I was volunteering on a telephone crisis line and a number of our callers were transgender. I spoke to some really amazing people who’d been through terrible times. It struck me just how common this is, and how misunderstood. Then I became friends with a transgender woman who I find inspirational, and her insights helped me to glimpse what she and others had been through. The more I learned, the more I felt this had to be my next book.
2. The book is clearly well researched, how did you go about it?
This did take a lot of detailed research – it’s complex subject and I really had to try and get it right. I talked to transgender people and their families and friends. I read books, articles and blogs; I watched videos and visited forums, followed relevant sites on social media, and was kept up to date with stories: some tragic, some uplifting. I thought I had some knowledge before I began, but it wasn’t until the research was underway that I really began to understand Luke’s despair, and the immensity of the choice he faces. I had to be careful not to dump all of that research into the novel – most of it went unused.
3. The Livingstone family is torn apart by Luke's revelation, did you have a clear idea about their reactions or did they develop and change as you were writing the book?
I had some idea how each might react, but writing character is quite a fluid thing – they don’t always react as you expect, and sometimes they aren’t the people you thought they were. It’s very like getting to know a person in real life. They have complexities and hang-ups that don’t emerge until they’re faced with difficult situations.
4. Are you working on a new book? Can you tell us anything about it?
Oh yes; the first draft is almost finished. It’s set in New Zealand, and is about a young English backpacker who gets herself tangled up in a cult. The research has been chilling but fascinating. You wouldn’t believe what’s out there! It’s my latest obsession.
Thank you so much to Charity for answering my questions, I have popped my review of The New Woman below, it is out now so go and get your copy!
What would you do if you found out that your husband, your father, your son- was not who you thought? Could you ever love him again?
Luke Livingstone is a lucky man. He's a respected solicitor, a father and a grandfather, a pillar of the community. He has a loving wife and an idyllic home in the Oxfordshire countryside. Yet Luke is struggling with an unbearable secret, and it's threatening to destroy him.
All his life, Luke has hidden the truth about himself and his identity. It's a truth so fundamental that it will devastate his wife, shatter his children, rock his community and leave him outcast. But Luke has nowhere left to run, and to continue living, he must become the person- the woman- he knows himself to be, whatever the cost.
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
I have read all of Charity Norman's books and I didn't think she could get any better but The New Woman is her best yet.
Luke Livingstone has been living a lie his whole life; his children are grown up and he is now a grandfather, it's time he told the truth. But the truth will devastate his wife Eilish and Children Simon and Kate. Yet he is prepared to tear his family apart in order to live the rest of his life as a woman. Ever since he can remember he has thought of himself as a female but he has tried to hide the truth. He truly loves his wife and children but will they ever be able to forgive him?
This book was outstanding; I felt like I was constantly in awe of how well Charity Norman handled such a complex and sensitive subject. Each chapter is told from either Luke, Eilish's, Kate or Simon's perspective which was brilliant as we got a complete picture of the turmoil this family goes through. Luke and Eilish were my favourite characters; despite Luke's lie they had been happily married and in love. Luke's revelation shatters Eilish but she can't stop loving her husband and we follow her as she comes to terms with what it means for her marriage and family.
As with all of this author's books, the research undertaken shines through. This all makes the story so much more believable and I also felt as though I learnt a lot about a subject I hadn't really thought about.
Charity Norman is so, so good at taking a normal, identifiable domestic situation and blowing it apart. Her books always make me think about how I would react in the same situation. She makes you think deeply about family, relationships and love. Her characters are always pushed to their limits with varying results.
Charity Norman is a fantastic author and I highly recommend The New Woman, it is such a good read and one that will give you plenty to think about.