Phaedra Patrick is the author of the new novel The Secrets of Love Story Bridge. Her other novels include The Library of Lost and Found. She lives in Saddleworth, UK.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Secrets of Love Story Bridge, and for your character Mitchell Fisher?
A: I’ve spotted many padlocks hanging on bridges, from ones in Paris to Gran Canaria, left there by lovers, and I wondered about the stories behind them. They inspired my idea for The Secrets of Love Story Bridge.
The novel tells the story of single dad Mitchell Fisher who has given up all hope of romance, until one day he spies a woman on the famous Love Story Bridge.
When she falls into the river, he rescues her and is surprised to feel an unexpected connection to her. But then she disappears, leaving only one clue to her identity - a secret message on the padlock she hung on the bridge....
Mitchell has devised set routines for himself, to help him deal with a devastating loss in his past, and is the sole parent to his 9-year-old daughter, Poppy. I thought it would be interesting to explore how Mitchell’s impromptu act of bravery sparks huge change in his life, and also entices strangers to write letters to him.
My grandparents used to live on Mitchell Street, which gave my character his first name!
Q: Letter-writing plays a big role in the novel--why did you choose that as one of the book's themes?
A: The letters came through organically, as I was writing. I always knew the padlocks would be the main theme, to help propel Mitchell to change his life outwardly.
I wasn’t sure what a secondary plot would be until Mitchell received his first letter, from an 89-year-old lady who met her husband on Love Story Bridge when she was a young woman.
The art of letter writing has dwindled so much with the rise of social media and I thought it would be a nice touch for letters to play an important part in Mitchell’s emotional development.
Q: With this novel, did you know how it would end before you started writing it?
A: When I write novels, the ending is usually the opposite of the beginning, and I like to leave readers with a strong, visual image of how my characters have moved on with their lives. I knew how the book began but wasn’t completely sure of its ending until I got there.
However, I knew it must involve a padlock, the bridge, and a happy ending for Mitchell, somehow.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?
A: I hope they enjoy the story and, if they haven’t read my previous three novels, that they might be tempted to take a look. It would also be great if anyone felt inspired to put pen to paper, to write their own letters, after reading the book.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m delighted to have re-signed with Park Row Books (HarperCollins US) to deliver two more novels, so I have just started to write Book Five.
It doesn’t have a title yet, but I can share that it’s about a cleaner who takes on the identity of a famous novelist in order to receive a mysterious inheritance. It should take me around 9-10 months to write it.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: The two new books I’m delivering for Park Row in the US will also be available in the UK (published by HQ, HarperCollins). I’m delighted that film options have been renewed on both my debut novel, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, and my second one, Rise & Shine, Benedict Stone, too.
May I take the opportunity to say a huge thanks to readers and booksellers for embracing my books. It means a great deal to me, and I love to receive and read their comments and reviews.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Phaedra Patrick.