Sally Hepworth is the author of the new novel The Family Next Door. Her other books include The Secrets of Midwives and The Mother's Promise. She is a former human resource professional and has lived in Singapore, the UK, and Canada. She lives in Melbourne, Australia.
Q: You tell the story in The Family Next Door from a variety of perspectives. Did you write the novel in the order in which it appears, or did you focus on one character at a time?
A: I wrote it in the order that it appears. Even though there are multiple characters, writing linearly is important for me so I’m conscious of pacing, structure and the way each character intertwines with the others. If I broke them up I think it would be like a Rubik’s cube, trying to slot everything back into the right spot.
Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: I rarely know how my books will end. I tend to start with a premise and an idea of the challenges my characters will face along the way, but I never really know how it will end until I’ve written it.
For me, it takes time to get to know the characters and understand how they will react. After two or three (or 17) drafts, the ending usually reveals itself to me.
Q: The novel deals with the issues of family and motherhood. What do you hope readers take away from the book?
A: I try not to anticipate what readers might take from my books, purely because that’s not my role. People come to books with their own lenses—tinted by their experiences, morals and beliefs.
I often receive emails from readers who have been touched by something so minor or incidental that I could never have anticipated—or even intended—it, and yet, it’s affected them profoundly. That’s why I stick to writing the most informed, entertaining book I can and leave the rest to the reader.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I have just turned in my 2019 book, The Mother In Law, to my editor. There will be edits to come on this book before I start on my 2020 book. No rest for the wicked!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I am currently finishing up my tour for The Family Next Door but readers can visit my website for information for how to have me Skype into their bookclub. They can also sign up to my newsletter, The Secret Life of Authors, on my website, where I spill the dirt what it’s really like being an author.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb