Can we ever really leave our past behind?
From an early age, Caitlin O'Reilly was taught by her father to strive for nothing short of perfection. Growing up in a small town in the North of Ireland, she tries to live up to his expectations, and when she goes to university and falls in love for the first time, she thinks everything really is perfect. Until one day when the town, her love and her family, are completely destroyed.
Ten years later, Caitlin has created a new life for herself in Melbourne, leaving her past and her family firmly behind. But when she meets Matthew and finds herself falling in love again, what happened in Ireland is suddenly closer and more relevant than ever, unearthing all the hurts and betrayals and secrets she has tried so hard to bury. As Caitlin's life reaches another crisis point, it seems that there is nothing she can do to keep her past and her present from colliding...
This is an emotionally gripping story about love, forgiveness and less-than-perfect families.
Bev Carroll was born in Blarney, County Cork, and moved to Australia in 1995. She worked as a finance director in the information technology industry until the release of her first novel, Executive Affair. Her second book, Just Business, was published in Ireland and Germany as well as in Australia in 2008. Ber lives in Sydney's Northern Beaches with her husband and two children.
Question: How much of Less Than Perfect is based on your own story?
Bev Carroll: The more books I write, the less they become about me - at this stage in my writing career I've drawn on absolutely every personal experience I can think of! In Less Than Perfect, the main character, the setting and the background are entirely fictional, and this made the writing a lot slower - I had to research every tiny detail. Because I can no longer look inward for ideas, I'm constantly on the alert for external sources of inspiration. My notebook and pen are always close at hand, and nobody is safe . . .
Question: What inspired you to write Less Than Perfect?
Bev Carroll: The first spark for this book occurred many years ago when I was introduced to a work colleague from the North of Ireland. Coming from the same country, I assumed we'd have an instant rapport, but nothing further developed once we knew each other's names. In fact, this man seemed to go out of his way to avoid me, and would not engage at all in conversations about 'home'. The same thing happened with a neighbour, also from the North, who studiously avoided a friendship. I concluded it was either something about me, and they just didn't like me - being quite a friendly girl, I found it hard to accept this theory - or it was the fact I represented something they had no wish to be reminded of. Finally, a few years ago, I found someone who would talk to me. 'Why did you come over here?' I asked politely. 'Because I couldn't wait to get out of Belfast, I couldn't get out of there fast enough, and I couldn't get far enough away,' was his blunt response. I began to ponder the notion of running away, if it ever fixes anything, if one can be truly happy denying one's past, and what about the friends and family sacrificed and left behind. So, Less Than Perfect was one of those slow-burning ideas that took shape over a number of years.
Question: Can you talk about the process involved in the character of Caitlin?
Bev Carroll: Caitlin started off as a 'bad' girl. I wanted her to be something of a rebel, an anti-hero. My other heroines were responsible, ambitious and fairly clean-cut. I felt I needed a change, and so I created Caitlin. She drinks too much, pushes whatever boundaries she can get away with, and takes unnecessary risks with her health and her career. This reckless side of her personality is balanced with vulnerability, self-hatred, and a debilitating grief she can't seem to get over. Caitlin has lost the ability to trust. She doesn't trust her family, or her friends. Most of all she doesn't trust the future and what it has in store. Balancing Caitlin's personality to make a rounded, likeable character took a lot of work. In fact, I had to go back more than once to expand and rewrite, and finesse yet again. Luckily, I had a wonderful editor to guide me, and thanks to her expertise my 'bad' girl was transformed into a much more complex and emotionally engaging character.
Question: What did you learn while writing Less Than Perfect?
Bev Carroll: I took risks writing this book and tried some new things (maybe I was channelling Caitlin's risk-taking a bit too much?). Some of the risks worked out, and some didn't, so there was a lot of editing at the back end. One thing that did work out was writing in the first person. This was new for me, and began as somewhat of an experiment, but once I got underway Caitlin's voice was loud and very distinct in my head. I've never heard a character so clearly before, and I think I've come away from this novel with a much better grasp of voice and tone and how it's just as important as the underpinning words, if not more.
Question: What do you hope readers take away from Less Than Perfect?
Bev Carroll: I hope they take away some knowledge about The North of Ireland and the troubles there. I hope they learn something about grief and forgiveness and the complexity of father-daughter relationships. And I hope that they finish with a sigh and a smile and a desire to read my other books!
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Less Than Perfect
Author: Bev Carroll