Today is my turn on the Blog-Tour for The Good Mother by AL Bird. Not only do you get to find out about her psychological thriller, A.L. Bird has also been generous enough to reveal her inspiration for her book. A very interesting read indeed. To top this exciting post off is my review.
About the author
AL Bird lives in North London, where she divides her time between writing and working as a lawyer. The Good Mother is her major psychological thriller for Carina UK, embarking into the world of ‘grip-lit’. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London, and is also an alumna of the Faber Academy ‘Writing a Novel’ course, which she studied under Richard Skinner. She’s also a member of the Crime Writers’Association. For updates on her writing, you can follow her on Twitter, @ALBirdwriter, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ALBirdwriter or by visiting her website, at www.albirdwriter.com
Inspirations behind The Good Mother
When I was a child I was terrified of being kidnapped. I’d think through exactly what I’d do if someone tried it – the kicking, the screaming, the ‘you’re not my mummy.’ Or how I’d try to jump out if someone drove off with me in the back of the car.
If someone had told me that grown-ups can be kidnapped too, I’d have been horrified.
In The Good Mother, Suze awakes to find she has been kidnapped. She doesn’t know where her daughter is. But then she realises that she is being kept in the room next door. Just separated by a wall. And so we begin.
But it wasn’t only my early, deep-rooted fear that inspired The Good Mother. I didn’t want to write just a kidnap book, or recreate Room by Emma Donoghue. I had another agenda. When we visited Berlin a couple of years ago, I was struck by the stories of families so suddenly and unreasonably kept from one another by the Berlin Wall. The powerlessness in the face of a self-declared authority over your freedom and liberty. The frustration at being so close to your loved ones but so cruelly kept apart. The tantalising feeling that if you could just reason a little harder, shout a little louder, you’d be reunited. I wanted to transplant that wall into an analogous domestic setting, to understand how an individual could be cut adrift from their family. Since I started writing the book I had my own child – I understand for myself now that the horror of something like that keeping us apart would be too disturbing to bear.
That entrance into motherhood also provided new inspirations for the book along the way. There were new things I wanted to explore. The claustrophobia of living with a newborn baby and feeling of being trapped (while attempting feeding/ sleeping/ changing/ learning to co-exist), separated from your usual world, helped me to find the deprivation of the senses that Suze experiences in her captivity. But it also showed me the fierceness of love and anxiety you have about your own baby. So small, so precious, so demanding. Suze knows all about that. And she also knows about the exacting standards we try to set ourselves as mothers. Which ones matter, which ones don’t. The lengths we would take to uphold them.
Of course, apart from these thematics, I set out to keep readers guessing. I like to be hooked and I like a twist – my current Kindle highlights include Disclaimer, Reconstructing Amelia, and The Husband’s Secret (and of course, the various girls – Gone, On a Train…). When I hear that people have been up all night reading The Good Mother, and that they can’t stop thinking about it, I’m delighted, because that’s exactly what I look for in a book.
Because a good psychological thriller that really gets under the skin isn’t just about twists. It’s about exploration. A route into a different set of minds. Often warped, flawed, or damaged minds. But always interesting. In The Good Mother, the relationship that Suze has with her daughter through that wall, with The Captor outside, and with herself, allowed me to delve into the darkest, most destructive parts of the human psyche. Yet it is also an exploration of some of the most awe-inspiring parts – the power of the bond between mother and child, the force of the human spirit to preserve itself, and what we will do for the people we love. As a writer, I’m always teetering on the edge of the wall between the two. I like to see how close my characters can come to falling down.
A.L. Bird, 3 April 2016
I wasn’t expecting the wicked twist at the end. Seems a strange way to start a review, but it confirmed the uneasiness I felt about Susan the whole way through the book.
I have to hand it to Bird, she hasn’t made it easy to like any particular character. Their actions and the overall scenarios make it difficult to feel empathy for any of them.
The kidnapper is nothing short of creepy with a strong fixation on Susan, but hey if he can’t have her there is always the daughter, right? Why doesn’t he just take what he wants and get it over with?
Susan is both relieved and terrified when she realises that her teenage daughter has also been kidnapped. Their connection becomes a lifeline for the two of them. It drives Susan to try the most desperate things to get the two of them out of there. I suppose she does what any mother would do to save her child.
I’m going to come back to something I mentioned at the beginning. The fact I couldn’t connect to the mother. Something about her felt unnatural, something about the interactions with Cara didn’t quite feel right. I think Bird lets the doubts enter into the plot like an invisible layer. She wants you to question your instincts, because she is the one messing with them in the first place.
This is a dark psychological thriller with quite a few unexpected twists and turns. Some more unexpected than others. Everything you assume will probably be proven wrong and any outcome you expect, well you might as well just toss it in the bin.