The New Woman by Charity Norman. Author Interview.

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Today I’m VERY happy to welcome Charity Norman to the blog to talk about her emotionally resonant and wonderful novel “The New Woman”. I loved this book and was very pleased to be able to delve deeper..


What inspired you originally to write a novel with Gender Dysphoria as a theme?

While volunteering for a telephone helpline rather like the Samaritans, I often spoke to callers who were struggling with their gender. They’d faced rejection and loneliness, sometimes extreme violence. I was struck by how devastating, and how common, this is, and began to research because I wanted to understand better. It made me think about what makes us who we are. At the same time I became good friends with another telephone listener, a transgender woman who transitioned later in life, and she gave me wonderful insights into how it feels to be trapped in the wrong body. That was when I decided to write this book.

How much research was involved to get the emotional aspects of it right when it came to writing the characters – Luke of course, but also those in his life who also had to come to terms with things.

SO much research! I spoke to trans people and their families, and of course I kept checking in with my friend. I read every book I could find on the subject, every article, every blog, and I visited forums. There are some wonderful trans bloggers out there. But also there were times when I just had to use my imagination and think about how I would feel. I used to baffle dinner guests by suddenly asking them what conversations they’d have if their husband or wife came out as transgender. It didn’t always go down too well!

Your novels always have a deep seated real world theme at their core, which inevitably puts your characters through the wringer. Do you get very emotionally involved during the writing? I’m thinking of Luke here but also of Martha from “After the Fall” , Joseph from “The Son in Law” – all incredibly realistic.

Ask my family – I think they’ll tell you I am a nightmare to live with when a book is at its darkest. I do get involved. I try to listen to my characters as though they were real people. I try to walk in their shoes. I try to feel exactly what they’re feeling. It can be pretty rough. It’s a really good idea for me to go away for a few days sometimes, so that I don’t have to keep surfacing and finding people’s school socks, or having conversations about whether the car needs a new head gasket.

I also love how there is always an element of redemption in your stories – yes things are difficult and traumatic but ultimately there are rewarding elements – is this something you decide before writing or is it just where the stories end up taking you?

Hmm, good question. I’ve never thought about that consciously before. The last three books were written after I’d submitted a synopsis, so the basic story was planned although the details were not. In fact, After the Fall evolved a different ending from the one I had planned and it was a more hopeful one. I think I have a streak of optimism about life. I like the metaphor about a Persian rug: look at the back, and it’s all tangled threads and knots. Turn it over, and there is a glorious pattern. I tend to try and turn the rug over in my stories.

Who were your writing heroes growing up and what kind of novels do you tend to enjoy these days?

The Bronte sisters, PG Wodehouse, Daphne Du Maurier, Richard Adams, Dick Francis, Jane Austen, Ellis Peters (Brother Cadfael) and others. Now? Well, I’m a sadly slow reader; I just can’t skim over other writers’ hard work. I read a lot of non-fiction and Bill Bryson is a hero of mine. In fiction, I don’t really stick to one genre. I’ll try anything that’s well written especially if I can learn something new from it. I’ve got a massive pile by my bed but it grows faster than I can read it! Right now I’m reading a fascinating book – The Bees, by Laline Paull. Sometimes I still curl up with a Jeeves and Wooster or a Brother Cadfael, because they make me feel happy.

Thank you!

You are very, very welcome. Thank you for inviting me onto your blog.



Publication Date: Available Now from Allen and Unwin

Source: Review Copy

Luke Livingstone is a lucky man. He’s a respected solicitor, a father and grandfather, a pillar of the community. He has a loving wife and an idyllic home in the Oxfordshire countryside. Yet Luke is struggling with an unbearable secret, and it’s threatening to destroy him. All his life, Luke has hidden the truth about himself and his identity. It’s a truth so fundamental that it will shatter his family, rock his community and leave him outcast. But Luke has nowhere left to run, and to continue living, he must become the person – the woman – he knows himself to be, whatever the cost.

The New Woman is perhaps Charity Norman’s best book to date for sheer emotional impact and a beautifully written life story – some really wonderful characters and set in my part of the world which made it even better from my point of view.

Luke has been living a lie for all of his adult life. When we meet him at the beginning of the novel, he is seriously considering ending it all – then a chance encounter on a train makes him rethink that choice but in order to carry on living he must necessarily cause pain to those he loves…

I really felt this one – there is a beauty in the narrative that just brings the characters to vivid life, a hidden turmoil that finally surfaces changing everyone it touches in different ways. Taking as it’s theme a subject I will be honest and say I know little to nothing about, the story has huge impact and a learning curve for all concerned – not just the characters but the reader as well.

The strength of this novel lies in the interactions of the dramatic players – from the moment Luke says the words that will change everyone’s life to the point of resolution you will be enthralled, often slightly weepy (that might possibly just be me) and rooting desperately for a happy outcome for all.

An absolute must read.

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Happy Reading Folks!



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