AN INTERVIEW WITH SARAH WENHAM
When I first thought about the subject of my next book, my mind was filled with questions. Who is the main character in this story? What will happen to her? I had the bare bones in my mind, but as a writer you have to put flesh on them in order to gain a reader’s attention.
I was told at Creative Writing Classes that you have to write about and describe ‘rounded’ characters: they have to be believable; they have to have problems, or conflict of some kind. But they have to be likeable, law abiding (well she would have to be because she was a solicitor), stiff and starchy when needed, but able to enjoy life to the full. In my mind, my heroine was Mrs. Sarah Sensible. She was a solicitor (or a lawyer to my American readers). Yes, she was very attractive, slim and in her mid-thirties, and married to Tom Wenham, also a solicitor.
Some time ago, I read about a “Character’s Interview”, so here is my version. I will set the scene for you.
Sarah and I are sitting at an old wooden table in the garden of the local pub and I have a piece of paper with several questions written on it, to which I’m dying to know the answers.
Author: Hello Sarah. This is a “getting to know you” interview. Are you happy to tell our readers a little about yourself?
SARAH: Hello. Yes, although I am a little reluctant to have you delve too deeply into my mind. It has been quite a hard time for me.
Author: I do appreciate how you must feel. It must have been extremely difficult for you. Firstly, can you tell us a little about yourself and Tom, of course?
SARAH: Yes, well… it was my first day at Law School, and I was feeling a little nervous, and… I was introduced to Tom. He was young, handsome, intelligent, and we hit it off immediately. It may sound improbable, but we sailed through all the studying and exams together. About a year after we qualified, we decided to get married: we were very much in love.
Author: Your father was a solicitor too, wasn’t he?
SARAH: Yes. He had started up a law practice several years before. It was a big step to take, but Tom and I decided to join him. I have my father to thank for my enthusiasm for anything to do with the law and helping me to become a more rounded person.
Author: And Tom…?
SARAH: Yes of course. He was amazing… utterly amazing. Not only was he intelligent, but he was… he was wonderfully open. His knowledge of the law was infinite, and Tom and my father would often talk for hours about every conceivable aspect of the law. Oh, but don’t run away with the impression that I was a disinterested party; quite the opposite. Then my father died. I loved Tom dearly, so I was quite happy for him to be an equal partner in the practice.
Author: I know this is painful for you, but you must have been unimaginably distraught when you learned about his accident. How did you cope?
SARAH: I don’t really know how I coped really. I was living and thinking like an automaton. Nothing seemed to matter anymore. I was sitting at home waiting for him to return from a conference in Geneva, when I heard the telephone ringing. I had no inkling of the disaster which was about to unfold. The small aircraft in which Tom was travelling, crashed and he sustained injuries which were so serious that it seemed impossible for him to survive. He was in a coma, you see.
Author: Can you describe your feelings while he was in a long-term coma?
SARAH: My feelings were complex. How could you sit and watch the man you love more than anything in the world, struggle to survive? I couldn’t eat, sleep or work properly. My mind was totally fixed on waiting for him to wake up again.
Author: What was it that made you agree to end his life?
SARAH: I knew that I really had no alternative but to let him go. Once there is no brain-stem activity, life is impossible. Half of me wanted to scream “NO”, but the other half argued with me. It was an horrific battle. “THOU SHALT NOT KILL” screamed at me. But it was no use. Tom, the man I loved so dearly, was no longer a living sentient being and never could be again.
Author: Then what happened, Sarah.
SARAH: I signed his life away. I…
Author: I know this is a really difficult question to answer, but how did you feel afterwards?
SARAH: Numb, grief-stricken and so terribly guilty. In fact my heart felt like a solid lump of ice.
Author: Can you tell me exactly how you felt when the ice melted?
SARAH: How long have I got to answer such a question?
Author: As long as it takes, Sarah. Thank you for being so candid.
SARAH: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about my life with Tom…