I know I’m not alone when I say I adore stories about missed chances at love. Who doesn’t love the idea of fate and circumstances pulling people apart or pushing them together? Which is why How To Save a Life was a story I’d wanted to write for a long, long time, and why I’m so excited it’s now out in the world!

How To Save a Life tells the story of Ted and Marianne, who meet by chance one December night. Ted is suffering from PTSD after fighting in Kuwait, while Marianne is running away from a Christmas party, dressed as a fairy, after catching her boyfriend with someone else in the toilets. Their lives couldn’t be more different, but somehow, she manages to talk him down from where he’s hovering above the Thames on Waterloo Bridge, ready to throw himself off.

After that night they’re destined never to see each other again – but they both keep thinking about the other. Did Marianne save him that night? How can Ted thank her for what she did?

While the story spans more than twenty years, getting the time and setting right was essential. For Ted and Marianne to keep almost-but-not-quite meeting, the setting had to be a big city, where it’s very feasible they could have lived almost side-by-side and never actually seen each other again. London was the best place for this, with its sheer size and anonymity. It simply wouldn’t have worked in a small town, or a village, or even a smaller city.

It also had to be set during a time when it was hard to track someone down. So no Facebook where you can stalk people, or mobile phones, no social media or CCTV. That’s why I chose to start the story in 1991. Not only did it work well for the telling of the story, but I also loved writing about that era. I’m a real teenager of the 1990s, and although these characters are slightly older than me, it was fun revisiting that time – and even making sure I got details right like what mobile phone people might have had in the year 2000!

Writing about a couple who keep missing each other might sound like a strange way to write a love story – after all, how can there be any love between two characters who never actually meet?! But making decisions about the different directions their lives would take, and making sure they almost corresponded at different times of their life was a challenge I enjoyed taking on.

And finally, the ending is always tricky in a story like this. Should they end up meeting and falling in love, or is it better to keep them apart? Should their love be fulfilled, or is it more realistic for them to be always destined not to be?

Everyone will have their idea of how this story should end – but I hope you enjoy the ending I chose for Ted and Marianne, as well as their journey to get there.

Start reading The Perfect Holiday for 99p 🇬🇧 https://amzn.to/3rfscmm
The Perfect Holiday is set on the island of Mallorca and tells the story of Julian, a man enjoying a long summer holiday in an isolated villa with his second wife, Olivia. His life appears idyllic, but four years previously, his first wife, Helen, was murdered in a case that remains unsolved.
The inspiration for this novel was much less glamorous than the setting it ended up in. I’d been thinking for a long time about unpaid carers and the often unrecognised and unrewarded contribution they make to society. Most of us will have to care for someone at some point in our lives, and it can be lonely and exhausting work. As I considered these issues, I came up with the character of Julian, a man who has always put duty before his own freedom. A child carer for his sick father, Julian then had to look after his first wife, Helen, who was seriously injured in a car accident. I wondered what would happen if Julian found himself unable to cope with his responsibilities. If he decided, for once, to put his own needs first.
As a fan of Patricia Highsmith and her flawed protagonists, I’d been wanting to write an anti-hero for a long time. A character who dares to transcend the moral codes of society. An anti-hero like Julian struggles with the same moral conflicts as the rest of us. We all make choices between our duty to others and our own freedom, sometimes daily. During the pandemic, we faced this choice on a national and global level. We could follow the rules imposed on us and protect our fellow citizens, or we could put our own needs first and risk harming others.
Life often imitates art in uncanny ways. While writing this book, I was also helping to care for my best friend, who was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. The experience was both hugely rewarding and, at times, extremely trying. She and I often joked how the bad days gave me insight into what Julian might have experienced during his years as a carer.
In The Perfect Holiday, we get to vicariously explore what happens when Julian follows his darker impulses and puts freedom before duty. I hope his journey proves as thrilling for the reader as it was enjoyable for me to write.
The writing duo behind I Will Find You discuss Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen ✒️
 
It’s a truth universally acknowledged…
 
Pride and Prejudice doesn’t seem the most likely inspiration for a domestic thriller, but both of us are long time Jane Austen fans and often talk about the Bennet sisters and how different they were. There is Lizzie who is quick witted but full of prejudice, there is the perfect Jane, and the unbridled Lydia who succumbs to her shadow side. Then there is Kitty and Mary. Kitty has the capacity to either follow Lydia down a dark path or redeem herself and follow Jane and Lizzie, while Mary has also gone down a shadowy path but in a more cerebral, pompous manner. This duality of good and bad is also played out with Darcy and Wickham when Lizzie discovers that one has all the goodness and the other has all the appearance of it.
 
What we really loved is how some characters did recover from their pride and prejudices, and showed character growth, while others like Lydia and Wickham went in a dark direction with no redemption.
 
And it’s these relationships between good and bad that we’ve tried to explore in I Will Find You. The story is about three sisters who were all affected by their father’s death in very different ways. And, as they grow older, they make decisions that both mask their goodness, and hide their decent into the shadows, which we hope will keep the reader guessing.
I Will Find You by Amanda Rigby is out now!
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🇺🇸 amzn.to/3CDT1oB

Anybody who has visited my Author’s Page at Amazon will already know a bit about me. I thought, by way of a change, I’d tell you about a few lesser known episodes. Before we decided to spend time in Greece, we were lucky enough to travel a lot and these stories happened in faraway places with strange sounding names, so apologies in advance for coming across as a travel bore. Hope you enjoy them.

Moments Best Forgotten:

On a trek through the Amazonian rainforest, our party was like something from an Agatha Christie story: an American pilot and his air-hostess wife; an elderly German doctor who rarely spoke; a beautiful young Dutch girl, along with her boyfriend [whose nose was well out of joint because the two male guides were obviously enamoured with her] – and us. Before we set off on small canoes into the night, we’d been given a talk about being careful not to step on snakes, what tree barks not to touch because they were poisonous, etc, and, most importantly, not to get lost as people go missing all the time in that environment. 

It seemed to happen in seconds; one moment we were all together with the elderly doctor following the guides [who had both gone to the front for some reason], the next, our clutch of would-be adventurers were stranded because the good doctor was more intent on avoiding snakes than on keeping tabs on the guides who had more important things on their mind than us. 

For almost an hour we were completely on our own with the realisation we may have to wait till daylight – or beyond – to be found.

Our party was divided, unable to agree on a single piece of the sage advice we’d been given, while the vines which offered to slake your thirst or kill you, looked exactly the same to our untrained eyes. And, just like in those hard-to-believe horror movies, the first thing somebody suggested we do was split up. Scary doesn’t cover it.

There has to be a story in there!

***

In Rajasthan, in northwestern India, we hired a local diver to take us around the desert state. Everything was great until we stopped at a railway crossing… and a guy with a cobra came towards our car. 

To our horror he held the writhing snake inside the open window; hissing and spitting. I asked the driver to tell him to stop. 

He didn’t stop. 

A crowd had gathered round the car to watch the fun and we were trapped in the back seat with the reptile inches from our faces, its forked tongue darting in and out of its mouth. One of us was screaming the place down – I was happy to discover later on it was Christine. I spoke sharply to the driver again. He only shrugged as the stranger held the instrument of our terror even closer to us [he understood the snake handler was earning a living from tourists who would pay for him to leave].  

Eventually the train passed and we were able to resume our journey. Just a game of Frighten The Tourist, but I’ll tell you, it worked. 

And by the by, we got ourselves another driver.

***

Having recovered from our earlier trial we decided a night in the desert sitting round a campfire under a blanket of stars would be memorable.

We weren’t wrong!

We travelled into the Thar Desert [the birthplace of Out Of The Silence], and spent a glorious day watching camel drivers race over the dunes while a few stall holders made what they could from the day’s visitors. Eventually, the sun began to set and the riders tired of their games. We looked around for who else would be spending the night round our fire. One by one, all of the tourists climbed back into their vehicles to be driven back to their comfortable hotels.

Ah well, it would be just the two of us and our trusty guides. Very romantic.

We could see our guys over by a lean-to shelter, but there was no sign of our tent – or the meal we expected to see cooking on a welcoming fire. When we reached them they smiled and took us to the top of a dune, laid two rattan mats on the ground…and bid us goodnight.

This wasn’t what we signed up for. Not wanting to appear a wimp, I channelled my inner Laurence of Arabia and suggested we give it a go. Christine wasn’t sure. 

Smart lady.

We sat down on the flimsy mats hoping that the army of dung beetles [attracted by the ships’ of the desert leavings and more comfortable in the cooler evening temperatures – it was getting bloody cold and we didn’t have a jacket between us] making their way towards us, would bump off the edge of our mats and change direction. 

In our dreams.

We watched as our drivers made their way to the jeep and realised we would spend the night in this wilderness completely alone, without food, water or heat; at the mercy of snakes, scorpions and Christ knows what else. 

We didn’t need to speak. We legged it to the departing vehicle just in time.

The gods must have been laughing their heads off, for sure our guides were, but if nothing else, we’d saved our sanity.

I think everyone can probably picture the image, even if you’ve never seen it in a heart-rending TV advert, or a poignant movie scene, of a child standing on the doorstep of their new foster carer’s home, with all their worldly possessions in a black bin liner.

It’s heartbreaking to imagine, being taken by a social worker to a stranger’s house, perhaps with little to no warning. The thought of what that child has been and is still going through is almost too much to bear.

But what if it were you on the other side of the door? What would you do, as that child’s foster carer, to make them feel a little less terrified and to start that spark of belief in them that – whatever their experiences so far – somehow there’s still a way for things to be okay again? Would you offer to make their favourite dinner, introduce them to the family, or show them their new bedroom, with the décor you’ve chosen so carefully to make them feel welcome? What happens if they get to that sunny bedroom, curl up on their bed, with their back facing towards you, and refuse to acknowledge you even exist? 

When Jess, in a Spring Surprise for the Cornish Midwife, applied to be a foster carer, these were the sort of questions she was asked to consider, and it’s the type of question that foster carers have to face for real on a day-to-day basis.

I’ve been lucky enough in my past career to work with some inspirational foster carers and social workers, the ones whose stories are rarely heard, or are lost amongst the headlines when things go horribly wrong. What I know from my colleagues, some of whom have also become good friends, is that both jobs take incredible resilience and the sort of unending patient I can happily acknowledge I’ll never possess. These friends talk about situations, where all they long to do is reach out and give a frightened child a hug, but they can’t. One friend told me it took two years for her foster son to finally accept the hug he so badly needed, but when he did she never wanted to let go. In a lot of ways she didn’t and neither did he. Two decades later, he now has a family of his own, but he comes around for dinner every Sunday without fail, hugging her the moment he arrives!

None of my friends who foster would say any of it was easy, but it’s not always the challenges you might envisage which turn out to be the hardest. Often it’s the endings, when children move on, for whatever reason that might be. Imagine, like my friend, you waited two years for that most precious of hugs and that the first one you got, was the one to say goodbye.

I wanted to reflect all of these things in Jess’s journey and in the stories of the foster carers and social workers who feature in The Cornish Midwife series, even if I can’t begin to touch upon them in the depth their deserve. The Fostering Network anticipates that another twenty-five thousand fostering families will be needed in the UK alone over the next five years, and one of the reasons there aren’t enough good news stories about fostering, is because they aren’t the foster carers or social workers’ stories to tell. They belong to the children who start their journeys waiting on that doorstep outside a stranger’s home. So if you do think you’d know exactly what to do on the other side of the door, why not consider finding out more about fostering – it could be the best decision you ever make. Could you foster? | The Fostering Network

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