In conversation with... Sandra Ireland

Hi Sandra! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of Bone Deep. Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: Bone Deep asks the question, what happens when you fall in love with the wrong person? The consequences threaten to be far-reaching and potentially deadly. Bone Deep is a contemporary novel of sibling rivalry, love, betrayal and murder. This is the story of two women: Mac, who is bent on keeping the secrets of the past from her only son, and the enigmatic Lucie, whose past is something of a closed book. Their story is underpinned by the creaking presence of an abandoned water mill, and haunted by the local legend of two long-dead sisters, themselves rivals in love, and ready to point an accusing finger from the pages of history.

Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing or did it develop before your eyes as the characters grew on the page and did something that you were not expecting?

A: I had an idea where it was going, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there! I suppose it took on a life of its own. The relationship between Mac and her ‘Girl Friday’ Lucie was very interesting. My editor suggested I look again at the dynamic between them, and I began to see that Mac, for several reasons, would have a slightly chilly attitude to Lucie. When I figured that out, the scenes between them took on a new energy, which was very exciting.

What kind of research, if any, did you have to carry out for this novel?

A: I happened to work at Barry Mill, Angus, for several summers, so I knew all about the mill and the technical aspects of milling. There’s a strong thread of folklore running through the book, so I did a bit of reading around the Border Ballads. Sir Walter Scott collected many of the ballads in his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802) and The Cruel Sister is the basis for the tale I’ve woven into Bone Deep.

If this novel could be turned into a film, who would you cast in the roles of Mac and Lucie?

A: Oh that’s a difficult one! Celia Imrie for Mac and maybe Joanne Froggatt for Lucie!

Without giving too much away, can you tell us about a scene in the book that you love or that was particularly difficult to write?

A: Lucie is involved in a relationship with her sister’s boyfriend, and although she tries to finish it, it’s not easy to let him go, because she’s really in love with him. It was very difficult writing the scenes with Lucie and her sister, Jane. It was fun in one way, because I had to make Lucie very devious, but I was almost shouting at Jane through my laptop screen - wake up and smell the coffee!

Is there anything that didn’t make it into the final version of the book?

A: There was a memorable scene where Mac confronts Reuben, the boyfriend. That does happen in the book, but much later and in a different location. Still exciting though!

If you are already working on your next writing project, would you mind giving us a little anticipation of what we are to expect?

A:  Book Number 3 involves a missing mother. Her backpacking daughter Ellie has to return from abroad to deal with the tragedy and confront her feelings about the family scrapyard business. She has to face up to the dark family secrets that she’s been running away from.

Due to the popularity of social networking websites, interacting with readers – be it via Twitter, Facebook Instagram etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?

A: It can get a bit tiring, but on the whole I do like Twitter. I find it really interesting and my interactions with people have always been positive. It’s important to use it wisely. I never post anything political or sensitive and I’m quite happy to block potential followers who appear a bit dodgy! I limit my time on social media, as I don’t think it’s healthy to be checking your phone all the time.

What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: Don’t give up. You have to learn the craft of writing, and it can be a long jurney to publication. But take heart, lots of top writers have suffered rejection and most of them have unpublishable early novels in the bottom drawer!

Thank you for your time!

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