Friday, November 07, 2014

Q & A With Lindsey Forrest, author of, All Who Are Lost




Lindsey Forrest, author of, All Who Are Lost, has been so gracious and kind enough to agree to be featured on the blog for a short Q & A. Below are some of the questions I asked her based on my reading experience of the book and what I was curious to know. Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below!



Q: What inspired you to write this book centered on the dramas of two families?



Lindsey Forrest: In my mind, there are really three families: the Ashmores, the St. Brides, and the “bridge” family, the Abbotts.


I am always interested in the dynamics of family relationships, particularly the relationships between sisters. My sister and I are seven years apart in age, and as we grew up, we had very little in common. She was in fifth grade when I went to college, so we shared no life experiences. Laura has that same relationship to Diana and Lucy, who were considerably older than she was.


Just as my sister and I developed a close relationship once we were adults, Laura is able to begin to establish adult relationships with her sisters once she returns to Virginia. She is no longer the “little sister”; she is their equal. Add to that her love for Diana’s estranged husband – a young man who was always out of reach before, due to the six years that separated them – and even an adult relationship seems impossible. So how do they overcome that? How does loyalty co-exist with a rival love?


The other thing that intrigued me was the contrast among the families. The Abbotts comprised an impoverished hodgepodge family dominated by an obsessed man with no parenting skills and a dead woman with a history of instability and adultery. It was a family that all of the daughters desired to escape.

The Ashmores, on the other hand, were a close and loving family with long-standing ties to their land. The “tent pole” of that family was the great love affair of Philip and Peggy Ashmore that gave Richard and Lucy a secure childhood and allowed them to remain close to their parents as they matured. Quite different environments in which to grow up!

Even the St. Brides are a more united and stable family than the Abbotts, with their shared interests in money and business. Meg thrives in the St. Bride family, and even Laura finds a stability that allows her the breathing space she needs to recover from Dominic Abbott’s complete lack of parenting skills.

Q: In revealing so many secrets in this first book, what message were you trying to send to your readers about families?

Lindsey Forrest: Families have layers. The same woman can be wife, mother, sister, aunt, daughter; a man is husband, father, brother, son. And that’s not even considering the relationships we acquire through a spouse! The familiarity we feel with a family member can lead us to believe that we know that person intimately and can also make us discount that person’s experiences outside the family circle. But we can be wrong. We really don’t know that person at all.

Richard, a loving son, loyal foster brother, and protective father, harbors a secret that he never wants his parents, foster sister, or daughter to discover. Julie conceals her true self because she is afraid her father won’t approve of her. Secrets exist between Diana and her husband, Diana and her sisters, even Diana and her father. Laura keeps secret her plan to escape; later she keeps the secret of her actions on Ash Marine and her rescue of Meg. Even Cam keeps the secret of Meg’s birth from his family until he writes a letter to his trusted brother.

Because all these people keep secrets that go to the heart of who they really are, do their families truly know them? And if their families don’t know them, can they really love them? Laura, an enigma to the rest of the Abbotts, feels unloved and unwanted, partly because no one really knows her well enough to appreciate her remarkable strength. Cam risks being thought a complete cad by his family to protect Meg, where the truth is that he was a knight in shining armor to a scared girl. Do the St. Brides really know him, or do they see him as a source of cash? They certainly don’t know Laura, whom they see as a gold digger, until Cam lets Mark know why he married her. Richard didn’t want to risk losing his father’s respect, but by doing so, he cut himself off from earning Philip’s respect for his real achievement, overcoming his great folly and rebuilding his life after failure.

Even Dominic Abbott keeps a secret that, if known, might have changed the dynamics of the Abbotts. What really happened that day in Ireland when his beloved mistress drowned?

By keeping so many secrets, the characters all isolate themselves from acceptance and love. Only Lucy, who keeps secrets only for other people, is secure in the love of her family, and thus only Lucy seeks to keep the family intact.

Q: Who was your favorite character and why?

Lindsey Forrest: It is difficult to pick a favorite character – it is like picking your favorite child (although I only have one, so that’s an easy pick for me!). That being said, I do have a favorite character to write – I enjoy being in her head and writing from her point of view.

So here it is. My favorite character to write is Diana Ashmore. She has a very strong voice, and even though she is snarky, she is also passionate, profane, and opinionated. She’s the contrast to Laura’s initial adolescent hero worship of Richard Ashmore, as no one can cut Mr. Perfect down to size better than his wife. The real fun, of course, is that Diana is an unreliable narrator. After all, the first thing she says about herself is that she is no good with the truth.

The other reason I enjoy Diana is that I get to write in first person. The book originally was in the first person point of view, but it didn’t work. It’s too necessary to know at times what other people are thinking, so I couldn’t write the entire book through Laura’s eyes. If the book was in Laura’s first person viewpoint, we wouldn’t know why Richard has a change of heart after he rejects her, we would never know what really happened in the Ashmore marriage, and we would not know that Meg stumbles upon her father’s letter at the end. So the story itself had to be in third person, but I had to tell the story of the Ashmore marriage through Diana’s eyes, as Richard was never going to tell anyone anything.

Q: Which character do you think had the most potential to win the reader over chapter by chapter? 

Lindsey Forrest: Richard Ashmore is reserved and defensive throughout most of All Who Are Lost, as he knows he screwed up royally as a younger man. He is well aware of his responsibility for the demise of his marriage, but he has put that in the past until Laura returns and the past intrudes into the present. He has to defend himself all over again and start admitting what he always wanted to keep secret. During the book, the reader gets to know Richard and learns what really happened in the Ashmore marriage, why he turned to the last woman in the world he should have been with. The reader also sees Richard being charming and light-hearted, such as the evening he and Laura spend in the B&B in Charlottesville (the night before the visit to Monticello). As his defenses drop away, we get to know Richard as he really is.

Q: Which character do you think the reader disliked as the book progressed?

Lindsey Forrest: I think this is true for Cameron St. Bride and his siblings. Mark, who starts off as a source of strength, turns into a delusional pest. In the second book, Emma’s jealousy will morph into a threat. Cam himself starts off favorably and begins to lose sympathy, as his manipulations and past misdeeds begin to emerge.

I suspect, however, that most people lose all sympathy for Dominic Abbott, who starts off a victim and emerges as someone who should never have had children. By the end of the first book, it should be clear (I hope) that his daughters existed in his mind as a means to achieve greatness – an ambition thwarted when the two talented daughters slip out of his reach by very different means.

Q: What does the absence of Francie symbolize in the first book? 

Lindsey Forrest: Francie leaves a big hole in the family, as only she could explain why she did some of the things that she did to Laura, to Diana, and to Richard himself. More than either Laura or Diana, Francie symbolizes the terrible damage Dominic Abbott did to his daughters in his drive to recreate his lost muse. As Diana cattily remarks, Francie had a “nice little voice” and would have done well in a church choir. Dominic, a professional musician, certainly knew who had the talent and who didn’t; he let Francie’s practices slide while he pushed both Diana and Laura to the point where Diana escaped into a bad marriage and Laura vanished. In the Abbott family, Francie was the afterthought. The only time she succeeded in winning anyone’s attention, albeit briefly and for the wrong reasons and with the wrong person, was during her affair with Richard.

Q: Does the absence of Francie allow Cat Courtney to take over? 
 
Lindsey Forrest: Francie’s absence made a big difference to Laura, personally and professionally. Although Laura was by far the more talented of the two, she tended to hang back and let Francie have the limelight. She felt she could never compete with Francie, who had the personality and vivacity to eclipse her. With Francie gone, all her ties to the past cut, Laura’s own ambition begins to emerge. She always was the stronger and more resilient of the two, as seen in the events surrounding Meg’s birth, but she no longer has to hold back and wait in the shadows while Francie gets all the attention. She is able to shine.