In conversation with... Rebecca Done

Hi Rebecca! I have just finished reading My Husband the Stranger and I couldn’t put it down! Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: Thanks so much Silvia! I’m so happy you enjoyed the book. My Husband the Stranger is a love story about married couple Molly and Alex. When they got married, Molly knew it would be for ever - but one night Alex has a terrible accident, which leaves him with permanent brain damage. In a single moment, the man Molly married has been transformed into someone new. The book follows Molly and Alex’s journey as they both try to come to terms with his new personality, and what it means for their marriage. And there are some unexpected twists and turns along the way!

Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing the book or did it take an unexpected turn as the characters grew on the page?

A: I usually try and have the plot fully figured out before I start writing, sometimes down to the chapter. Not because I’m particularly organized, but because I’ve found it helps me avoid getting into a horrible muddle further down the line, once I’ve written thousands of words! I’ve been in that situation a few times. That said, the characters and their story inevitably develop and flesh out as I go along, so I can never have it 100% figured out. But I like to think I’m 80% there plot-wise, before I start.

What kind of research, if any, did you have to carry out while you were writing this novel? In general, is research something you enjoy or a means to an end?

A: I had to do a lot of research for this novel, as traumatic brain injury was not something I had any personal experience of. I was pretty much starting from scratch on the topic, which was definitely a challenge. But I spoke to some amazing people along the way – including brain injury survivors, their carers and professionals in the field, who were incredibly helpful and generous with their time – as well as the charity Headway, which was a huge help to me too. In general I enjoy research – you’re connecting with different people, and learning about something that’s often completely new, and as a result I think as a writer your work benefits hugely. 

If this novel was going to be turned into a film, who would you cast in the roles of Molly and Alex?

A: What a great question! Let’s cast Tom Hiddleston as Alex and Gemma Arterton as Molly.

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: Perhaps this is strange, but I did quite enjoy writing the scene where Alex has his accident – probably because it comes quite late on, so it’s the chapter in the book that’s the climax of everything that’s come before. I was able to add a bit of drama, and the challenge of getting such a pivotal scene just right was very satisfying – even though I was dealing with difficult and heart-breaking subject matter. A more tricky scene was perhaps the epilogue – it’s the very end of the book, so as a writer you naturally want the reader to come away feeling satisfied, and that it’s been worth sticking with your story for 300-odd pages! So that was maybe harder to get right.

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

A: Oh, so much! Thousands of words that got cut during the editing process. I wouldn’t like to guess exactly how many – but tens of thousands without a doubt! Nothing major plot or character-wise I don’t think, but dialogue that needed tightening, scenes that needed sharpening, and writing that just needed to be better. In a funny way it’s quite satisfying to reflect on all the material that’s been cut out, because that’s the evidence that (hopefully) you’ve made your book the best that it can be.

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: I’m working on my third book at the moment – it’s a love story, and a little different to what I’ve written before. I can’t say too much more, but hopefully readers will like it!

What are you reading at the moment?

A: I’ve just finished reading Louise Candlish’s Our House and adored it. Such a page-turner – and everyone is right about that last line! If you haven’t read it yet, do – it more than lives up to the hype.

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: I think it’s important to set aside time each day to work on writerly things that aren’t your book – whether that’s social media, or connecting with other authors and readers. I don’t see these as disruptions at all – they’re all part of being an author and more often than not, a welcome break from the WIP! There’s nothing better than receiving a lovely tweet from a reader or a great review from a blogger, so I wouldn’t be without those elements of writing life – they’re what makes all the hard graft worthwhile.

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

A: Never. Give. Up. It’s a cliché for a reason – because it’s so, so true. Just when you think you might never get published, an email can drop into your inbox or an opportunity will present itself, and just like that, everything can change overnight. 

Thank you for your time!

A: Thank you so much for having me!

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