Today we welcome Ber Carroll, author of Once Lost, to tell us a little about herself and her life.
Hi Ber, welcome to Beauty and Lace.
Thank you. It’s great to be here, and I have just spent a very enjoyable half hour absorbed in your website.
What inspired you to become a writer?
My workplace! Before I turned to writing, I was a Finance Director in a large US multi-national and I was perpetually fascinated by the office dynamics and politics. The workplace throws people together for long stretches of time (people who are often polar opposites) and the very idea of that, plus the intricate web of alliances, friendships and relationships found in any large workplace, gave me plenty of writing material. When my first novel, Executive Affair, was published, all my ex-colleagues rushed out to buy a copy (to see if they were in it!).
Your website says you write Irish-Australian novels, can you explain what you mean by that?
Reflecting my own experience, I write books about modern-day women who move back and forth between Ireland and Australia seeking adventure, change of lifestyle or career, or – the most intriguing of reasons – a new beginning. I’m interested in what spurs people to move from one side of the world to the other, what keeps them there or draws them back home, and the notion that distance can solve problems and heal wounds, because after writing seven books on this subject, I don’t believe it can!
Once Lost is your latest release, can you tell us a little about it?
Once Lost has two main characters, Louise and Emma, who grew up next door to each other, but who now live on opposite ends of the world. Louise, an art conservator, is restoring a beautiful old painting in Sydney. She meets Dan, whose family welcome her as one of their own, but she will always feel lost until she finds her mother who walked out when she was just eight years old.
Back in Dublin, Emma is stuck in a job where she is under-appreciated and underpaid, but her biggest worry is her ex-partner, Jamie. Emma has lost so much because of Jamie: her innocence, her reputation, almost her life. Now she is at risk of losing Isla, her young daughter.
It took me a while to realise I was writing a novel about loss in all its different forms: a missing mother, a fractured childhood, misplaced love, loss that is a fact and has already happened, and the threat and terrible fear of loss that hasn’t actually happened but seems inevitable. The question I was asking is, if any of these things can, or even should, be recovered.
What inspired you to write Once Lost?
Once Lost was inspired by a magazine article, or rather the photographs that preceded the article: three separate shots of three vibrant women who each seemed strangely familiar to me. They could have been women I knew from the school yard, or from weekend sport, or from the local neighbourhood. It was their smiles – unguarded, the kind of smile that makes you want to smile back – that first caught my eye, and it seemed incongruous that these happy photographs should be married to the chilling caption: MISSING MUMS.
These women, these ordinary every-day mothers, had vanished, leaving behind a plethora of unanswered questions, a tangle of suspicions and mistrust, and the shattered lives of those who had loved them. I felt quite overwhelmed by the scale of the tragedy, for the mothers themselves and everything they had missed out on – birthdays, graduations, weddings, grandchildren – and for their family and friends and the debilitating uncertainty that they were still living with, years later.
The idea of unresolved loss stayed in my head and was the main spark for Once Lost.
How much research was required into Louise’s job and how her search was conducted?
A lot! I have a lovely friend who is an art conservator, and she allowed me to visit her workplace and to see firsthand what she does every day. I loved having an insight into her job, which seemed so exotic compared to my own. Her colleagues were just as lovely and helpful. When I wrote my first draft, my friend read over the ‘art’ parts, and corrected my mistakes (of which there were many!).
Most of my research on the process behind the search for Louise’s mother was done using online resources. The web is full of heartbreaking stories, support advice, and facts about searching for missing people. TV shows like Long Lost Family helped me appreciate the confusion, devastation and long-term trauma that come from unresolved loss.
Who has been the most inspirational influence on your career?
Every time I read a good book, I feel inspired, so I would have to say other authors. Marian Keyes, who somehow manages to be both funny and dark. The late Maeve Binchy, who was so wonderful at storytelling. Maggie O’ Farrell and Jojo Meyes, because I never quite know what to expect from them.
What do you miss the most about your hometown in Ireland?
My family. In particular, my sisters. When we were young, we used to compete and argue and drive each other mad, but as adults we are all incredibly close. I just wish they lived a little closer!
What are you reading right now?
Disclaimer by Renee Knight. It had me hooked from the first chapter.
Are you working on anything new you can tell us about?
Yes, I am working on something new. It’s a little different from my usual fare, so I feel too shy at the moment to talk about it.
What does being a woman mean to you?
Being a woman means I can be a Mum, a daughter and a sister, things I adore being.
Once Lost is available now from leading online booksellers and selected bookstores.