Today I am joined by debut author Em Muslin, who has written a wonderful guest post on what inspired her to write her novel, Before You Were Mine. I’m always interested in where authors get their inspiration from and Em has written a wonderful piece. Enjoy!
What Inspired Me To Write Before You Were Mine
Before You Were Mine, my debut novel partly came from a documentary I watched many years ago. It followed a group of people, whether they were mothers searching for their child they had given up for adoption, or children who were given up for adoption, looking for their mothers. It was a painful journey, as not only did you discover the stories behind the women who were placed in a position where they were either forced to give up their baby for adoption, or they felt it would be best for the child, but also it followed some families reuniting for the first-time. The fantasy they had carried in their head for so many years didn’t always live up to the reality. Similarly, Before You Were Mine touches on some of the key human emotions explored in the programme; love, regret, grief and hope.
I could only imagine how it felt for the mothers to give up the baby and the moment when they realise the child is no longer considered theirs. I wanted to explore the concept of absolute pure love, and the grief that follows once a mother and child are separated. Eli, my main character is placed in a position where she is forced to give up her baby for adoption and the book follows her as she tries to come to terms with the fact she may never meet her own daughter. She uses the grief that consumes her to drive her forward. She is determined, no matter what, to one day be reunited with her.
There is a Hebrew word Mizpah that can be interpreted as an emotional bond between people who are separated, either physically by distance or by death – and I think that is the underlying theme of the book. No matter what, the emotional union between Eli and her daughter will always be there. It is what drives her to search for her despite how many knock-backs life throws at her.
As anyone who has suffered grief, deep relentless grief – it is the closest one gets to crazy. It is a fine line that you have every chance of tripping over. Eli tip-toes along that line each day. There is a quote in the book from C.S Lewis (A Grief Observed), which talks about how the ‘same leg is cut off time after time’. Every instant Eli is knocked back, the raw primitive sorrow of losing her child comes back to haunt her. Inside she is screaming. The need, the absolute visceral need to grasp something that somehow seems unfeasible; the possible loss of her daughter forever – someone she feels such profound love for – is simply impossible for her to comprehend.
On the flip side, Eli also demonstrates unrelenting hope. Hope that one day they will finally be reunited. This optimism is what drives us all forward, no matter our goals and it is the key emotion that keeps Eli upright. Although, readers may find the book emotionally challenging at times, it does offer hope. As Eli says ‘Without hope, what have you got?’
She is a character that despite the adversities she has faced demonstrates great strength, grace and drive. She is loved greatly by her husband Tommy, who unbeknownst to her has profound regrets of his own. He battles with his part in her story and he too has hope that Eli and her daughter will one day be reunited.
I dug into my own experience of grief to unearth a little of Eli’s psyche, to see what drove her. The book idea was born before my own encounter with deep personal grief, but it certainly grew up afterwards.
It began as a short story called Regret;
‘Once you’ve done something, ticked the box, nodded your head, raised your hand, picked something up, it’s impossible to turn back the clock. Sure you can lower your hand, cross out the mark you had made, put something down, but forever the smudged mark would remain, your prints all over the moment. If only you had had more time to think, less time to regret. Regret. Regret. Even saying the word makes you shake your head and look down to your scuffed shoes in pity, sorrow resting in the creases on your brow, like crows on the roof ready to swoop.’ (Excerpt Before You Were Mine)
I wanted to explore that feeling of how when an event changes a life forever, we are soon full of regret. That life in retrospect is much clearer. If we knew then, what we now know, how different our lives would or could be.
The book is set in a hot dusty town. Her life at times can seem suffocating and I wanted very much to the use the climate of the setting to layer the book. Eli talks and dreams of snow. It is the opposite of her reality.
‘Often I’d lie awake in the dead of night, whilst he lay sleeping next to me, and I would think of you. I would think of you and me. I’d imagine us feeling snowflakes against our skin. The cold tiptoe of a snowflake on our rosy cheeks. Tiptoeing, tap dancing on our skin. Melting. No one else would be around and only our footprints could be seen in the snow. I’d place my footprints in yours and yours in mine, and we’d become one. I would press my cheek against yours and I’d hold you, and this time, in the dead of night, this time, I promise I would never let you go.’ (Excerpt Before You Were Mine)
The fantasy she constructs is so far removed from her actual life. It is a place she escapes to, where she feels closest to her daughter.
Readers of course will have to read the book to discover whether or not she is finally reunited with her child. However, I hope as they travel along the journey with Eli, they too feel that anything, no matter how impossible it seems, can be with determination and strength, attainable.
A huge thank you to Em for the gorgeous guest post. Before You Were Mine is published on 26 May 2017 by HQ Digital.
Here is the all-important blurb:
Sometimes hope has a way of changing everything…
Just hours after giving birth, Eli Bell is forced to give up her newborn baby daughter for adoption. Devastated, she tries desperately to rebuild her shattered life.
Then, over thirty years later, Eli catches sight of her daughter. And she knows that she must do everything to find a way back into her life. Even if it means lying…
While her husband Tommy must grow to accept his own part in the events of her early life, he can only try to save her before her obsession with the young woman ruins them both.
Don’t miss the breathtaking debut Before You Were Mine by Em Muslin! Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Alice Peterson and Lucy Dillon.
You can pre-order you copy HERE.