When Charity was young, and lived in Yorkshire, she thought she was a reincarnation of Emily Bronte. “I’d swan around, writing really bad stories and poetry,” she says.
She became a barrister, practising for years in England’s north east, while her husband looked after the children. “I met him on a truck crossing the Sahara Desert. He was a mechanic.” They sold up and moved to New Zealand, so Charity could write.
Who is Charity Norman?
Date/place of birth: Nov 19, 1964, Uganda — “My parents were missionaries.”
Education: Law at Exeter University.
Home: Napier, New Zealand.
Family: Husband, Tim Meredith. George, 17, Sam 15, and Cora 13.
The Day Job: Full-time writer. “I do a bit of voluntary work too.”
Hobbies: “I sing in a cathedral choir. I play the cello and the piano. I love travelling to out-of-the-way places.”
Favourite Writers: “Bill Bryson; Molly Keane; Daphne du Maurier. As a child, Richard Adam’s Watership Down.”
Second Novel: “It’s about an Englishwoman married to an Irishman. They emigrate to New Zealand to escape from recession and debt. But their dream turns to a nightmare.”
Top Writing Tip: “Rewrite. In Freeing Grace, every sentence has been written up to 50 times.”
Freeing Grace. Allen and Unwin: €14.55. Kindle: €11.96
Leila and her vicar husband, David, are desperate for a baby. They’re thrilled when Grace Serenity is offered to them for adoption. Then, the baby’s teenage father gets involved. “As a barrister, I saw a lot of couples in adoption disputes demonising each other. They always thought the other side were wicked, and that’s never true. I wanted to re-humanise each side.” The novel touches on a wife’s need to escape, on agoraphobia, and on the friendship between a teenager and a 40-year-old commitment phobe. The adoption battle keeps the pages turning.
The Verdict: An absorbing, deftly written debut, which will make you laugh and cry.
— Interviewed by Sue Leonard