FAITH HOGAN - Hello, UPLIT!

The Girl I Used To Know – Well, Hello UpLit!

It seems like a while, since I’ve dropped into the Aria blog, but it is very, very nice to be back here. I know, that since I’ve been published with Aria, there are a few different questions that I’m regularly asked, but the most recurrent is probably where do you get your ideas?

Well, I’m obviously not alone in having a fairly active imagination, like a lot of my fellow writers with Aria – the ideas are easy, it’s getting the time to write them that often poses the biggest challenge! Four children, one husband, a cat who thinks he’s King of the universe, two gerbils, a few local committees and, oh, yes, a full time job – all tend to bleed into the writing, just a bit!

I’ve always wanted to write about the kind of people I know, ordinary women with huge capacity for living, loving, forgiving and growing. I suppose, we all too often, write what we read. Most of the writers I’ve loved over the years, produce character driven works, so although I’ve a bit to go, people like Ann Tyler and Rosamunde Pilcher inspire me. Whatever the geographical distances or time passed, they are classic tales of family and emotion, of ordinary lives from an extraordinary voice. I do think that emotions are international, so it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the highlands in Scotland or the pocketed city of Baltimore – love is love and life is life wherever you are.

The women in The Girl I Used To Know have, I hope a little of all of us in them. To the world, they appear to be so much more than they feel they are. On the one hand, there is the woman who seems to have it all, the perfect life. Amanda has a happy marriage, an enviable home, a lovely family – on the outside. She has plenty of money, stylish friends and a lifestyle many would envy. It turns out, on New Year ’s Eve, as she moves through Dublin’s most glamourous set that there is an emptiness to her existence that she can’t quite fix or fathom. As the New Year progresses, her life, as she’s known it becomes slowly undone – but what is it they say – you have to break some eggshells if you want to make an omelette?

On New Year ’s Eve, across the city, Tess – a grumpy odd-ball, who’s spent two decades at war with Amanda is having an epiphany of her own. Spending a night in the A&E and hearing that she’s not invincible gives her reason to reassess also. If her life doesn’t exactly come crashing down, it’s certainly discommoded and she recognises she has to make some changes, but like Amanda, she may just find that breaking those eggshells was the best thing she has ever done…

The Girl I Used To Know is set in Dublin, in one of those extraordinary squares that seem to have reserved the right to stand proudly through the centuries. These are places that have seen extremes of affluence and poverty and have survived to glory once more. Swift Square in reality does not exist, and yet, maybe it does. Like Amanda and Tess, (the Misses every-woman), it is a ubiquitous feature of the Dublin city landscape, although, the corporation have not yet decided to honour Jonathon Swift with his own square. In contemporary Ireland, it is a place where the very rich meet the rather ordinary and somehow they must rub along together. Very often, there is a choice how we treat our neighbours, but when you’re foisted together, well – it can go either way, can’t it? 
I think the arrangement, of sharing a house, then a street or a square with people who can’t get along together makes for interesting dynamics between contrasting personalities. The truth is, that were it not for the fact that Swift Square binds them together, Amanda and Tess would never have crossed paths. In the end, it is the crossing of paths, a simple act of walking about the square and meeting one’s neighbour that is the making of them both.

When I was writing this book, it occurred to me that we all take the same steps, in some way each day, but it’s the tiny variations that make for interesting changes to our overall landscape. I know, when people see the cover (which is, by the way gorgeous- thanks to Aria Fiction) for The Girl I Used To Know, they will expect to open a book that is tidy, linear and maybe romantic. With a little luck, they’ll be pleasantly surprised by an uplifting read in an age when I think, it’s important to focus on the good life and to see the possibilities of how even ordinary lives can be transformed for the better. In an age where we are moving fast, sped along by social media, new, sometimes scary, ideologies and an ever shrinking world, it is time to look towards something uplifting, positive and hopeful.

The Washington Post put it brilliantly in describing Pilcher’s books:
‘There are two kinds of fiction. Books that are good for one, but disagreeable... and the other kind, that is a comfort, that does good because it cheers…’ I hope The Girl I Used To Know will belong to the latter category.  I think, we’re calling it ‘UpLit,’ and I for one am delighted to be part of it all!

Happy Days,
Faith x