.

To mark the launch, I thought I’d share my thoughts on writing about ‘difficult’ subjects, as it’s an area I find both fascinating and rewarding as a novelist. The inspiration came when I was out for lunch with a group of authors earlier this week, and one of them said that it’s only by ‘writing into the dark spaces of our psyches’ that we break new ground as authors, both personally and artistically. Given that ANOTHER NIGHT, ANOTHER DAY is about three people crying out for help and is set in a psychiatric clinic, perhaps it’s little surprise that I clapped my hands and said, ‘I totally agree!’

Writing into the light – or staying in one’s comfort zone – is easy. It’s easy for writers, as it doesn’t stretch us so much, and it’s easy for readers too. There are many occasions when we need the succor of a cozy, reassuring book, and don’t get me wrong, there is nothing intrinsically bad about picking up Bridget Jones for the umpteenth time. But if that’s all we ever read or write, then the danger is we don’t grow as people; what starts out as cozy and comforting becomes stifling, and eventually we stagnate.

That’s why I believe that writing into the dark and tackling difficult subjects like mental illness is important. It can feel uncomfortable, and it takes more effort to both read and write books like this, but giving ourselves fresh challenges is part of what makes life rich and fulfilling.

That said, I didn’t venture into the dark of ANOTHER NIGHT, ANOTHER DAY completely unprepared. I had already tackled subjects we often prefer to avoid in my previous novels, and this gave me a certain amount of confidence.  ONE MOMENT, ONE MORNING deals with the death of a spouse and THE TWO WEEK WAIT explores infertility, so to some extent ANOTHER NIGHT, ANOTHER DAY continues in this vein. I had a metaphorical torch, if you like. However, because ANOTHER NIGHT, ANOTHER DAY deals with issues that are particularly close to my heart, I had to be ready to go there. If I’d tried to tackle such a complex and delicate subject as mental illness fifteen years ago (when I started writing adult novels), I suspect the result would have been a mess, and unpublishable.

Moreover, by writing ‘into the dark’, it doesn’t mean that you, as a reader, or I, as an author, have to stay there. ONE MOMENT, ONE MORNING was about the loss of a loved one, yes, and THE TWO WEEK WAIT focused on childlessness, but both were also about the healing power of friendship and personal growth. Much successful storytelling involves a sense of resolution, and ANOTHER NIGHT, ANOTHER DAY is no different. The story is a mix of light and shade, and – without giving away the plot – offers hope in terms of recovery for the characters too.

Should you choose to read ANOTHER NIGHT, ANOTHER DAY – and obviously I’d like that – I hope you find it illuminating. But if you choose not to, I’d urge you to read outside your comfort zone just the same. After all, what better time to take a fresh look at fiction than when poised to begin a New Year?

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