This interview originally appeared on Rockin’ Book Reviews.
Alice, you were born in England. How long did you live there, what part(s) of England did you live, and what were your activities in a typical week of your pre-teen years?
I lived in a village outside of Winchester, the ancient capital, for twenty years. British village life can be quite isolated at times, so I would meet my friends in Winchester to shop, hang out in cafes, or see the newest movies.
What reasons brought you to America and what thoughts did you experience in doing so?
I was very fortunate. In 2009 I received a scholarship through the Georgia Rotary Student Program to study at a Georgia college for one year. I initially had reservations. I had my entire life planned out in the UK: I had been accepted to study law, which is an undergraduate subject there, and already had my eye on a ‘dream firm’ up in London. Now here I am six years later, set on life in the US. It’s funny how these things change.
In your opinion, what are the pros and cons – in comparison- of the lifestyles of each country?
I’m asked that question a lot, and it’s hard to give a conclusive answer. I think that on the whole, the American people are friendlier. But I just recently took a trip to the UK to baptize my daughter and to see the Rugby World Cup, and I came back thinking “wow, I miss it”. It’s the little things that you’d never uproot and leave for, but you still miss nonetheless. It is pub culture; the different sense of humor that we have (very dry); the wonderful, wonderful BBC. Things that are so ingrained in the culture that you don’t think about them until you no longer have them.
You have suffered from an eating disorder a few times in your life. What led to this and what advice can you offer others who experience this condition?
Like a lot of young women, I grew up surrounded by messages about my body and its worth. Magazines advertising the latest diet trend; billboards using rake-thin models to sell clothes; fashion advice geared towards ‘hiding problem areas’ and telling you what you should or should not wear according to your body. It all added up to build an idea in my head that fatness = bad and thinness = good. I’ll never forget something my counselor said to me. He said “all these things that you think about yourself- if someone was following you around saying them out loud, would you befriend them? No; you would tell them to go to hell, right? So why do you accept them when they come from the inside?”
As a single mom, what are some of the challenges have you, personally experienced due to this station in your life?
Well, I joke that I haven’t slept in two years… No, but to be serious for a minute, I do have to say that my daughter’s father and his family are still involved in her life, so I get a ‘break’ most weekends. My ex-husband may not be my favorite person (he wouldn’t be my ex if he was), but if I don’t acknowledge that then I insult all the parents out there who are truly on their own.
How have your studies assisted you in your successes?
I don’t have my degree yet, so we’ll have to wait and see how that changes things. But I’ve studied the same subjects throughout my schooling so far: history, French, literature, psychology, and drama (theatre). Performing on stage and learning another language has given me confidence. Studies in history and psychology are essay-based and have honed my writing skills, while studying literature has exposed me to a great variety of authors and writing styles. Studying while writing has made me work harder at both: I don’t want to compromise one for the other, so I overcompensate.
You are an aspiring lawyer. How are you aspiring to obtain this goal and how long have you been working toward doing so?
You could say I’ve been working towards it since I was fourteen. The British education system is so different: law is an undergrad subject followed by training, but to have a hope of getting in to study law, you have to have good grades in the right A-levels; to get good grades in the right A-levels you have to have chosen the right GCSEs; and we choose our GCSE areas at age fourteen. I’m currently taking my Bachelor’s Degree in history online with Southern New Hampshire University. I’m due to graduate right
around when my daughter starts school, and hopefully then I can go to law school.
What inspired you to write this novel?
The short answer is that I suffered from prenatal depression, and I thought about how the people interacting with me on a daily basis had no idea. It sparked an idea about how we treat total strangers.
How much of the book is factual?
A good portion of it. Sylvie’s story is based on my own experiences, trying to find prenatal care as a new immigrant to the US with no money and no health insurance. You want to know something kind of ironic? When I had the idea for Gloria, a character whose marriage is crumbling around her, I was happily married. The marriage became ugly very quickly, and so it’s not so much that Gloria’s story was
inspired by my own life and more that my life transformed into Gloria’s. One of Gloria’s scenes is factual.
By writing this story, what effect on the reader did you hope to achieve?
I wanted them to think about how we treat others, especially strangers. We never know what burdens a stranger is carrying behind closed doors. Sometimes the smallest act of kindness can go a long way to improving a person’s circumstances, or even their life.
What is your next big project? Please tell us a little about it.
I’m working on a young adult novel, Say Nothing. It’s set in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, and it follows a 15-year-old Catholic girl’s transformation from blasé to political activist. It’s inspired by real life events and the poetry of Seamus Heaney (the title is lovingly borrowed from his poem Whatever You Say, Say Nothing).
Within the next five to ten years, what goals do you hope to accomplish?
Oh, there are many. I want to get my Bachelor’s, of course, and then a J.D. I want to publish more books. I hope to eventually run a marathon, although I’m a long way off from being fit enough. I want to branch out into non-fiction and write history books. Above all, I just want to be an example and an inspiration to my daughter. The day I hear her say “if my mother could do it, I can” is the day it will have all been worth it.