Under One Roof was inspired by a tweet, someone had bought a house and found a hidden room. Twitter was fascinated. People were desperate to know what was inside. It made me want to research rooms that people have found and led me to imagine discovering one myself, and finding secrets that had been hidden for decades.
And so evolved the story of Robin, a middle-aged woman who heads back to Stonedale, a village outside of Manchester, and her childhood home – to look after her estranged mother, Faye, after a fall. They haven’t seen each other for decades, after Robin ran away, aged sixteen, following her beloved father’s unexpected death. She and her mother never got on.
To her amazement, Robin finds her old teenage loft bedroom preserved in time, with ‘80s pop star posters on the wall and the lary, eclectic fashions of that decade stuffed into her wardrobe and drawers. And a big secret, the last treasure hunt her father had ever created. As a family they used to do one every Sunday and this one, supposedly, would change everything.
Add Amber, an angry granddaughter, into the mix and I had three strong women and all the elements I needed to write a story about family, about reconciling the past with the present, and about feeling empowered to take charge of your own destiny.
It fascinated me, the concept of finding your teenage bedroom, unchanged by time, and effectively facing your teenage self. Would they approve of the person you’d become? Would they be disappointed or, actually, feel you’d done pretty well? I loved the idea of being answerable to the youngster you were back then, full of dreams and aspirations – and of figuring out how life had shaped you as you’d grown older. Which hopes had you given up on? What had your successes been?
Would you be able to stand proud and look the younger you in the eye?
Also at the heart of this story, like in much of my writing, is the realisation that people are so often not what they seem, on the surface. A treasure hunt helps the characters explore this. It’s hard, in this fast, stressful modern world, full of expectations, to always be true to yourself. We all project an image to the outside, sometimes it’s authentic, sometimes it’s not – very often it’s a mix and for personal reasons we hide bits. I wanted to explore how turning back time over thirty years would make Robin – and Faye – question the women they’d become.
I hope you enjoy reading Under One Roof as much as I enjoyed writing it. I grew very fond of the characters and should mention Hoover too, a mischievous French bulldog. Perhaps this story will leave you imagining what sort of room you’d love to find, and what you’d say to your teenage self if you bumped into them again.
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