From the #1 ebook and Sunday Times bestseller, comes the tale of a young woman in search of her past, and the mother who will do anything to keep it hidden…
What if you were the worst crime your mother ever committed?
Dahlia Waller’s childhood memories consist of stuffy cars, seedy motels, and a rootless existence traveling the country with her eccentric mother. Now grown, she desperately wants to distance herself from that life. Yet one thing is stopping her from moving forward: she has questions.
In order to understand her past, Dahlia must go back. Back to her mother in the stifling town of Aurora, Texas. Back into the past of a woman on the brink of madness. But after she discovers three grave-like mounds on a neighbouring farm, she’ll learn that in her mother’s world of secrets, not all questions are meant to be answered…
The Good Daughter is a compelling take on a genre that shows no sign of slowing down. The perfect read for fans of Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins.
It’s my stop on the blog tour for ,The Good Daughter, by Alexandra Burt! I have a mini interview to share with you today, enjoy!
Q&A with author, Alexandra Burt.
1. Your second novel, just like Little Girl Gone, centers on a mother-daughter- relationship. Was that a conscious choice, did you feel compelled to revisit the relationship?
I am fascinated by mother-daughter relationships. My mother passed away when I was in college and I never got to experience an adult relationship between us. There are so many unanswered questions, so many stories she hadn’t told me yet. Her absence left such a steep abyss, such a cavernous black hole, and the effects were far reaching—I felt grief beyond loss, beyond darkness and despair, her death was the end of nurturing, the end of safety, and the end of who I was. I revisit mother-daughter relationships because it allows me the opportunity to live vicariously through my characters, mothers and daughters, for I am both; a motherless daughter and the mother of a daughter. The word ‘orphan’ has such a dramatic incantation, is reminiscent of Dicken’s Oliver Twist getting by with little food and few comforts, a Victorian vision of what it means to be alone in this world and yet it isn’t so farfetched at all, because here I am, literally, forever holding out the empty bowl asking for some more of my mother’s love. It took decades yet eventually I came to a place of gratitude and appreciation, after all, twenty-one years with her were better than nineteen, or ten. Any amount seemed better than no time at all and I continue to hold on to this gratitude. I sometimes hear her firm voice—she wasn’t stern at all but that’s how I imagine it—saying You get what you get and you don’t complain, her attempt to lessen the blow of her absence, make it less painful, less life-altering, a mere loving scolding.
There were these odd moments that snuck up on me after her death. The first one was in my early forties when I realized I had spent more years without her than with her, like a switch had been flipped. Shortly thereafter I approached the age my mother had passed and I imagined my life being cut short at that moment and I felt this panic inside of me; if I let another year go by my stories will be lost to my daughter like my mother’s stories are lost to me. Let no stories be lost was a mantra I adopted, like a coping mechanism, a motto allowing me to eternalize death which is inevitable. That’s when I began to write about mothers and daughters, and yes, there might just be a theme here I won’t be able to escape from any time soon.
- How did your preparation/research for writing this novel differ from, or perhaps was similar to, your preparation for writing Little Girl Gone?
I had personal experience with postpartum depression, a central aspect of Little Girl Gone. I had a lot to draw from, personally and from the mothers I spoke with in preparation for the book. I also consulted maps of New York, had to get it just right because slipups are easy and readers would notice. The setting of Aurora Texas, somewhere East of Dallas, is completely fictional. There are many small towns like Aurora in Texas and all over the country. Childhood is not only a place but also a state of being, something you re-experience once you cross that threshold and returning home to the house you grew up in or lived for the better part of your life can be extremely emotional.
For The Good Daughter I did a lot of research on personality disorders and seizure disorders. The most fascinating theory I came across was a theory called “the doorway effect.” In essence it is the belief that memory is disrupted by switching locations, like walking in another room but forgetting why we went there. It’s not a matter of poor memory at all, but an event that creates a mental boundary, separating episodes, filing them away, in essence compartmentalizing them in order to be able to move on. For The Good Daughter I imagined this “doorway effect” in reverse and on a grander scale: what if we revisit a place where some sort of suffering was inflicted upon us and how that would play out when a character returns to a house where unspeakable acts have taken place. Then I imagined the character unable to leave and forced to confront the past. I was literally stuck in that process of the research, didn’t want it to end, that’s how fascinated I was. Almost as if my mind refused to step out of it, cross over a threshold, anxious if my state of wonder would erase itself, would I too forget how it felt? It’s this obsessive part of a project that allows me to soak up knowledge like a sponge and as I write, I squeeze it and watch it all unfold.
- What were your influences in creating the characters of Dahlia and her mother?
The Good Daughter was inspired by the demise of a marriage I witnessed. I wasn’t at the heart of the story, I was a mere bystander, yet it is safe to say that I got caught up in it. There was a middle-aged couple and their marriage came to an abrupt end. There were no red flags, no infidelity, and no disagreements on financial decisions. I want to believe, like any marriage, it wasn’t perfect but quite average in its trials and tribulations. One day a man finds his house empty, but it’s one thing to be in a deteriorating marriage and ending up separated, it’s another to be the victim of a cloak and dagger operation in the middle of the night. I was left with the premise that we really don’t know the people we live with, regardless how much we want to believe we know everything about them. In the novel I took it a step further; what if your entire life was based on a lie from the day you were born and it was up to you alone to assemble the pieces to uncover the truth. In The Good Daughter, the character Dahlia is a flower and every flower needs water and soil and sunshine and nurturing, like human beings rely on others to sustain them. I realized early readers were quite fascinated with the character of the mother, and I found myself connecting more and more dots and ending up with the character named Memphis who became just as important as Dahlia. Memphis means to endure. It felt fitting, inevitable in a way.
Thank you for stopping by, Alexandra! Also, thank you to Avon Books for having me involved in the tour! This book is on my TBR pile, looking forward to reading it once I get to it!
Here are all the other blogs involved in this tour: