The Silence Between Breaths

A group of strangers take seats in the same carriage on a train journey from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston not knowing that their day will turn out to be a day unlike any other. A day of terror and the fight for survival, of horror and humanity. When I was developing the story, I knew I wanted to tell it from several different and increasingly connected viewpoints. As the journey progresses the characters become familiar with their fellow passengers, form opinions about them, strike up conversations and this lays the ground for the traumatic events that follow. I had used several narrators in some of my previous novels – usually three or four – but this time it was going to be nine. Yes, nine. That’s a lot of different voices to convey and it would be a challenge to make it work so the reader didn’t lose track and muddle them up, or want to skip over some of the sections.  Before starting writing, I spent several weeks working solely on the characters. I aimed for a diverse range of people, different ages and ethnicities, with varying roles and responsibilities, but they had to be more than stereotypes or ciphers, they needed to have some depth, to have quirks and flaws, foibles and secret dreams. It was up to me to know what they looked like on the outside (that meant browsing lots of images online to ‘cast’ the parts and printing off photographs) and what was going on inside their heads. Building, or uncovering, character is a process with all my writing but I suppose in this case there were a lot more people to create. Once that was done as thoroughly as possible, I could start writing and planning how the different stories would interweave though at that stage I didn’t know the fate of all the characters – that became clearer as the novel progressed, growing out of the writing. The nature of the story meant that not everyone would survive and choosing who did and didn’t was not easy but made sense within the logic of the story.


7 thoughts on “The Silence Between Breaths”

  1. I have just finished reading The Silence Between Breaths – read in one sitting. In the days following the Christmas market terrorist attack in Berlin, it was so relevant. Might be in Australia with warnings of heatwaves and food preparation scares but the well developed characters aboard that train rang so true and it is something at haunts me every time I catch a train .

    1. Helena, thanks for your lovely message. I’m so glad the characters worked for you and that the story has stayed with you. Sadly the theme is very relevant and will continue to be, I think. Thanks again for getting in touch.

  2. I loved this book, one of the best I’ve read for a while. Like Helena above, I read it in one sitting which is very rare for me these days as I admit I’m easily distracted but The Silence Between Breaths was brilliant. Have recommended to friends and family.

    1. Sue, thanks so much for your comment. I’m really pleased you enjoyed the book – and thank you too for recommending it to others. Word of mouth is still the best way to find new writers and readers.

  3. Great book! Like the previous commentator, I read it in one sitting. I felt I was there, with each of the characters, and my heart hurt for them. It is sadly relevant to our times, and it will only be by people seeing people as you portrayed them, each of us with our own dreams and strengths and weaknesses, regardless of race or colour, that we will be able to effect change. I want to know more about Saleel’s family and Naz’s, and wonder if Nick is ever going to see himself in Saleel.

    I am sure this will be a best-seller, and republished, so I want to mention an error in the story-line that should be corrected. You have established the date of the bombing as April 17th (Saheel’s manifesto), but on pg 221, Lisa Winter’s sister posts that ‘April ll, the day after the bombing, was supposed to be my wedding day’.

    Anyway, thank you for this heart-breakingly thought-provoking book. I am looking forward to reading more from you.

    1. Hi Deidre, Sorry I’ve not responded sooner for some reason your comments got filed in the wrong place, so I’ve only just seen them. Thanks very much for your message, I’m really pleased you liked the book and good to hear your thoughts on the characters. Thanks too for pointing out the error – there’s always something escapes the proof reading!

      1. Thank you for the reply. I am glad you took the comment as intended, not as ‘snarky’. I have been reading your other books and find your characters so real and compelling, sometimes when I am telling someone about them they think I am talking about movies. (I always say a well-written book creates a movie in your mind).

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