This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Selected for the Autumn 2013 Richard & Judy Book Club, Sakia Sarginson’s debut novel, The Twins, is a gripping and complex tale of twin sisters who are inseparable until an innocent mistake tears them apart. Here, Saskia talks about her wild childhood in the the dark Suffolk forest, the relationship between her own twin daughters, and studying creative writing while raising a young family.
I have identical twin daughters, now 22, and their complicated, contradictory relationship has always intrigued me, just as their love for each other has reassured me. I knew I wanted to write about the bonds between twins. I had a fairly wild childhood in a Suffolk forest in the 1970’s. Looking back on it as an adult, I could see how unusual it had been, and how rich in fictional potential it was – and I had the idea of putting my twin characters into the same environment, but making it wilder and more dangerous for them.
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Part of The Twins is based in Suffolk, where you grew up. What aspects of your childhood influenced and shaped the novel?
Like Viola and Isolte, my brother and sister and I lived in a tiny cottage in the middle of a forest. The dark pine trees, the instinct to hide from strangers, rabbits dying of myxomatosis and sightings of deer were all part of our lives. But unlike my fictional twins, we had a practical and responsible mother, although, being the 70’s, she did let us roam free in the same way that Rose allowed her daughters to.
You obtained a degree in English Literature from Cambridge while caring for your three small children. What advice would you give to women who are contemplating doing the same thing?
Doing a full-time degree with three small children was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it was also one of the most fulfilling; ultimately, it was life changing. By the time I was doing my finals, I was in the middle of a divorce. But the experience made me stronger and it was then that I began to take my writing seriously. Anyone contemplating doing something similar would need to understand the enormous emotional impact it might have, as well as the practical difficulties involved.
What are you working on next?
My next novel, Without You, is coming out next year. It’s set in Suffolk again, but this time by a river and mud flats, and most significantly, on a forbidden island out at sea. It’s about a family devastated by the supposed drowning of their oldest daughter, Eva, and what really happened to her. It’s also about the secret that her parents kept; a secret that is at the heart of Eva’s disappearance. I’ve just begun work on a new book about a girl who takes on a second identity to try escape the guilt she believes she’s inherited from her father. It’s also a love story. It’s set in London and India.
I have an early start to get my youngest child to school. Then I walk my two dogs. I find that walking in the fresh air is a good way to clear my head and I often get ideas, which I have to try and remember! Back at home, I’ll settle down to work with a coffee and often don’t move from my desk, apart from to make more coffee and toast and honey. I keep working until my son gets back from school. I always begin by re-reading what I wrote the day before and editing that. That helps me ease my way back into the story. I like to write something every day if I can. It’s important to read too, so I tend to do that in bed. Which means early nights and no social life!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Find your own voice, the way you tell a story. You only find it through the process of writing. So write every day – even if it’s just notes to yourself, ideas, a diary.
Keep writing. Don’t give up. You need to believe in yourself. Mistakes are part of the learning curve. Rejections come with the territory.
Editing is vital. Each piece of writing generally needs to go through many drafts before it reaches the final version. (And even then, I still read my printed work and want to get out a pen and keep changing it!).
Meet the Writer: Saksia talks about the plot for her debut novel, The Twins.