Fear of Falling is published this month and I’m posting the Afterword from it here as it describes where the impetus to write the book came from.
Adoption is often thought of as a fairy story, a happy-ever-after for those concerned. But at the heart of every adoption is loss, the loss of family and identity and legacy for the child, the loss of a child for the birth-parents, the loss of the possibility of having a biological child for most adoptive parents who come to adoption because of infertility.
I was one of half a million babies adopted in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s in the UK. The majority of us were adopted because our mothers were unmarried at a time when both Church and state punished such women for transgressing, deeming them morally depraved and unfit to be mothers. There was social stigma and shame attached to being pregnant and unwed, and huge pressure on women to give up their babies. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a successful reunion with my birth-mother and to form strong relationships with her and my seven birth-siblings. My adoptive parents met my birth-mother, brothers and sisters and that was a hugely positive experience. Reunion alongside counselling helped me heal emotionally, and my birth-mother said the same. An important part of that whole process was to acknowledge the grief, insecurity, guilt, even the anger that came with being adopted.
Thankfully, times have changed. Nowadays women have more control over their lives and more choices about contraception, reproduction and sexuality. Families come in all shapes and sizes. Few babies are relinquished for adoption. In this century people who adopt are more likely to be creating a family with a child who has been taken into care, a child who has had a damaging start to life. Friends and acquaintances of mine have adopted and some have encountered serious difficulties with the behaviour of their children, especially as they reach adolescence. Barely any of those families, or the ones I’ve read and heard about, have been able to get access to the sort of support they needed when they needed it. A survey carried out by BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 programme and Adoption UK in 2017 found that more than a quarter of adoptive families were struggling, facing challenges so serious that the adoption was at risk of disruption. It’s not an issue that is widely aired ‒ it’s almost taboo. What is heartening is that nine out of ten respondents were still glad they had adopted. And adoption does work for the majority. But the most vulnerable children in our communities need unstinting assistance, and their families deserve backing to the hilt with resources putting in place for those who require it. Our adoptive parents may give us all the love in the world but sometimes love is not enough.
There’s a real mix of genres here. Crime thrillers, a western, general fiction, two very different ‘crossings’. Sprawling tales that span continents and those that home in on a more intimate canvas. What they all share are memorable characters and the power of great story-telling.
I’m delighted that The Girl in the Green Dress is out in paperback this week. The novel tells the story of teenager Allie Kennaway who heads off for Prom night, cheered on by her dad Steve and her little sister Teagan. But Allie never comes home, beaten to death in an apparent hate crime because of her transgender identity. Back in September, on first publication, I wrote about how my experience as a parent of a transgender child had been the inspiration for writing the book. You can read that post further down the page.
Most of my recent stand-alone titles have focused on ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events, they have taken the point of view of victims, relatives, suspects or even perpetrators rather than investigators. I’ve been interested in telling stories about how crime impacts on people’s lives, the sort of nightmare situations that any of us might find ourselves in.
With The Girl in the Green Dress I chose to combine that perspective with the more traditional police procedural, something I’d experience of with my Blue Murder series and for the Scott and Bailey books. So in the novel we hear from Steve and from two parents whose sons may be involved in the crime and also from the two detectives working on the murder – DI Donna Bell and DC Jade Bradshaw.
Donna and Jade grew on me as I got to know them and there’ve been several readers asking if we’ll see them again. All I can say is I do hope so as I’d love to revisit them but there are no immediate plans for that.
Meanwhile thanks to everyone who has given me such lovely feedback on the book, and to the readers who have come up and talked to me about it at readings – and shared their own stories. It’s wonderful how books can connect people.
I nearly always tweet about what I’m reading with #FridayReads. I like to share recommendations with other readers. This week I decided to post a batch of titles I’ve enjoyed on my blog instead. Enjoy.
It’s been a good while since I posted – my website was hacked and has taken ages to sort out. So I’ve been building up a backlog of recommended reads. There’s plenty of variety in this first selection from a unbearably tense psychological thriller and a beautifully written epic Western to an homage to the world of Highsmith, an unusual and poignant examination of death and love and a stunning crime debut with a deaf central character.
The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne
Fever City by Tim Baker
The Brittle Star by Davina Langdale
The Crime Writer by Jill Dawson
Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic
Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane
The Girls by Emma Cline
Being Dead by Jim Crace
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Hello, you’ve reached the website of Manchester based, crime writer Cath Staincliffe. I’m the author of the Sal Kilkenny private eye stories and creator and scriptwriter of Blue Murder, ITV’s hit detective drama starring Caroline Quentin as DCI Janine Lewis. I write the Scott & Bailey books, based on the much loved ITV1 police series. My standalone titles, psychological fiction, explore the lives of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events. Thank you to everyone who has borrowed, bought or downloaded one of my books. Happy reading.