#BlogTour! #Q&A with author of #TheGoodDaughter – @alexandraburt @avonbooksuk

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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.

Buy now from Amazon

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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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:

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The thoughts of a toddler…and a mumma

One morning (yesterday to be precise), I was sitting on the sofa (getting soft toys put on me and around me) and I had a light-bulb moment. Don’t get used to it, it doesn’t happen very often. Pretty much the same amount of time as a leap year! Ah I jest, I jest….nowhere near that frequent. ANYWAY, my light-bulb moment was that the little person in front of me that morning, is extremely witty and would make incredible reading material. Slightly biased perhaps, but oh well! ;).

How many of you have either had children, or been able to be around young children? Probably a lot of you actually. I hadn’t really had the opportunity to be around a baby a lot until I was 16, when my little brother was born. So when I became a mummy at 23, I had a rough idea of what to expect in terms of the basic keeping them alive sort of thing. But one thing that I never prepared for, was the scenario of having a two year old coming out with comments and thinking to myself ‘darn it, I wish I had said that!’. Believe me, it happens a lot! For example, my eldest brother was wearing a university gown in a picture, and my little one said he was wearing a dress. Well, that and she called him a Princess. To say I was slightly disappointed that I never thought of that would be a rather large understatement! Hilarious.

No offence to little people and their intelligence, but I never realised a two year old would be able to give you reasons why they cannot do something, or won’t do something. ACTUAL reasons.

Me: Eva, can you bring your fork out please?
Eva: Not today mumma, I’m busy.
Me: Busy doing what?
Eva: Busy dancing to songs and kicking Minnie mouse ball in the living room.

Do you think I was annoyed with that? Honestly? No, I was laughing so hard that I had to sit down. Did she break anything? No. Does it matter? No. Was she happy? Yes. Or when I ask her to use her fork for her dinner, she uses it once and goes ‘I’m going to use my fingers now’. That was what she said at din dins tonight. She did what I asked, I never stated for how long haha. Called me a superstar for using my fork though. Ooooooh yeah! Gold star for mumma!!!
One thing I will advise though, do not tell a young child that you need the toilet in a supermarket, ever. Because they will never, ever forget. Even after weeks have passed from you saying it, in a busy supermarket on a Friday afternoon whilst walking past a huge group of people, and as loud as they can go ‘MUMMA, YOU NEED TOILET IN ASDA? YOU GOT UNDERWEAR MUMMA?!’. Yes, I am speaking that from experience. To be fair, I did stop and check that I had underwear on, just to be sure! More hilarity!

Another example is that when you ask them what something is, in one instance I was pointing at a tree, they are incredibly precise with their answer. Did she say a tree? NO. Her answer was ‘tree trunk’ because I was pointing at that. I was like ‘you’re two! smarty pants’. Not that I am insulting her intelligence, because she is a smart cookie, but I never expected her to come out with that! I’m not exactly a genius myself. Close, but not completely! I jest….kind of. I can actually have a chat with her, and not just about peppa pig or how Ra Ra goes ‘raaaahhhhh’. Big people conversations about diggers, tractors, The Hulk, Bon Jovi, Helidoctors or prescriptions…to name a few. I kid you not, all of that list is genuine. Our chats are brilliant! Oh to be two years old again! Instead of getting excited to go to a toy shop, she gets excited because she gets to go to Boots, and Asda!

Just like a lot of people, I do doubt myself sometimes as a mummy, especially the more ill that I get. It also doesn’t help seeing comments saying that ‘chronically ill mummies are selfish’ and their children ‘won’t want an ill parent and would want a normal one’. Now those days I doubt myself, or when it’s really visible that I’m in excruciating pain, Eva knows. Bearing in mind, she is two. She stops whatever she is doing and asks me if I’m okay and ‘what’s hurting mumma?’ then proceeds to say that she will fix it and how cream will make it all better. Two years old. She has more empathy than some adults I know! I don’t ever worry that she won’t love her ill mumma, because I’m her mumma. The person that allows her to be herself when others find fault.

That little girl amazes me every single day. Although I wish she would stop thinking everything costs £100 pounds, makes me feel like I’m going to pass out by spending all of that money….on £100 rice cakes…

I remember parts of my childhood, but two things I remember the most is receiving an easel for my 3rd birthday and having a ‘Jungle Book’ book in my bedroom. I also know that it was my mum that always did things like that. As a child you don’t know how to look at presents in a sentimental way, and why should you? It’s not until you’re older that you start realising the memories connected to your childhood, and funnily enough, some of those memories you put forward into your own children’s childhood without even realising that. I had a teddy bear when I little, what child doesn’t I guess. She had a wonderful name, Susie Bringnals. She went everywhere with me, my own little comfort bear, wouldn’t sleep without her. (Don’t worry, I am going somewhere with this). But unfortunately I grew up and the teddy was no longer in my bed as a comfort bear, obviously. Then one day, Eva picked her up. I froze as the emotion connected to that teddy came flooding back. The years of sitting crying cuddling it whilst my mum hugged me too. Cor I’m crying now! Or when Susie had a plaster put on her head as she ‘had a poorly’ just like me. That was my mum again. Anyway, I told Eva that the teddy’s name is Susie. You know what she did? Gave Susie a massive hug and pulled me in for a cuddle too, just like my mum did with me. You want to know another thing? Susie is currently sitting in my daughter’s bed right now, while she is asleep.

It’s thanks to my mum that I have manners, that I’m not materialistic and that I am very sentimental whilst knowing how to look after anything and everything that I am given. It’s also thanks to my mum that I’m a fiery mare and know how to cut someone down if they’re nasty! Why? Because my mum is a very strong woman who is extremely underestimated in terms of her capabilities. People need to give her way more credit. Now, people might say that toddlers have ‘terrible twos’, ahem, I disagree. They are learning different emotions and unlike us, can’t say it or argue. They try, don’t get me wrong. Because I am fiery, this also means my little girl is fiery, very strong willed and independent. Just like her mumma, and just like her nanny. Would I want to change that in myself? No. Why? Because if people don’t like the three generations of fiery, independence and power, don’t annoy us!

Becoming a mum, despite the fact I had a very low chance of being able to be a mummy, is the most rewarding thing that I have ever done. My daughter is the best thing I have ever made. I appreciate my daughter to the moon and back, and being a mum myself, I also appreciate what my mum did for me as a child. You would do anything to protect your children, regardless.

I’ll end with this, memories need to be made because sometimes they are the only things that you can hold onto when you feel like everything is falling around you. Or as Eva likes to say: ‘Today will be best day ever’.