Blog Tour: If You Were Here - Author Interview with Alice Peterson

Today I am over the moon to welcome amazing author Alice Peterson to my blog. Her latest book, If You Were Here, is out now and to celebrate she stopped by to answer all my bookish questions. 

Hi Alice and welcome! First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Thank you for having me Alba. The first thing I’d say is I never expected to be a writer. I was always ‘Alice, the tennis player’. Aged 18, and ranked amongst the top 10 juniors in the country, I was about to go to America on a tennis scholarship – when I felt pain in my right hand. This pain then spread to my whole body and I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition called rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Overnight I never played tennis again – a sadness that will always be with me. But I fought hard to rebuild my life – by telling my personal story and then becoming a novelist. 

Your new novel, If You Were Here, is an emotional and inspiring story. Can you tell us a bit about it? What inspired this idea?
Because of losing my tennis and my battle to live with RA, I am drawn to writing stories of adversity and celebrating the power of the human spirit. If You Were Here was inspired by one of my mother’s friends who told me she had Huntington’s Disease, a genetic and hereditary condition that damages the nerves tissues in the brain and spinal cord. This was terrible in itself, but what really drew me to wanting to write about this was the fact she hadn’t yet told her son that he too had a 50% chance of inheriting HD. It made me wonder how I’d react if I were to find out in my 20s I was at risk. Would I want to take a test to see if I had the gene or not? Basically, how much do we want to know about our future - that’s what really grabbed me… If You Were Here asks all these questions, and really focuses on family and friendships and how they endure tough times too. And finally, there is a ‘will they, won’t they’ love story, which I loved writing… eeking it out to the very end! 

Characters in your stories are always complex and feel very real. How do you research your characters? Do you talk to experts, go to places where they go too, base them on real people?
The heart of my novel comes from truth, so while I haven’t written my mother’s friend’s story, it feels real as I write about things that happen to people in everyday life. I was really fortunate that two HD charities put me in touch with people who were willing to tell me about their experiences. I also was hugely helped by a Consultant Clinical Geneticist called Dr Nayana Lahiri, who told me all about the genetic counselling process and the fears and hopes of all those she meets who are at risk of carrying the gene. I found the research compelling. It was moving to hear so many different stories. 

Which character do you hold closest to your heart? And which is the one most similar to you?
I adore Peggy, who is Flo’s grandmother. While she might be flawed – she admits she has made so many decisions that she has come to regret, I love how she finds the strength to accept her past and fight for her future, and Flo’s. Her character came alive on paper – I could hear her voice, see her face– I really do feel as if she is real. The one most similar to me is Flo. I really put myself into her shoes and kept on thinking ‘what would I do?’

How does your writing process go? Do you plan everything first or you just start writing and let your characters talk to you? I have to say your stories always make me cry, do you also cry while writing them?
No, I do months of research first. I never plan or plot my books chapter by chapter – I probably should as often I need to do major revision – but I know, inside-out, my characters and I have a beginning, a middle – and an end. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t change – I talked to my agent and editor so much about how to end If You Were Here – all of us having different opinions. But essentially, I know what motivates my characters, I understand their hopes and fears and what they’d do in certain situations, so with all the research behind me, and a loose structure, I just write. I cried a lot writing this story. There is one scene, towards the end, which made me cry every single time I read it, or revised it. I’m wondering if you cried in that scene too. I hope so… 

Could you recommend us a novel that you have read recently and has stayed with you?
After The End by Claire Mackintosh. This book deals with everyday life too – it’s about an impossible choice a mother and father have to make about their son, and how this choice threatens to tear their family apart. It really does make you wonder what you’d do if you were in the same position as them. It is heart-breaking, uplifting and beautifully written. 

And finally, are you working on a new story already?
In the last year I have been doing a foundation counselling course, and am looking to begin a degree this September, as counselling as always been something I’ve longed to do – and I feel it could really help my writing. I do have an idea for a new book and have done some research, and all I can say is, like If You Were Here, it’s inspired by real people and real life…

About the Book:

Title: If You Were Here
Author: Alice Peterson
Published: August 22nd 2019 by Simon & Schuster

Blurb: If You Were Here is a moving and emotional story about facing a life-altering dilemma head-on and summoning the courage to cope with it' JILL MANSELL

'A beautiful story about living life to the fullest and having the courage to overcome adversity' PAIGE TOON

When her daughter Beth dies suddenly, Peggy Andrews is left to pick up the pieces and take care of her granddaughter Flo. But sorting through Beth’s things reveals a secret never told: Beth was sick, with the same genetic condition that claimed her father’s life, and now Peggy must decide whether to keep the secret or risk destroying her granddaughter’s world.

Five years later, Flo is engaged and moving to New York with her fiancĂ©. Peggy never told her what she discovered, but with Flo looking towards her future, Peggy realises it’s time to come clean and reveal that her granddaughter’s life might also be at risk.

As Flo struggles to decide her own path, she is faced with the same life-altering questions her mother asked herself years before: if a test could decide your future, would you take it?

An emotional, inspiring and uplifting novel, IF YOU WERE HERE will break your heart and put it back together again. The brand new novel from the acclaimed author of A Song for Tomorrow, perfect for fans of Hannah Beckerman, Dani Atkins and Jill Mansell.


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