Sunday, June 28, 2015

#MMBBR Blog Tour: After We Fall: A Novel by Emma Kavanagh, excerpt and guest post


A plane falls out of the sky.
A woman is murdered.
Four people all have something to hide…

Shortly after takeoff, flight 2940 plummets to the snow-covered ground, breaking into two parts, the only survivors a handful of passengers and a flight attendant. 

Cecilia has packed up and left her family. Now she has survived a tragedy and sees no way out.

Tom has woken up to discover that his wife was on the plane and must break the news to their only son.

Jim is a retired police offer and worried father. His beloved daughter has disappeared, and he knows something is wrong.

Freya is struggling to cope with the loss of her father. But as she delves into his past, she may not like what she finds.

Four people, who have never met but are indelibly linked by these disasters, will be forced to reveal the closely guarded secrets that unlock the answers to their questions. But once the truth is exposed, it may cause even more destruction.

Told from various points of view, chapter by chapter, After We Fall follows the investigation into the doomed plane alongside the investigation of a murder. Debut author Emma Kavanagh deftly weaves together the stories of those who lost someone or something of themselves in one tragic incident, exploring how swiftly everything we know can come crashing down.

Emma Kavanagh was born and raised in South Wales. After graduating with a PhD in psychology from Cardiff University, she spent many years working as a police and military psychologist, training firearms officers, command staff, and military personnel throughout the UK and Europe. She started her business as a psychology consultant, specializing in human performance in extreme situations. She lives in South Wales with her husband and two young sons.

After We Fall: A Novel
JUNE 2015
ISBN: 9781492609193
$14.99 U.S.; Trade Paper
Fiction; Sourcebooks Landmark

Chapter 9
Cecilia: Friday, March 16, 9:22 a.m.
Cecilia was alone when she awoke. It was unimaginable that she could have slept, seemed that what she had experienced could not possibly have been sleep. Sleep made her think of rest, a gentle sinking into an easier state, not that plunging over the cliff edge, a black hole of unconsciousness. There had been dreams, if she could call them that. Rather piecemeal snatches of sound, flashes of light that danced on the edge of her vision, and that pain that wrapped itself around her arm, wrenching at the socket, hauling her up toward wakefulness before the painkillers gripped her again, tugging her back down into the roar of the engines and the heat from the fire.
She lay, staring at the ceiling. Not so different from every other night. Just different dreams.
Her mouth seemed to be full of cotton, head thick. She blinked—once, twice. There were the magnolia walls, the Degas reproduction that she had chosen that Tom hated. It seemed like there should be fire. There was the thick comforter over cotton sheets, but her body shivered as though it was snow. There were sounds, right at the edge of her consciousness, a voice, familiar, strained. Cecilia turned her head, away from the sound, but it was still there.
The sky was a dull cotton today, snow falling in a relentless drone. She gazed out the window at the gray sky and the gray rooftops and thought of plunging toward the ground. There were other voices, farther away, laughter, childish shrieks and dull thuds. She thought of the scream of metal.
“She’s sleeping now.”
Cecilia closed her eyes again. It seemed so loud, that voice. Disproportionately loud, like the roaring of engines. Perhaps she could sleep again. Or pass out. Whichever.
“No. There’s no way I can today.”
It seemed to be getting closer, looming larger the farther under the comforter she sank, tightening around her. Her head throbbed.
“Yeah, I know. No, Ben’s with my mother.”
Ben. Her eyes fluttered open. She wanted to see him. Now. It was a sudden need, like the pull for breath at the bottom of a swimming pool. Had to see him. Her tiny baby, born earlier than he should have been so that he came out a little bigger than a bag of sugar. Too small for her to hold, even if she had wanted to, even if she hadn’t been too ripped apart, too addled with drugs to care. The nurses had taken her to see him, wheeling her in an overlarge chair that looked to be of Soviet design. This minuscule creature, with the wires and the tubes, buried behind glass. They had encouraged her forward, in voices that promised Christmas and spring flowers, glancing at one another in satisfaction when she had finally rested her fingertips on the glass of the incubator. Then the baby had turned and, although now it seemed that she must have imagined it, had looked straight at her, and something had swelled up on the inside, a terror that they had gotten the wrong woman. They were standing there, smiling, thinking that it would be okay, that she would be able to take care of him, give him everything he needed. Didn’t they know that she couldn’t even take care of herself? They hadn’t understood when she had wanted to leave.
“Yeah, I know. No…no, I didn’t tell him about the crash.”
And Tom. So damned capable. So much a father, right from the start, even with the tubes and the wires and this thing that looked barely human. Talking softly through the plexiglass walls, as if there was someone to hear him. And then it seemed that he had heard, because in what felt like a moment he was two years old, and it was his father he ran to when he fell to the ground because walking was still an imprecise affair. His father who made him smile so wide that it seemed his face would split apart. While she floated, still stuck behind plexiglass.
Would Ben have noticed if she had never come back? Cecilia felt tears building. She already knew the answer.
“I know, Boss, but it’s a really bad time. I feel like my place is here.”
Tom seemed to be just outside the door. She wondered if he was listening, waiting for her to make a sound. He had a smoker’s voice, a deep throaty bass, even though he’d never touched a cigarette in his life. She remembered that voice, how it sounded through tinny telephone lines, distant and surprised that she’d called him. Three years ago. After she had left him, assumed she would never see him again. After all, they weren’t much, were they? A little casual affair, dipping her toes back into the water. And then, after it had drifted to its inevitable conclusion, she had left, retreated home, back to her parents’ in the leafy outskirts of Hay-on-Wye, even though she had sworn she would never go back to that house choked full of silent hostility and jagged edges. But she had nowhere else to go. She had sworn that she was laying off relationships. No more pointless dating, killing time with men that left her feeling empty inside. Then had come the nausea and the backache and the little blue line on the unremarkable white stick. And she had called him, because she didn’t know what else to do. There had been a ripple in his voice, forced politeness because he just was that kind of man, and she had known that he had missed her no more than she had missed him. Her hand had hovered for a moment. He didn’t want her. She didn’t want him. What was the point? But then the memories had crowded in on her, and she had felt a shiver of fear, and almost without her meaning them to, the word had tumbled out. Pregnant. Feeling like she was falling down the rabbit hole and knowing that she was sealing her fate, that uttering that word would make it so. The stunned silence as he figured out what he needed to do next, then the soft sigh as he realized that he was as trapped as she was, and the quiet, “It’ll be okay. We’ll figure it out.”
For a moment, she had almost believed him.
It had all tumbled away from her then. She’d told her parents, words digging into her throat. Her mother resting her head in her hands. You’ll have to get married. It’s the right thing to do. Cecilia shaking her head, but doing it without conviction. I’m telling you. Motherhood is tough. You don’t want to do this alone. A screaming baby. Enough to push anyone to the edge. You know how it was for me. If he’s willing…her mother had shrugged…you tie him down. You won’t be able to do it on your own, Cece. It’s not in your nature. And then, before she could turn around it seemed, she was married, in a civil ceremony in a scuffed registry office, her parents and Tom’s mother the only witnesses. The air had been clogged, a stupefying July day, heat pressing down on her chest so that she couldn’t breathe. Everything in her pulling her backward, telling her to run, because this wasn’t the life she wanted. But her mother’s fingers were wrapped around her arm, whispering something about cold feet being natural, and there was a wall of pressure at her back, so that she couldn’t turn around either. And then they were married, and it was too late. They went for a meal afterward, in a little bistro that no one really liked. Her father had drunk too much, not looking at her, or anyone else, concentrating steadily on the bottom of his wineglass, her mother laughing too loudly, like she thought if she made enough noise she could distract from her husband. Then when they were done, she had hugged Cecilia, whispering about how she had done the right thing, because otherwise, what would people have thought?
It was three months later that her parents announced they were getting a divorce. A late-night phone call from her father, slurring his words. That slut. Having an affair. Moving to Glasgow with her fucking boyfriend. Cecilia had cried, whether from frustration or anger or childish despair she wasn’t sure.
She buried her head in the pillow. But it didn’t help. The walls still crept closer, licked with flames, and the sheets still smelled of gas and death. She pushed back the bedding, movements too quick so that her arm jarred and pain shot through her. She wanted to be sick.
“I’m sorry, Boss. I know. It’s just…”
It took three lifetime-long strides to cross the bedroom. One herculean wrench to pull open the door.
Tom looked like he hadn’t slept. He started when he saw her, like he was seeing a ghost, and for a brief moment Cecilia wondered if that was exactly what she was. But her arm still throbbed and her head still spun and surely that didn’t happen if you were already dead. His chestnut hair stood upright the way it did after a long day, when he’d run his fingers through it too many times. He wasn’t someone who she had ever really considered to be good-looking; rather, if she was being generous, on the more attractive side of average. He looked like he’d lost weight since she’d seen him last. Was that even possible in the day that she had been gone? She leaned against the door frame, eyes fighting to close again, to slip back. “It’s okay.” Her voice came out rough, stale from lack of use. “Go.”
“Sorry, Boss, just a sec.” He cupped the mouthpiece with his hand. His wedding ring glinting in the spring sunlight. “They’ve found a woman’s body. Some guy walking his dog in Swansea called it in. It’s okay, I’ve already said I’m not going in.”
“It’ll be better. I’d rather.”
She didn’t see him nod, even though she knew he would have. Didn’t see his shoulders slump in that way they did when he had tried and she had shoved him away. Just heard him say, “Boss? I’m on my way.”

Mother and Author

I always wanted to be an author. I always wanted to be a mother. And so, here I am. I have two small sons - a three year old and a six month old. Im tired. A lot. Did I mention that?

In most ways, being an author is the ideal job to have whilst simultaneously parenting two small people. My time is my own. I get to decide when I work, where I work. There is, however, a downside to that. My time is my own. I do not have a boss. There is no one who will yell at me, threaten me with disciplinary procedures, if I do not work on any particular day. Which means of course, that when there is sickness, or an inset day, or a snow day, it is Mummys work that is put aside.

The other problem is that, despite a weirdly common belief amongst the general public, books do not write themselves. If I dont show up to work, my book does not get written. Additionally, publishers do not tend to pay authors who do not write books. So, no work = no pay.

Now, try explaining this to the world at large, who see you as a stay at home mother with a hobby.

The early new year period was a doozy! My three year old managed to contract every childhood illness under the sun, and so every week - and I mean every week - for a period of two months, there was something, some illness, some crisis, that meant work had to be put aside. Sometimes he was ill ill (vomiting, wailing, needing cuddles) and in those moments wild horses could not have dragged me away from him. But other times he was just socially ill - a viral rash with pretty much no effects on his physical wellbeing but which meant he couldnt go to school or daycare. Now those dayssheesh!

See, the other issue with being an author is that it is less of a job, more of a way of life. I could stop writing no more than I could stop breathing. It is who I am. So on those days when I am yanked away and the words are circling around in my head, cawing desperately to be set free, I swear I develop a twitch.

Being an author and being a parent are, in many ways, very similar. Both tasks are primal. They are not about doing your hours and checking out. They are about a basic need - to write, to wrap my arms around my 3 year old when he is sick, my baby when those pesky teeth are tormenting him. When I get that time, when no-one is sick and no-one is clinging to me and wailing, and I can sit down with my notebook, my insides unclench a little and there is relief as the words begin to flow. Right up until I think of my children, and then the relief is beaten down by guilt.

I dont think Im special. I dont even think Im that weird. I think that parenting, by its very nature, strips you bare. I think that it sets itself against every other demand, screaming for attention. Being a working parent is hard. Being any kind of parent is hard.

SoI have come to a few conclusions. Would you like to hear them? Ah, sure you would. As a mother, I am doing my absolute best. The vast majority of us are. My children are extraordinary - they are brilliant, snuggle-tastic, and fill me with more joy than I can possibly say. So, I am initiating a set of guidelines for those of you kind enough to critique me on my parenting and my life management generally - you know who you are!

I would not take medical advice from those who are not medically qualified. Therefore, I will no longer be accepting criticism from those who are not similarly qualified. By which I mean, you may criticize (sorry, help!!) me if you are raising two children. No, hang on. Im not done. You may criticize me if you are raising two children, whilst also working as an author. Waitstill going. You must be raising two children, working as an author, with a husband with a very full time job. And a background as a police psychologist. And a cat. And you must be named Emma.

Because the conclusion I am beginning to reach is that no-one knows exactly what my life looks like. No one really knows what my struggles are, what my triumphs are. Which means that no one is truly qualified to criticize me.

Apart from me.

And my conclusion?

I am working hard. Very hard. Harder than I have ever worked in my life. I am raising my children to be bright, engaged and engaging, interested and kind. I am building a decent career for myself. I love my husband. I generally remember to feed my cat and (very occasionally) to stroke her. Okay, my house is a train wreck. But, on the whole, I am concluding that Im doing pretty damn well.

Now, if youll excuse me, I need to write.

Emma Kavanagh is a former police and military psychologist, and author of After We Fall: A Novel (Sourcebooks). Twitter: @EmmaLK

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