My friends don’t necessarily have the expected reaction when I tell them that I’m writing a new novel. Of course, they’re happy and supportive, but first they have to get one vital clarification out of the way.
“Please tell me I’m not in it?”
The truth is, they probably are. Not their character as such, but perhaps a story they’ve told, a conversation they’ve repeated, a drama they’ve experienced, a laugh that they’ve been unable to control or perhaps just a word they’ve used to sum up a moment in time.
Without my girlfriends, I’d have so much less to write about.
My husband regularly points out that he didn’t realise that when he married me, I came with a pack of women parked at my kitchen table, tea (or wine) in one hand, biscuit in the other. The latter is omitted if we’re on yet another low-carb diet.
We share secrets, woes, worries, support, gossip, laughs and sometimes the occasional weep (damn you, sad movies and PMT). I think female friendships can be the most enduring of all bonds, lasting longer than romances and marriages, and often stronger than family ties.
Those are the relationships that I wanted to give Shauna in The Story of Our Life.
The book opens with Shauna revealing that her husband has slept with another woman. It then goes back in time as she tells us how she fell in love with Colm at first sight, then moves through the years as we learn about the twists and turns of their lives together.
Throughout it all, Lulu and Rosie, her closest mates since childhood, are part of their extended family. Lulu is the wild, unpredictable, hugely frustrating rebel and Rosie, the sweet, compassionate people-pleaser who is searching for her happy ending.
Their relationships, however, have their own challenges because I wanted to write about imperfect people in an imperfect world, and ask the question, how much are we able to accept and forgive the people we love?
And is there ever a time when you should say goodbye to a lifelong friend?
I don’t have the answers. At the start of the story, Shauna doesn’t either.
As for my girlfriends?
I’ll ask them later, when they’re back at the kitchen table.
Shari’s seventeenth novel, The Story Of Our Life, is out now