Interview with Sandra Danby

What brought about your interest in adoption and genealogy?
I am not adopted, though I have close friends who are. And since I started promoting 'Ignoring Gravity', more friends and acquaintances have said ‘you know don’t you that… I’m adopted/I gave a baby up for adoption/we adopted a child’. It is talked about openly now, but that is a recent phenomenon. I’ve thought a lot about my motivation, and it really goes back to my childhood. I am the youngest of three children, my brother is eight years older than me, my sister ten years older. So I spent a lot of time alone wondering ‘what if…’ What can I say, I was an imaginative child. Once she retired, my mother started researching the family tree and she would update me on a weekly basis. That made me think again about identity, family connections, and how we become who we are. Do we make ourselves, through our upbringing, our experiences, our decisions. Or is it genetic? If you don’t know your family history, how can you possibly know who you are? There are endless possibilities, a gift for a novelist.
Where did the idea for 'Ignoring Gravity' come from?
It all started in my first creative writing class. We were working on character development and I wrote the sentence, ‘Rose Haldane thought children should be served lightly grilled with a green salad.’ I just thought it was funny but my tutor told me to go away and work on it, to turn it into a novel. I didn’t have the first idea how to go about doing that, so I put it aside it and forgot about it. When I started collecting ideas for a novel, I re-read it and knew I had the germ of a character. Then one day, Rose stood up off the page and became a person in her own right. She still surprises me.
Who is your favourite author and why?
Can I choose only one? Impossible really… I re-read Jane Austen the most. Why, because each time I read a book I get something new out of it. I love her observational humour, her understanding of human nature, the inter-play between the sexes. Over the Christmas holidays I re-read 'Northanger Abbey' and it made me laugh out loud in places, some of Catherine Morland’s fantasies are very modern.
Am I allowed to mention a couple of other favourite authors? Kate Atkinson, I read everything she writes: she’s a Yorkshire-born author, like me, and I’ve been a fan since her first book 'Behind the Scenes at the Museum'. Ditto Sarah Waters, I loved 'The Paying Guests'. I met her at a book promotion thing a few years ago. At the time she was writing what became 'The Night Watch'. It was so reassuring to talk to an experienced author and find she was chewing over similar problems to the ones I was facing.
Coming soon is 'Connectedness' the 2nd book in the Rose Haldane series. In it Rose becomes an identity detective. How much of you is in Rose?
When I first started creating the character of Rose, there was quite a lot of me in her. But as time went on she became herself and left me behind. I used my experience as a journalist to draw her initial outline, and I did live by myself once and had a cat. He was called Gatsby though, not Brad. Rose matures quite a lot between ‘Ignoring Gravity’ and ‘Connectedness’. She now understands her roots and is coming to terms with her new identity, her relationship with Nick has developed, he softens her tough edges, and she is an aunt.
Who would you cast in the role of your characters if your book were optioned for a movie?
Rose is mid-30s so possibly Gemma Arterton or Carey Mulligan. Nick is slightly older, perhaps Matthew MacFadyen or Gerard Butler.
Published 2016-03-21.
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