Blog tour: While my eyes were closed by @LindaGreenisms @QuercusBooks


while my eyes were closed Linda green writing inspiration

One, two, three . . . Lisa Dale shuts her eyes and counts to one hundred during a game of hide-and-seek. When she opens them, her four-year-old daughter Ella is gone. Disappeared without a trace. The police, the media and Lisa's family all think they know who snatched Ella. But what if the person who took her isn't a stranger? What if they are convinced they are doing the right thing? And what if Lisa's little girl is in danger of disappearing forever?

Linda's writing inspiration:

One of the pivotal scenes in this novel came to me eleven years ago when my son was a baby. It was a dark scene and extremely harrowing but I was determined I would use it one day, I just needed to find a story which would do it justice. I filed it away in my head, in the compartment marked 'to be returned to'.

When my son was two-years-old, we took him to Center Parcs, It was only a matter of months since Madeleine McCann had gone missing. I settled my son down for the night in a fold-up bed wedged between our own bed and the wall. I decided to check on him a couple of hours later. It was dark in the room (we used travel blackout blinds as the early morning sun tended to wake him) and it took a while for my eyes to adjust as I felt my way across to his bed. But as soon as I reached it, I saw that he wasn't there. I checked to see if he'd rolled off onto our bed or the floor - nothing. My eyes were drawn to the window. We were on the ground floor and I'd left it open a crack because of the heat. All I could think of was that he had been taken as we'd sat in the next room. I felt sick. I called my husband, I was physically shaking by the time he came in. I simply pointed to the empty bed, unable to form any words. Fortunately my husband was considerably calmer than I was. He put the light on and started a methodical search of the room. It was only when he got down on his hands and knees and looked under the beds that he saw a small bundle in the far corner. Somehow, my son had slipped down the narrow gap between his bed and the wall (which I was sure he's head couldn't fit through) and remained asleep there on the floor in his toddler sleeping bag, oblivious to our frantic efforts to find him.

I didn't really sleep much that night, the 'what ifs?' running through my head. Having worked as a journalist for 15 years, I was well aware that 'I never thought it would happen to me', was the most common response when people were interviewed about tragic events. But what interested me was how what I'd done - or hadn't done - would have been forensically examined by the media and public if my experience had turned into something tragic.
A few years later I took my son to a park we hadn't been to before and he asked to play hide-and-seek. I closed my eyes and started counting. When I opened them again he was, of course, nowhere to be seen. After ten minutes of fruitless searching, and with a clenching sensation in my stomach, I thought how ridiculous it is that we watch our children like hawks and then take them to a park, close our eyes and tell them to run away and hide. Fortunately, I found my son shortly afterwards but again I was struck by how things could have turned out differently and how I would have been judged if they had.
In the subsequent years the idea of writing a novel about a child who goes missing during a game of hide-and-seek started to formulate in my head. I knew right from the beginning that I wanted the abductor to be a woman. My husband, a photographer, had worked on the case of the missing baby Abbie Humphries, who had been found safe and well with a female abductor after 17 days. I started researching cases of women who had abducted babies or children and as Muriel's character started to form in my head, I realised the scene I had filed away in my head all those years ago would fit perfectly into this novel. I'm not going to say which scene it is, because I don't want to spoil the book, but you will know it when you come to it.

Of course, since those early days the advent of social media has meant that parents - and particularly mothers - are judged and commented on even more. I was interested in the huge amount of vitriol spouted on social media about the McCanns and other parents of children who have gone missing.
And I think the truth is that often the public want to believe that parents are responsible because then they can reassure themselves that it couldn't happen to them. The truth, that sometimes children do go missing and it is no fault of the parents, is a far more unpalatable one.

I wanted my novel to be not so much a whodunnit but, far more interestingly in my view, a whytheydunnit. At no point did I sit down and think, 'I know, I'll write a psychological drama'. It  was more a case that the characters and the story chose me. I don't actually see this book as a big departure from my previous novels, it is more of an evolution. I've always written about dramatic events in people's lives and how they impact on those around them. My previous six novels may have been categorized  as commercial women's fiction but they dealt with such issues as miscarriage, domestic violence, a suicide attempt, traumatic brain injury, a child with a life-limiting illness and a marriage breakdown. Hardly the supposed 'chick-lit' fare. It was simply that with this novel, the dramatic event which occurred happened to be a crime, which took me into new territory.

I hope I've written a thought-provoking novel which will make readers think about how women are judged as mothers and how the media likes to portray everyone as 'good' or 'evil', when the truth is that there are so many complex reasons why people do the things they do and I think we could all do with being more understanding and sympathetic to people instead of jumping to conclusions.

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