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Interview with Cath Staincliffe 2016

Cath Staincliffe author promo image

Crimes take place everywhere and are committed by people from all walks of life. What would you do if you were trapped and travelling at high speed, with suspicions concerning one of your fellow travellers rising as the miles ticked by? Award winning novelist Cath Staincliffe tells us a little something surrounding her latest novel The Silence Between Breaths, and also a somewhat different project she has been successfully working on.

Where did the title of the novel, The Silence Between Breaths, come from?

A place of desperation. The publishers and I had been hunting for the right title for weeks on end.
We wanted something that captured the emotional heart of the story and nothing too literal. I had pages of possible ideas and spent ages poring over the thesaurus and books of quotations, but we couldn’t find anything everybody agreed on. The Silence Between Breaths came to me at the eleventh hour. No idea where from. Such a relief!

Silence Between Breaths front coverThe Silence Between Breaths is a thought provoking work, which takes one particular event as seen from several view points. How difficult was it keeping all of the strands together?

It was a challenge. I made a lot of diagrams and charts, and a timeline, to help. Many post-it notes and coloured pens were used.

Did you have much difficulty keeping the characters separate in your head when it came to writing about them?

The characters were key to the book, far and away the most important element, and I spent several weeks working out who they were and getting to know them inside out before I began the novel. It was a real risk having so many viewpoints – nine in all – so I put a lot of effort into making that aspect, the distinctiveness of the characters, as strong as possible.

It must have been an emotional journey for you as a writer and creator of these particular characters going through these events that you have created. What was the most difficult aspect?

It was very emotional and I did get bound up in the story and ended up in tears at times. The most difficult aspect was probably sacrificing one of the characters I was really fond of, and also putting others through the horrors of a life-changing trauma and its aftermath.

Although never a procedural lecture, there has clearly been a great deal of research that's gone into writing the novel. How did you go about this and what was the most surprising thing that you have learned?

Some research I did on the train, making the journey from Manchester to Euston and taking notes. I also did a lot of research online about major incidents and the procedures that are in place to deal with them. The most surprising information I came across concerned the different types of blast injuries and the fact that someone close to the centre of an explosion may not have any external wounds.

There are always going to be survivors and victims. Without giving anything away, how did you go about deciding which was which?

That was hard, especially losing characters I really liked, but there seemed to be some sort of logic, true to the story, that dictated who survived.

You have also written a play which, on the face of it, is a step away from a subject with which you might normally be associated. What prompted you to write it?

Anger and sadness at the blatant demonisation and scapegoating of vulnerable and impoverished people claiming benefits, in particular the use of work capability assessments and the imposition of sanctions. It’s brutal and heart-breaking. It wasn’t something I could write a novel about but I thought it might make a play – and I decided to write it as an entry for the annual Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting. When Sanctioned was long-listed I was really thrilled.

How challenging was it as a writer to develop the characters for the stage rather than for a novel and can you multi-task when it comes to writing IE: Were you working on two projects simultaneously?

I can multi-task if the projects are in different forms – I would never work on two novels at the same time. As for the characters, I suppose the main difference is that with a novel you can convey thoughts and feelings through interior monologues but for a play it all has to be expressed in the dialogue and action, although I cheated a bit in that regard as I gave my characters alter-egos who verbalise the subtext.

What advice would you give to anybody intending to write a play as a opposed to a novel or short story?

I’m not qualified to offer any, really, as a relative novice but I would say reading it aloud is absolutely crucial and acting it out if you possibly can.

What's next?

I’ve just signed a contract for two more stand alone novels and I’m immersed in the first of those. I’m trying to combine the story of an ordinary family who lose someone in a hate crime with that of the police investigation into the murder. Usually my books are either one thing, the family’s story, or the other, the detectives’.



If you would like to comment on this interview with Cath Staincliffe in 2016, please feel free to contact me - GUESTBOOK

“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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