Fans of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Outlander rejoice! Helen Fisher’s debut novel, Faye, Faraway, is your next book obsession (and a great book club pick for 2021!). In the story, a grown woman travels back in time unexpectedly to be reunited with the mother she lost when she was just a child. The two women become friends but Faye struggles with revealing who she really is and finding a way back to her own daughters. We sat with author Helen Fisher to chat about the inspiration behind her book and what she’s currently reading.
Of all the stories swirling around, why this story this time?
I suppose mothers and daughters can never go out of fashion. Whatever your relationship with your mother, good or bad, whether she is still with you or not, even if you’ve never known her, there is a sense of longing associated with that bond, which I hope FAYE, FARAWAY reflects back at the reader. FAYE, FARAWAY is a story that examines grief, but, I hope, in an uplifting, ultimately optimistic way; and I think we could all do with a bit of optimism right now.
We know you’ve created a discussion guide for the book already – which question are you most interested to hear readers’ responses to?
In the book, Faye implores the reader to tell someone they love that they’ve been time-traveling. The discussion guide asks readers to try this and then discuss with their reading group what happened as a result. One of the most difficult things I found, when writing the novel, was getting a character in the book to believe Faye’s story. Hers is an unbelievable tale, which she cannot share, for fear of being thought crazy, which is why she confesses directly to the reader. However, she does confide in Louis, and before him, she briefly tries to tell her friends, who simply ignore her when she says she’s a time-traveller. For research purposes I tried this myself, to see what a natural reaction might be, and I received concerned stares, frowns, and mostly, a changing-of-the-subject. But the main thing I took away from this experiment was that I was just so embarrassed saying it to people. The truth is, no one will believe you. Faye is in a very difficult situation.
Can you share a few books that inspired your writing of Faye, Faraway?
The title FAYE, FARAWAY is a nod to the story The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, which I loved as a child, and which is mentioned briefly in the book. In The Magic Faraway Tree, three children discover a huge tree populated with charming characters and at the top of the tree they can enter another world, which is different every time they visit. Another book I read as a child is The Magician’s Nephew, one of the books from the Narnia series, by CS Lewis. In that book a ring transports the children from where they live in London into a magical place called the wood between the worlds: a very quiet forest, full of trees and ponds. From there, if they enter a pond, they will find themselves in another world. That quiet place, the wood between the worlds, is a place I often think about, and when titles for FAYE, FARAWAY were being discussed, I put it forward as a suggestion. As a child, I also loved The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, yet another story where the characters leave the world they live in and find another. I always said, when I wrote FAYE, FARAWAY, that Faye’s journey into the past would not be as easy as stepping through a wardrobe door. I wasn’t aware of the influence that these childhood favourites had on me when I was writing, but I’m aware of the fact that those stories have become an indelible part of me, and so I suppose it’s no surprise that something of them has ended up on the page.
And what books have you read recently or are looking forward to reading that you’d like to share with our readers?
My favourite reads recently have been Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession. Crawdads was just so engrossing and one of those reads where no one could talk to me for a few days, because I was so lost in the story and the characters. I didn’t want it to end and I still miss it! Leonard and Hungry Paul is a very simple story, written in a style that made me shake my head in awe. I read the first chapter and then immediately read it aloud to the person sitting next to me, and they were as awestruck as I was.