'Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.'- Angela Carter

Friday, 13 June 2014

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Sarah Rayner on Mental Health and Writing

Sarah Rayner, author of One Moment, One Morning, has stopped by to answer a couple of questions for MHAM!

Is Another Night, Another Day drawn from personal experience?

I’m often asked if my novels reflect my own life and the honest answer is 'of course they do’. That doesn't mean my books are autobiographical: they're not. My husband, Tom, didn't die on the train like Karen’s husband in One Moment, One Morning and I've never been through IVF like Lou in The Two Week Wait.

Equally, my circumstances are not identical to those of Karen, Abby or Michael in this new novel, which focuses on three people, crying out for help, who meet in a psychiatric clinic. I’m not a widow, like Karen, (who appears in both this book and One Moment, One Morning), nor do I have a child with autism like Abby, or run a florist like Michael (both of whom are new characters). However, I do have first-hand experience of crippling anxiety, and it's this that motivated me to write the book, which also touches on depression, bi-polar illness, even suicide.

Was it therapeutic to write the Another Night, Another Day? 

Yes, in many ways it was. And I know I’m not alone in this; much fiction-writing is therapeutic - if you think about it, stories have been a way of making sense of a senseless world since time immemorial.  From Greek myths to Grimm’s Fairy Tales, different narratives have given shape to our existence, bringing order and form into the chaos. Still, at the same time as a writer journeys into the chaos, so to speak, there is something safe about storytelling: stories may be healing, but they also distance us – they are fiction, not fact. So whilst it was tough to write some scenes in the novel as I try to enter as fully as I can into the hearts and minds of my characters, I was also always aware when I wrote that I was not Karen or Michael or Abby – I was only imagining I was. 

How much research did you do?
A lot!  Because I write fiction not memoir, I have to investigate the many areas where I don’t have first-hand experience to make sure I get the details right. Take Abby, for instance, in order to create her story, I read several books written by parents of children with autism, scoured the internet for blogs and discussion groups, and, most useful of all, enlisted the help of a friend of mine, Cath Newell, whose son is rather like Abby’s son, Callum. I spent time with Cath and her family, visited her son’s school, and had a supper party for her and her friends where other mums of children with autism told me of their experiences.
How would you describe the novel-writing process?
Overall I see my writing a novel as like mixing paints on a palette ; I might choose a little bit of yellow, a whole lot of crimson, then add a touch of cobalt and a smidgeon of black, blending them together to create a narrative. Some of it’s deliberate, some  unconscious – only now do I realize Karen’s curtain of chestnut hair came from the character of Crystal Tips in Crystal Tips and Alistair , a children’s TV show from the 1970s that I didn’t even like as a child.
What I do like, however, is the notion that as someone reads Another Night, Another Day  they might see themselves reflected in some of what Karen, Abby and Michael go through. At the start of the novel Karen’s elderly father is seriously ill, an emotional experience that is sadly bound to resonate with many people.From here – if you’ll forgive my adding an audio to my painterly metaphor – I turn the volume up and brighten the colours; so what happens to Karen as the novel progresses might be brighter, deeper, faster, louder – indeed, better and worse – than reality.  But hopefully, because she started somewhere not too far removed from our own lives, we can learn from her experiences as she does, and grow a little, with her.
Another Night, Another Day
From the author of the bestselling One Moment, One Morning comes another beautiful, bittersweet novel set in Brighton…

Three people, each crying out for help

There’s Karen, about to lose her father; Abby, whose son has autism and needs constant care, and Michael, a family man on the verge of bankruptcy. As each sinks under the strain, they’re brought together at Moreland’s Psychiatric Clinic. 

Here, behind closed doors, they reveal their deepest secrets, confront and console one another and share plenty of laughs. But how will they cope when a new crisis strikes?
Author Bio

Sarah Rayner is the author of five novels including the international bestseller, One Moment, One Morning and its follow-up,The Two Week Wait.

A third novel featuring her Brighton-based characters, Another Night, Another Day, is just out in the UK and available exclusively at Waterstones.

Her first novel, The Other Half, was recently published in America.

Another Night, Another Day is available exclusively in Waterstones.


  1. It's really interesting to hear how personal experience plays a role, but doesn't take the foreground in a story. Great interview ^^

  2. Excellent post. I read and really enjoyed One Moment, One Morning, and I'm looking forward to this read :) Rx

  3. Very insightful post! It's always wonderful to read how the creative process is born from personal struggles and issues - I love to get an understanding of how it all begins to take shape! I need to check out these books asap! Great post ^^


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