Taking on the Difficult Stories with Susan Gandar, author of We’ve Come To Take You Home

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One of the delights of blogging is that books I’m introduced to books I wouldn’t necessarily encounter. We’ve Come To Take You Home by Susan Gandar is one such book. Susan has kindly agreed to provide a guest blog today all about how her debut adult novel We’ve Come To Take You Home doesn’t shy away from difficult stories, and I’m delighted to be sharing her post with you.

Available from the publishers in ebook and in paperback as well as on Amazon UK and Amazon US, We’ve Come To Take You Home was published by Mataor on 28th March 2016.

We’ve Come To Take You Home

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‘Powerful, intelligent and moving …’ Graeme Simsion, author The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect

‘We’ve Come to Take You Home’ is an unusual and compelling story of love, loss and the importance of family.

Samantha Foster and Jessica Brown are destined to meet. One lives in the twentieth century, the other in the twenty-first century

April 1916 and thousands of men have left home to fight in the war to end all wars. Jessica Brown’s father is about to be one of those men. A year later, he is still alive but Jess has to steal to keep her family from starving. And then a telegram arrives – her father has been killed in action.

Four generations later, Sam Foster’s father is admitted to a hospital’s intensive care unit with a suspected brain haemorrhage. A nurse asks if she would like to take her father’s hand. Sam refuses. All she wants is to get out of this place, stuck between the world of the living and the world of the dead, a place with no hope and no future, as quickly as possible.

As Sam’s father’s condition worsens, her dreams become more frequent – and more frightening. She realises that what she is experiencing is not a dream, but someone else’s living nightmare…

We’ve Come to Take You Home is an emotionally-charged story of a friendship forged 100 years apart.

Taking on the Difficult Stories

A Guest Post by Susan Gandar

Susan Gandar signing books

Whilst working as story consultant on the TV hit show Casualty I gained a reputation for taking on so-called ‘difficult’ stories . The expected result might have been a drop in viewing figures. Quite the opposite happened – they rocketed from 7 million to 14 million.

And I’ve followed much the same game plan with We’ve Come To Take You Home. Both Sam’s story and Jess’ are ‘difficult’, in the sense they are strongly rooted in reality, in small detail. My own mother died of a brain haemorrhage. I had many of the same experiences as Sam, including being too afraid to hold her hand, a fear I never overcame, but Sam does.

In Jess’ story, I don’t try to soften up what was a very challenging and harsh time. She loses her father, her baby brother dies of starvation, very common during the First World War, but not often admitted or spoken about, and her mother commits suicide, again not in the least unusual. She’s left alone, working as a maid in London, and ends up, at the age of 15, pregnant not knowing whether the father of her child is alive or dead. Does she or doesn’t she keep the baby? It would be a very difficult decision for a girl of that age now. But can you imagine what it must have been like in 1917?

I didn’t want to go down the typical linear narrative structure instead choosing to run the two stories together, side by side. They bump into each other along route before tying up firmly at the end. And, guess what? This is the structure that was so successful on Casualty and one I believe will appeal enormously to young adult readers who so are used, and so able, to do multi-strand thinking. I read an interview with the agent Darley Anderson not so long ago – about young adult readers, the need to reach out to them, to offer something structurally, in the sense of narrative, different. And that’s exactly what I’ve tried to do.

And then just to make my life even more difficult, I add a touch of ‘fantasy’ or ‘magic’ – although I would prefer the description, ‘supernatural’ or even ‘spiritual’. Because in the context of We’ve Come To Take You Home, there are no ghosts, only spirits, and they are as real as you and me.

An odd mix, but boundaries exist to be challenged.

About Susan Gandar

Susan Gandar holding book

My father, John Box, was a film production designer, working on ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, ‘Dr. Zhivago’, ‘The Great Gatsby’, ‘A Man For All Seasons’ and the musical ‘Oliver’. Our house was always filled with people, usually eccentric, always talented, invariably stroppy, discussing stories. My mother put my father’s four Oscars to good use as toilet roll holders, doorstops and hat stands.

A major chunk of my childhood was spent loitering around on film sets. Who needs an ‘English education’ when you have the polystyrene-coated streets of downtown Moscow, ten miles outside of Madrid, to explore?

But then the years of ‘Who Will Buy My Sweet Red Roses’ came to a rather abrupt end. Reality knocked on the door in the guise of the Metropolitan Line to Shepherds Bush and the BBC. Working in television as a script editor and story consultant, I was part of the creative team responsible for setting up Casualty. I became known for going after the more ‘difficult’ stories at the same time successfully racking up viewing figures from 7 to 14 million.

I went on to develop various projects for both the BBC and the independent sector. The period I enjoyed most was working with Jack Rosenthal, a wonderful writer, on the series Moving Story – ‘That’s a situation, a good situation, but now you need to make it into a story.’

Martin, my husband, was made an offer he couldn’t refuse and we left England to live in Amsterdam. ‘Ik wil een kilo kabeljauw, alstublieft’ (I want a kilo of cod please) will, if all goes well, buy you a piece of cod – I decided to concentrate on my writing rather than my Dutch pronunciation.

My debut novel, We’ve Come to Take You Home, set in the present and in 1918, a crossover aimed at the adult and young adult women’s popular fiction market, was published on 28th March by Matador.

You can find out more about Susan on her website, find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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