Themes and Schemes

We all have things that we care passionately about, and in some cases want to write about. But where do our themes come from? I found myself wondering about this as I finished my latest edits.

In my next novel, The Italian Flame (to be published March 2025) I found myself once again tackling the theme of adoption. This is the second time I have written about adoption, and yet I have no personal experience of it – I just find different kinds of families interesting.

The first time I wrote about it was in the novel Bay of Secrets when I was drawn in to the subject partly by my horror at the travesties that occurred during the Spanish Civil War and beyond, in terms of adoption practices, which have now been well-documented.

This time though it was rather different. I was watching the TV programme ‘Long Lost Family’ and having a good cry, like you do – because it’s rather wonderful when birth family members meet each other for the first time. Then I started thinking about all the stories that never get aired. What might happen, for example, if someone who had been adopted simply did not want to be found?

A House in Camogli

For the book, I did a lot of reading of personal stories of women who’d had their babies adopted, often against their wishes and because circumstances gave them very little choice. Often, this sad and traumatic parting affected them for the rest of their lives.

As a woman growing up in the later 1960s and 70s I and my peers had a lot more say when it came to birth control and choices. But in 1965, many of these choices were not available to girls like my character Marilyn, as they had not been for many girls and women in the years preceding. There was also a great deal more disapproval and shame. This must have led to so many heart-breaking situations and decisions, also impacting those who had been adopted. Adoptive parents are usually amazing and do a fantastic job, but many adoptees also feel the need to understand why they were given away in the first place. They often want to find out more about their birth families.

This led me into thinking about sisters… I don’t have a sister, though I always wished I did (I do love having a brother though, Alan!) But I do have two daughters and I know that the relationship between sisters is a very special one. These two strands then, came together to create the themes and schemes for The Italian Flame.


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