Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!
I am wicked thankful to be bringing you this lovely conversation I’ve had with Sandra Danby – the author I recently highlighted in my #WaitingOnWednesday showcased review – wherein I was able to share my latest discovery of pro-positive story-lines about Adoption. The narrative intention of her series “the Identity Detective” is to feature the unheard of stories of children & families who are seeking to find each other but find those connections to be harder to source as time shifts forward. Whether it is due to missing records or if the people involved have chosen to remain unknown to each other. There are a lot of hidden stories involving Adoption – from the angst of not being able to be reunited with birth families to the fractured sense of self when an adoptee’s past is not allowed to be preserved after an adoptive placement.
In regards to the latter, in her debut novel “Ignoring Gravity”, Ms Danby explores the concept of being an adopted daughter without the knowledge of being a non-biological daughter within a family of two sisters who discover a collection of diaries left behind by their recently deceased mother. The diaries themselves offer motivation to seek out the hidden truths of the past – if you missed my review yesterday, let me offer you a glimpse into why I found it to be an incredibly layered read:
Her own story is what inspired Rose to become the ‘identity detective’ in the series – as we watch her grow into this new role – her truer calling in life – we start to see how passionate research and a mission of seeking the truth can lead someone to uncovering their gift to the world. As Rose was motivated to learn more about her birth origins, she was also keen on understanding the process adopted children had to go through in order to access their records. I had known up to a certain period of time, most adoptions were private or never recorded. The records for those adoptions are harder to search – in many ways, the passageways of where Rose takes her research is very similar to the routes we take as Ancestry Sleuths when trying to uncover more information about our ancestral origins through genealogy. The work is grueling at times as you do not always receive ‘new’ information or ‘new’ leads but what makes the work worthwhile are the bits you do find and how all of that ties together in the end.
I found this section of the novel the most exciting, as Danby moves back and forth from the diaries Rose and Lily’s Mum left behind to be read in her absence to the database searches to the letters of enquries and all routes in-between you can take as an adoptee to back-trace your origins. Including of course, how sometimes different documents reference different kinds of information – you can definitely see why an ‘identity detective’ is necessary to help shift through the grunt work!
Counter to the pursuit for Rose’s truth about her identity is the truth Lily has been seeking about herself – for her state of mind (in regards to her marriage), her state of health (whether or not she is burdened with early menopause) and her outlook on life – as everything she’s faced has taken it’s toll on her well being. She’s not quite herself, full of doubts and fears – questions which rage in her head at all hours and a nauseating sense she knows more than she realises. Her compelling sub-plot not only re-fuelled the main focus on Rose but anchoured both sisters together in a life altering journey where each of them would emerge out of a cocooned period of self-growth.
The choices both sisters are facing are authentically real and honest to their realities – Danby does a brilliant job at asserting us directly into their lives, to where even at first meeting, we understand their individual needs and why this journey they’ve been cast into is so dearly important for them to take together. This is very much a story about sisters as much as it is about self-reliance, courage to face the past and the unexpected ways your innermost hopes are realised in ordinary hours where you never feel anything extraordinary could happen to you.
This is definitely as series to earmark to read, as we continue inside the footsteps of Danby as she charts her next characters and seeks to expound on the groundwork she’s placed within Ignoring Gravity as a re-examination on adoptive families and the reconstructive work it sometimes take to lead ourselves back to centre – back to where we understand who we are, why we’re here and from whence we came. If all of life is a journey, the hardest part is understanding the process which leads us forward – as not everything can be resolved out of the past but we can choose how the past will affect us in the future or if we can find reconciliation instead of resentment.
-quoted from my book review Ignoring Gravity
As you can see, Danby tackles hard situations with the grace of insight which comes from being empathetic to the circumstances she is exploring throughout the expanding series. At the time our conversation first began, only ‘Ignoring Gravity’ was published whilst ‘Connectedness’ was rumoured to be publishing soon. I am grateful to be able to finally present our conversation on the #PubDay for ‘Connectedness’ whilst next week, whilst featuring this series for the third time – as I reveal the topics for Ms Danby’s Guest Posts – I’ll be sharing a bit more about the third installment ‘Sweet Joy’.
Despite the hurdles of the past two years, through my health afflictions and my father’s stroke – the best joy for me was entering into this novel at a point in time where I could lay heart and thought into the narrative before I shared my ruminative thoughts with all of you. If you have a connection to Adoption or are considering to adopt children in the future, I hope this series and other stories I’m showcasing on Jorie Loves A Story become a positive respite for you on your journey.
Remember to brew your favourite cuppa and settle in for a wicked good convo!
Subtitle: To the outside world artist Justine Tree has it all, but she also has a secret which threatens to destroy everything
by Sandra Danby
To the outside world, artist Justine Tree has it all... but she always has a secret that threatens to destroy everything
Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.
Is Justine strong enough to admit the secrets and lies of her past? To speak aloud the deeds she has hidden for 27 years, the real inspiration for her work that sells for millions of pounds. Could the truth trash her artistic reputation? Does Justine care more about her daughter, or her art? And what will she do if her daughter hates her?
This tale of art, adoption, romance and loss moves between now and the Eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of East Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Málaga, Spain.
A family mystery for fans of Maggie O’Farrell, Lucinda Riley, Tracy Rees and Rachel Hore.
Places to find the book:
Also by this author: Ignoring Gravity
Also in this series: Ignoring Gravity
on 10th May, 2018
the Identity Detective series:
Rose Haldane, journalist and identity detective, reunites the people lost through adoption. The stories you don’t see on television shows. The difficult cases. The people who cannot be found, who are thought lost forever. And each new challenge makes Rose re-live her own adoption story, each birth mother and father, adopted child, and adoptive parent she talks to, reminds her of her own birth mother Kate. Each book in the ‘Identity Detective’ series considers the viewpoint of one person trapped in this horrible dilemma. In the first book of the series, Ignoring Gravity, it is Rose’s experience we follow as an adult discovering she was adopted as a baby. Connectedness is the story of a birth mother, her hopes and anxieties, her guilt and fear, and her longing to see her baby again. Sweet Joy, the third novel, will tell the story of a baby abandoned, and how the now elderly woman is desperate to know her story before it is too late.
Ignoring Gravity | No.1 | (see also Review)
Connectedness | No. 2 | Synopsis → Happy Pub Day, 10th of May, 2018!
Sweet Joy | No. 3 → forthcoming third installment!
Published By: Beulah Press (2014)
Available Formats: Trade Paperback and Ebook
Converse via: #IdentityDetective
I found you through Britain’s Next Best Seller as the manuscript was up for a pitch for publication, which intrigued me initially, due to the originality of the situation. Where an author’s publishing deal was contingent on reader backing. How did you go from this particular platform to be an Indie author outright?
Danby responds: It seemed an inevitable step for me, BNBS gave me the momentum and the belief. And as part of the BNBS process I already had many of the elements I needed to go ahead: the copy-edited manuscript, front cover design, two videos including book trailer and author interview, and promotion via social media.
When you started to think about publishing, were you going to pursue independent or traditional routes in regards to launching your career? What tipped the scale towards Indie’s?
Danby responds: I originally sent drafts of the novel to various agents over the years, some of whom were encouraging and suggested advice. The strapline ‘Identity Detective’ caused some confusion as some people wrongly assumed it was a crime novel. But with hindsight I sent the book out far too early when it wasn’t ready for public consumption. Many drafts later I started to serialise it on my blog to get reader comments, and was delighted with the positive feedback. Then the opportunity with Britain’s Next Bestseller arrived, that was the real kickstart I needed. I learned so much from the BNBS team and when the relationship with them ended I was determined to take advantage of the momentum created. So I decided to go ahead myself.
I loved hearing your process for pursuing Indie Publishing as I think it bespeaks to what a lot of us are considering ourselves when we want to opt-out of traditional routes of publication. Even I have been re-considering which platform of entrance I want to pursue first as I re-hone in on where I want to take my own writings. I’ve learnt a lot on the ‘back-end’ of the Industry as a book blogger these past five years, so I can definitely appreciate how being involved in BNB enabled you to find your wings to fly!
You’re not adopted and do not have adopted children, therefore, how did adoption become the central thread of your stories?
Danby responds: I am always seeking real experiences of adoption to help widen my understanding of the process, the emotions, the sense of belonging and loss. There is a form on my website for people to contact me privately to share their experiences, and all such communications will be treated in the strictest confidence.
I find this incredibly gracious of you – of being able to offer a connective thread of communication whilst sorting out which stories from IRL accounts would fuse well within a fictional account of their circumstances. I hope those who feel inspired to share their stories will continue to give you a lot of things to consider and feel re-inspired to tell more stories as I truly believe in the work your doing to talk about the ‘other side’ of Adoption – the one that is generally not as well known nor explored. It is healthy to discuss both sides of it – the good and the bad and even the in-between. With a healthier prospective of all facets of Adoption there can be better healing and personal growth whilst identity crises could become reduced if people approach Adoption from the point-of-view of how best to keep the past alive for the adoptee whilst moving forward into a future where they might not be able to reconnect with their birth families. Your stories have relevance in this world where Adoption is still misunderstood and where families who long to be parents will not consider it a viable option.
What was your initial step in being an Indie author?
Danby responds: Clicking on the Kindle Direct Publishing website and opening an account. That made it seem real. But really I guess I have been training for this all my life. As a journalist and magazine editor, I spent my professional career creating an issue each week with a front cover design, news stories, comment columns and feature articles, photographs and illustrations. My job was to pull together the content from a number of sources, to plan the subject matter, work with designers and journalists, write content myself, and get the magazine published on time. That sounds like the job brief of an Indie Author.
Yes, it does! I can see how you were able to re-direct yourself into this new career, as you already had the foundation for a professional career in publishing! The skill set is transferable and again, I feel like I can relate to a lot of what your sharing as a book blogger – as a blogger especially attached to the publishing industry – you gain insight, knowledge and skills which can cross-relate to what you need in your toolbox as an aspiring writer. If you have the fortitude to look at how everything in our lives interconnect and can lead us forward with a stronger worth ethic for our future endeavours – we’re ahead of the pack – how blessed are we both for seeing the truth of our experiences!
What has been your greatest gift as an Indie author?
Danby responds: It is very empowering, to publish your own book, to take decisions about title, format, publication date etc. But I haven’t published the book on my own, I have a fantastic team behind me, starting with my husband who as well as being supportive of my writing, he offers encouragement, ideas, and reads my drafts.
My writing group friends have read every chapter of the book, from the very first draft when it was provisionally called Finding Rose. The book would be very different without their feedback and support. Another valued early reader is a friend who is a retired social worker who handled adoption placements and reunions. In the production of the book I also worked with colleagues from my journalism days: copy editors, marketing, PR and design specialists. So although I am an Indie Author, Ignoring Gravity is the product of team effort.
This is definitely true! All Indie authors have a ‘team’ behind them, as publishing is a collaborative experience start to finish – as we give light and measure to the words, to the content and the textural expression of how a novel greets the world but behind the words and the worlds in which we create are the editors, proof-readers, copy editors, beta readers and the whole creative force behind the covers and layout design – this is quite true! I also agree about having a team behind you who not only encourage you through the days your inking out your idea but through the whole process of taking the final draft to publication. We’re quite blessed our families are supportive and the cheerleaders behind our creative pursuits!
I had noticed a lot of IRL knowledge about Adoption and placement in ‘Ignoring Gravity’ – as there were key passages of realistic insight threading through the scenes where Rose is seeking her trace on identity and birth origins. I recognised them as a Prospective Adoptive Mum whose well-researched in the processes of Adoption – what was lovely though, for your readers who might not be as well versed on the circumstances surrounding the processes – they will be treated to a well-laid out ‘introduction’ on Adoption regulations and conditions. I was celebrating your dedication to evoke such a strong sense of reality within the novel.
What was your hardest obstacle to overcome?
Danby responds: Promotion, Ignoring Gravity is just one book amongst thousands. So promotion is an ongoing project while I write the second book.
Quite true. For each novel writ, there are a league of novels being released at the same time. I am grateful I became a book blogger in many regards, as despite being rather keen on keeping an eye out for authors who are not traditionally published as well as being a hybrid reader (ie. between mainstream & INSPY markets) – there is a gap which naturally occurs between the stories we find and the stories which slip past us for whichever reason. I definitely understand the angst of trying to be ‘seen’ whilst on the flipside of it – as a reader, I am full of thankfulness for being online in an age where the barriers are removed between readers and authors – where we can find platforms to engage with the creators whilst keeping a reading list full of stories we might not have been able to source if none of us were online at all. This is one reason why I love the book blogosphere and the twitterverse as my mainstays of where I interact with the bookish – they allow for personal interactions, real-time conversations and a method of interaction which befits all of us who are wickedly bookish!
The tree has significance due to the thread of searching out one’s family through genealogy and has this been an instrumental focus in your family? Were there any hidden secrets in your line and if so, can you share any?
Danby responds: No secrets, at least none that I know of!
Really?! Wow – we found out we had quite a few secrets kicking round the ancestral corridors! Including some stories we found quite unbelievable as they were so seriously interesting! Mum and I are kicking round the idea of developing some of our ancestral stories into fictional accounts – as a way of breathing life out our own living histories – something which has been explored by other writers – including a few I know of such as Elizabeth St. John, John Jackson and others of whom I’ve showcased over the years on Jorie Loves A Story.
How many books do you project will be in the Rose Haldane series?
Danby responds: At least three. I also have an outline for a stand-alone novel, something completely different.
You perked my curiosity now – I wonder which direction you’ll head into next,…
The title of “Identity Detective” is quite original. Is there such a thing in real life other than an ancestral historian?
Danby responds: I’m not aware of the term Identity Detective being used elsewhere, it’s a phrase I adopted for the books. As well as genealogists, there are social workers who specialise in adoption search and reunion.
I definitely think you hit on a wicked awesomesauce way of expressing what Rose does in the series – it just fits so well with the niche she’s carved out for herself. Including how you’ve been the first to get clued into how you could phrase the work she’s doing! Similar to how I oft talk about being an Ancestry Sleuth alongside my Mum as we research our ancestral origins and blessedly were reunited with our cousins in Sweden including being able to meet-up with them IRL. Families are never truly lost – even when the connections are fractured and disconnected for a few generations.
How did you create the concept for the cover design of the series as each book’s arc compliments each other quite well?
Danby responds: Ignoring Gravity got a new cover in 2016 to give it a new boost of energy. It was designed by Jessica Bell who also designed the Connectedness and Sweet Joy covers. Jessica is a very talented and thoughtful lady, going into a depth of detail to understand the stories that I hadn’t anticipated, and taking time to get the design right. She picked up on the tree theme, using it as a motif throughout the ‘Identity Detective’ series whilst still retaining an individual look for each novel.
I loved the instincts of your cover artist to draw unity into the series through the cover art designs – as I agreed with your sentiments about how she fused the intentions of the series with the look of its aesthetic design. I am still a bit partial to the original covers as it’s the version I first received and I liked it for what it depicted as well – however, for unity and a polished design, the new covers truly speak well to the concept behind motivates the ‘Identity Detective’.
Have you ever considered adoption or is anyone in your family adopted? Or did this story just appeal to you on a very profound level?
Danby responds: My family has no connection with adoption, but as a child I used to wonder where I came from and who I might have been if circumstances were different. I had a very happy childhood on a farm but often used to wonder what it would be like to be born in a different time, in a different place. My imagination went into overdrive. So I can trace my fascination with identity back to that time. But after Ignoring Gravity was published I was approached by a number of people I had known for some time who said ‘you do know, don’t you, that I’m adopted?’ The answer was no, I didn’t.
I don’t believe you’d know who was adopted anymore than you would know about a person’s sexuality or gender identity – there are bits of ourselves which are not instantly known on ‘sight’ or in passing – there are portions of our lives which are privately known or revealled in confidences but not outwardly identifiable. I had a head lost in chapters of fictional and fantastical worlds throughout my childhood and growing years as well – though, I hadn’t forethought to think about living in a different family.
Rather, I was more focused on why the Adoption laws were set the way they were which made it harder for my family to adopt a younger brother – as my parents attempted to expand our family when I was seven. I grew up with the notion of Adoption and in-part, I think this is one reason I became an advocate for Adoption as an adult even ahead of pursuing my own route towards being an Adoptive Mum. I always felt my parents could positively impact the lives of adopted children by giving them a chance to have a family who encourages and supports their individuality as much as they have with me throughout my life.
What are your 3 favorite ways to interact with your readers?
Danby responds: I like striking up conversations with readers on book blogs and at Goodreads, both of which I trawl to find recommendations for my own To-Read list. Twitter is good too, particularly #FridayReads.
Twitter is my sweet addiction for finding authors, stories, book bloggers, publishers and readers! I love the interactions, the convos and the ways in which we can gush and relate to each other whilst being wickedly bookish! I love reading blogs myself – whilst linking to the blogs I enjoy in my sidebar but with chronic migraines and other health afflictions, I’ve found maintaining visitations to those blogs is perpetually a work-in-progress whereas with Twitter I can interact a bit more often – at least I try, too! My own Mount TBR is higher than I’d prefer but it’s the joy of the discovery I love the most, followed by the bliss of finding a copy I can read – especially if I can source it through my local library and let other readers find the same author / story at the same time I am reading it myself.
What did you take away from first creating “Ignoring Gravity”?
Danby responds: In terms of writing it, the main thing was to just get the story down on paper. It doesn’t matter how messy that first draft is, it is the starting point. From there you can revise how you tell the story, where your story starts in the timeline, and how to keep the momentum building. As my first novel, it was very much a case of ‘learning on the job’.
I definitely concur with your sentiments – the art of writing is best learnt in the moment of creating the stories themselves. That is definitely my ‘happy space’ when I am in-tune with my writerly spirit and allow the muse to overtake me as I create the lives of my characters.
Has the surge of stories people are sharing about their adoption experiences surprise you? And, in a way are they inspiring more books in the series?
Danby responds: Yes absolutely, it has been amazing how many people have heard about Ignoring Gravity and shared some of their own adoption story. I am so grateful for that.
I would feel it would be the best ice breaker and best way of self-stimulating a conversation!
Has this project grown beyond what you initially conceived?
Danby responds: The book grew into a planned series as I grew more and more fascinated by how our identity is created and how being removed from your birth family affects that. I realized that Ignoring Gravity tells only one side of the story, that of the adult adoptee searching for the truth. Because the first book is about Rose, we do not hear the point of view of either her adoptive or birth mother. So the second book in the series, Connectedness, explores the story from a birth mother’s position. There can be no generalizations. Each person is individual, so my story of one birth mother does not apply to all. Rose’s experience is not a blueprint for that of all adult adoptees, every situation is different. For a writer of fiction, the possibilities are endless.
As you build the series and the ideas within it – I think your audience will appreciate the dedication you put into building a serial arc wherein Rose acts as both the navigator and the gateway character – a concept I’ll showcase next week on my 3rd showcase for this series when I reveal your Guest Posts. It’s such a brilliant concept and I look forward to continuing to read the series to see how you’ve tackled the concept and threaded the continuity.
Outside writing and research what do you do for relaxation?
Danby responds: I am a voracious reader of all kinds of fiction. I also love film, going to the theatre and art galleries. Part of the time we live in a beautiful part of southern Spain, surrounded by quiet and nature and wildlife. When we are there it is a relief to just be, to relax, and breathe in the fresh air. See my blog at www.notesonaspanishvalley.com
I used to claim the same – until the past few years, I’ve augmented my readings in Fiction with a motivated self-focus on select topics in Non-Fiction. Therefore, I now feel I am partially drawn to both dimensions of exit from our reality to the worlds where literature can expound our horizons in both truth from living experiences and the honesty writ into fictional worlds.
I’ve updated my biography for you with a link to your secondary blog – as somehow I missed this link when I posted my review for ‘Ignoring Gravity’.
Theatre, film and art galleries are mutual interests of my own – I love finding a lifeblood of creative synergy in other artistic pursuits. I feel renewed as an artist and creator whenever I feel connected to someone elses vision for their own art.
We all need a place like the one you’ve found in Southern Spain where we can recharge, renew our spirits and find ourselves refuelled. I’m so very blessed to have had the opportunity to converse with you – as this interview was forged over two years of wanting to feature you on my blog as I continuously seek stories of Adoption and foster care. hank you for being one of the pro-positive authors I have found who are seeking to tell compellingly dramatic stories and bringing a new voice with a purposeful message to those who are interconnected to Adoption!
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This author interview is courtesy of:
Be sure to return to view my triple feature of this series:
9th May | #WaitingOnWednesday showcase and review of ‘Ignoring Gravity’
10th May | Connectedness Spotlight with Author Interview
17th May | Author Guest Post and Series Spotlight
Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2018.
I’m a social reader | I tweet as I read
— Jorie, the Joyful Tweeter 🐦 (@joriestory) May 10, 2018