Sarah Simpson talks about the inspiration for her new book, Her Greatest Mistake.
Life as a writer only really began in 2016, a combination of a burning desire and life finally allowing some kind of space to put pen to paper. Her Greatest Mistake was probably twelve months in creation, then ensued a further year of re-writing et cetera, including four title changes. I signed with my lovely agent, Broo Doherty, in June 2017 and was then over the moon to be offered a three-book publishing contract with Aria, Head of Zeus in November of the same year. Up until this point, my own self-doubt kept me at distance from the possibility of ever being able to call myself a writer. I genuinely have so many people to thank, all of which I borrowed their faith in me.
Who would I say inspired me to write? In fairness, it all began within the lands of Enid Blyton. My time spent waiting to jump back into the magical adventures so far removed from my world, yet allowed me to feel part of it. And this is important to me in my writing.
Hopefully, my readers will never have experienced the plights of my main female character, Eve. But I do hope they will be able to engage with her, relate to her and join her on her turbulent, emotional journey. Sadly, many of us will know of someone who has trodden similar, delicate paths. I honestly found the writing of Eve’s story an extremely emotional one, it felt important to write from her perspective, her voice, not only to give the depth to her character as I wanted to but to somehow offer some justice, if at all possible to those who have suffered in anyway similar. This is itself was exhausting to write at times. I can admit that some of the scenes made me cry for her.
I’ve always wanted to write about life and as with Her Greatest Mistake – perhaps travel the darker aspects of life and its relationships.
Her Greatest Mistake is a story of how life can so easily take a wrong turn, twisting and spinning in a nightmare fashion. Eve is a psychologist second and a mother first to her son, Jack, and we witness how she struggles to maintain both professional and personal positions. She explores how it is not always what we see, what we know, but more perhaps – what we don’t see and what maybe we don’t know. The readers’ journey with Eve will involve moments of sadness, darkness, happiness, guilt, hate, fear but above all – love. Her Greatest Mistake also reflects on the relationship between truth and lies and how really, there is very little absolute truth, only ever perspective. A perspective coloured by life and personal experiences in any moment of time.
‘Perception – or life as we know it. Perception meanders down from upstairs, mingling with and influencing billions of neurochemical reactions as it descends. It changes with context; it changes with experience; it changes minds. The perceptual steps are not unyielding. They stretch and bend, as malleable as plastic. The world you perceive isn’t really the world itself, it is, simply, your story of the world. At the moment. What you see in this story or any other story; is in part choice and in part unconscious; but always utterly subjective’.
This is a little something I scribbled down before writing Her Greatest Mistake. Although the story is about Eve’s plight and her need to protect her son Jack, it is also an exploration of perception. Not just the role of, but the power of something so incredibly subjective. During my time working within mental health, I witnessed how perceptions can devastate and pull apart lives. Both those held personally at the world and others but also those directed inwards. This is a theme running through Eve’s story. She was held prisoner in a world of abuse, a marriage drip fed by abuse, by a truth only know by her. Her perceptual outlook almost sealed her fate. For those looking in, they saw a completely different picture to the one she was forced to live. Eve made choices in life based on perceptual understandings, then hindsight cruelly judged her on these choices.
Eve’s love for her son is the drive and power behind her determination and her resolve to make change. I remember clearly in my psychology under-graduate days, a certain professor telling me – everyone has it them to kill given the right circumstances. I questioned this at the time, as does Eve but then she realises – given the right or wrong coming together of circumstances, it makes perfect sense. No-one is exempt from this.
For me, life isn’t all about dark times, happy times, funny times, sad times, anxious times, it’s a fusion of all of them. We cannot change our pasts, we cannot undo what we know, sometimes we just have to find a way to live with things and this is reflected through the journey of Eve. With her the reader may feel hopelessness, happiness, fear, sadness, guilt, hatred and love. I have tried my hardest to capture the tormented existence of living within an abusive relationship and to ask the reader to always question– are they sure they see the truth? I now live in beautiful Cornwall, with my husband and three children. Which is also the current home of Eve and her son, Jack. The world of Eve was created walking the coastlines, lost in thought moments gazing out to sea with a mind that always wonders why, how, what if?
Do we ever know what goes on behind closed doors?
Eve and Gregg were the perfect couple, with the perfect marriage…which has become the perfect lie. Gone is the charming, attentive Gregg – instead Eve wakes up each morning beside a manipulative and sinister man who controls his wife’s every move.
So Eve flees her immaculate marital home to keep herself, and young son Jack safe. Yet no matter how careful she has been, she knows Gregg will be relentless in his pursuit of his missing family. And that one day, when she’s least expecting it, he will find them…
What was Eve’s greatest mistake? Marrying Gregg? Leaving him? Or leaving him alive…?
Sarah Simpson has a first-class honours degree in Psychology and has worked in a neuro-psychology department at a Brain Rehabilitation Hospital. When she first graduated she formed a mental health consultancy and worked as a psychologist within the family court system of Warwickshire and Oxfordshire. Three years ago she moved to Cornwall with her husband and three children, and runs her own practice in Truro. Her Greatest Mistake is her first novel, and she is currently working on the second.