Newly graduated photography student Lori Maddox spends the year after university travelling and visits China where she finds work as a private English tutor. Back in Manchester, her parents Jo and Tom, who separated when Lori was a toddler, follow her adventures on her blog, 'Lori In The Orient'.
Suddenly communication stops and when the silence persists a frantic Jo and Tom report her missing. It is impossible to find out anything from 5,000 miles away so they travel out to Chengdu, a city in the south-western province of Sichuan, to search for their daughter.
Landing in a totally unfamiliar country, with no knowledge of the customs or language, and receiving scant help from the local authorities, Jo and Tom are forced to turn detective, following in their daughter's footsteps, tracing the people she mentioned in her posts, interviewing her friends, colleagues and students. It's an unbearably difficult challenge and, as the days pass, the fear that Lori is lost for good grows ever larger.
Oh gosh. This novel just about broke my heart into a million pieces, even more so than Letters to my Daughters Killer, and I really didn't think that was possible. This novel is every parent's worst nightmare. An exhausting roller-coaster ride of emotions, I was left drained by Jo and Tom's attempts to find out what has happened to their daughter Lori, after she goes missing from her life in China.
The writing in this novel, and the way each step of the story, from Lori going missing to the subsequent investigation, is fantastic - the characters are believable and it is made almost too easy to imagine their pain and despair. I can't say a lot more, without revealing some epic spoilers, so all I will say is READ IT. And tonight I'll be squeezing my babies a little bit tighter.
Half The World Away is out on 4th June and you can get it here:
A Q&A with Cath Staincliffe
In Half the World Away did you see any of the characters taking a different direction at any point?
· Not really –I wasn’t sure exactly where they were going, how they would react to the situation, when I started writing. So I had no particular directions mapped out for them. Most of that I discovered in the process of writing the story.
· The majority of the book is set in China – do you like to travel and what made you set the book in China?
· I haven’t travelled much – mainly for beach holidays on the Greek Islands – and it’s something I would like to do more of. I set the book in China because my eldest son lives there and it seemed to be a perfect location for the story because it is so very different from here and because the distance and the language barrier and cultural differences would make the quest to find Lori so much harder. I stayed with my son to research the novel.
· What are you reading right now?
· Just finished Perfect Baby by Mary Kubica and next on my pile are A Lovely Way To Burn by Louise Welsh and Sandrine by Thomas H. Cook.
· Do you read the reviews left for your novels?
· Very rarely. I’m one of those feeble writers who finds adverse criticism really hard to take – it cuts me to the quick. My publicist is used to passing on press reviews once she’s vetted them, so I only see the favourable ones. Pathetic, I know!
· Does feedback through reviews help with future works?
· See above. However I go to a writers’ group and the feedback I get there for work in progress is invaluable.
· Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
· Get on with it. Finish it. Make it better. Send it out. Start another. Enter competitions. Keep trying.
· Which authors or novels have inspired you the most?
· There are dozens of them. Great storytellers like Toni Morrison and Margaret Atwood and William Golding and Philip K. Dick. Whenever I read a really good book it inspires me. It happens on a regular basis.
· If Half the World Away was made into a movie, who would you cast for the main characters?
· Lovely daydreaming! Jonny Depp or Cillian Murphy or Matthew Goode or Jude Law or Paddy Considine for Tom (some of them are a little bit young though). And for Jo: Anna Maxwell-Martin, Maxine Peake, Keeley Hawes or Nicola Walker (ditto re their ages).
· Can you tell us anything about what might be coming up next book-wise?
· It’s another stand-alone with several different voices but that’s about all I can say right at the moment.
**Thanks to the publisher for my ARC**