We sat down with Marina McCarron to talk about the enduring nature of dual timeline novels, which holiday hotspots give the best writing inspiration, and much more!
1) You're a very well travelled individual! Which place has given you the most writing inspiration?
That is an interesting question, because my love of wandering around new places and daydreaming and my writing are intrinsically linked.
I would have to say France is where I get the most inspiration. I can walk through any street and start thinking about the people who live in the houses, and I love staring at the balconies and window shutters.
I was once walking behind a man in a place called Sete, and he had a plate of croissants, stacked high, in the bottom of his baby buggy and as I walked along I wondered why he didn’t have a sheet of paper over them or some dreadful plastic, to keep them clean? He then sat at a pub with friends and had a drink and was still there when I walked by later. I thought to myself, will his wife be upset when he gets home? Will someone eat a croissant and be sick because it wasn’t covered? That sends me down a rabbit hole of what ifs, that usually leads to an idea that gets fleshed out as I think. The idea for my first novel, The Time Between Us, came to me as I walked through Bayeux in Normandy.
In Tours one night I walked by a group of people at an outdoor café dancing. A man looked at me and smiled. A happy, kind, life is good smile. To this day I wish I had walked in and started dancing with him. Maybe I would have met the man of my dreams. I’m sure I would have at least got a story out of it. France makes me feel alive.
Before lockdown I visited Australia and I’ve already started thinking about a crime story I’d like to set there. Perhaps also because I so enjoyed the Dry by Jane Harper, set in Australia, and Bereft by Chris Womersely is a personal favourite. And I love New England, in the USA. I feel very nostalgic in that area.
2) Why do you think dual timeline novels are so enduring?
I think it is the sense of mystery, how you know at some point the two stories will come together, but you’re never sure when or how.
The past can really do a number on a person, and I often wonder how small changes in the past could have made a person’s life easier or changed its trajectory.
My mother told me that my Scottish grandfather had planned to emigrate to Australia, and one day he met a man who told him Canada was so rich you could pick the money up from the street. He moved to Cape Breton and the only job he could get was in a mine. He died at 37 from what they called miner’s lung leaving five small children behind. My mother told me she often thought about how her father’s life would have been different had he never run into that man. To me, that was very powerful. She passed the baton and now I wonder, too.
3) What books do you love picking up at the airport before you fly?
I usually have a stack of books and my Kindle in my bag, but I do love exploring an airport bookstore. They are a great place to see the big sellers. The last airport store I was in I saw Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid and thought it was a gorgeous jacket. I love a good wander through a nice airport shop. I love the one in Queenstown, New Zealand. Paper Plus I think it is called. And the shop in Tampa International.
4) What 3 writing tips would you give to anyone looking to write their first novel?
Be gentle with yourself. Sometimes the material comes when it comes. But at the same time, be prepared. Write down ideas when they come to you. I often scribble down sentences that come to me when I am walking or doing something else, and I throw them all in a box. I also suggest finding your pattern. I write best first thing in the morning, so I used to get up and write at 4am, before I went to work.
Finally, when you finish your first book, remember it is a draft. Set it aside and work on something else, then go back to it. Many years ago I wrote something I called A Few Things About Jane, and started querying agents. One liked the first 50 pages and asked for a full manuscript. I sent her what was essentially a draft. It didn’t go anywhere. I’m still embarrassed but live and learn.
5) Which upcoming releases are you most excited about this year?
There are authors whose books I always look out for. I loved the Nightingale by Kristin Hannah so I keep an eye out for her books. Charity Norman wrote a book called See You In September that I really liked. The French writer Pierre Lemaitre is a fabulous crime writer so I keep an eye for his stuff, and Matt Haig, who wrote The Humans, one of my favourite books ever. Being a new author I am trying to support other debut writers as well, so I am keeping an eye out for new voices, too.
I have recently read The Paper Palace and am keeping an eye out for the author’s follow up. I loved her setting and the way she wrote the mother character. And I keep an eye out for whatever Reece Witherspoon picks for her club.
Follow Marina McCarron on Twitter for the latest updates: @marinamccarron