THE THINGS WE NEVER SAID – 10th anniversary!

Ten years ago next week, my debut novel, The Things We Never Said, was published. To my utter astonishment it instantly became a bestseller, so I’m doing a little blog post to celebrate. I guess I’m celebrating ten years as a published novelist, but I also want to celebrate the book itself. It still sells well on Kindle and in audiobook, and is much-borrowed in libraries, but the paperback is now print on demand,  so it’s more expensive! However, I do get an author discount, so I’ve splashed out and bought some copies to give away on my  Facebook page 

What it’s about

The Things We Never Said, by Susan Elliot Wright

The Things We Never Said

In 1964, Maggie wakes up in an asylum with no idea who she is or why she’s there. Little glimpses of memory tantalise her – a roaring gale,  a sickly baby. Then one night, a word in an overheard conversation on the ward suddenly brings the devastating truth flooding back.

In 2010, Jonathan and his wife are expecting their first baby. His difficult relationship with his own father means he’s already worried he won’t be a good dad,  then a knock on the door from a cold case detective throws his life even further into turmoil. Jonathan’s familial DNA is linked with a decades-old crime


‘If you love Maggie O’Farrell, you will love this’  Veronica Henry

The Things We Never Said

Review in The Bookseller

The book seemed to touch the hearts of readers in a way I could only have dreamed of. Being my first novel, it took years of blood, sweat and tears (well, certainly tears!) and what felt like endless writing and rewriting before it was in good enough shape to start approaching agents.

I knew getting published wasn’t easy, so I braced myself for rejections. And they came. Plenty of them. But then came the call from my agent telling me that Simon & Schuster were interested. ‘But don’t open the champagne yet,’ she cautioned. The editor and the fiction team loved it, She told me, but the acquisitions meeting the following day, and nothing was certain until then.

I was working as a chef at the time, catering weddings, and the next day, I don’t know how I didn’t end up putting salt in the meringues and sugar in the potatoes. I checked my phone a hundred times, but by the time I finished my shift at 3pm, I still hadn’t heard. I went home and took the dog for a walk. We’re in the park, he’s just done a massive poo (big dog, big poo) and I’m just bending down, poo bag stretched over my hands thinking, this would be about the worst possible time for my agent to call…

The news I’d been waiting for

Have you ever tried to sound excited but completely professional while tying up a bag of warm dog poo? Anyway, the news was good – a two-book deal – and it was all systems go on the champagne. It was a long time to wait before I was able to hold the book in my hands, but eventually, the months passed, and it was published,

susan elliot wright

It’s a real book! The great unboxing

Book launch for The Things We Never Said

Book launch at Waterstones







Readers loved it, and it got shortlisted and long listed for a few things, including the RNA Contemporary romantic novel of the year (NB I don’t think it’s romantic, though it does have a strong relationship that withstands considerable pressure). I got to speak at libraries and events, and all in all, I had a brilliant time.

Romantic novel of the year Shortlist  4

With other shortlisted authors at RONAs award ceremony 2014

But the absolute best thing of all was the amazing emails I received. ten years on, I still get messages about this book, though these days it’s usually via social media. One that sticks in my mind was from a woman who said the book had reignited her love of reading after a long period where she’d been completely unable to engage with the book. Most of the messages are from women, although I’ve had some lovely comments about this novel from men, too.

The Things We Never Said

In good company on the Waterstones front table!

Since then…

My fifth novel, All You Ever Wanted was published last year, and my fourth, The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood was published ‘to acclaim’. I’m probably a better writer now than I was then, but there seems to have been something about this book that captured the imagination and brought me readers who have since gone on to buy all my novels. Which is why I’ll always have a soft spot for my ‘first baby’, and why I might just open another bottle of champagne on its tenth birthday. If you’d like to read it now,  try your luck in the giveaway by going to my Facebook page  or buy it on Audiobook  or on Kindle 

If you’d like to know more about me and my books, have a look around my website

Do we have a right to a happy ending?

I finished reading a wonderful novel recently. I’m not going to name it because this blog post will be a spoiler in itself. The novel gripped me from the start. The two viewpoint characters were convincing and engaging, and although neither were perfect, I soon began to find one of them more sympathetic than the other. Both voices were strong and the writing was vivid and compelling. In fact, it was one of those books that creeps into your consciousness even when you’re doing other things. I’d find myself looking forward to the moment I could pick the book up again, thinking about the characters and wanting to get back to them to see how they were getting on.
As the novel progressed, the tension increased and the fortunes of the characters swung from ‘okay’ to ‘bad’ to ‘awful’ and back again several times with only the very occasional move towards ‘good’. I turned the pages eagerly, waiting for the heroine to finally achieve her goal (my God, she deserved it by now) and for the other character to get her richly deserved comeuppance.
A few pages before the end, it looked like a terrible catastrophe was about to befall the heroine  and I held my breath. Just in the nick of time, phew! She got out of it. Surely all would be well now? But before very long, this poor character was yet again faced with a horrible, miserable end. I turned the page to see how her last-minute reprieve might come about, only to find the author’s acknowledgements.
I was upset. It shouldn’t have been this way. The ‘goodie’ should have had a happy ending and the ‘baddie’ should have come to grief, surely
Well, that’s what I wanted anyway. A friend said recently that she always felt cheated If she didn’t get a happy ending; I’m not sure I felt cheated, but I did feel a little unsatisfied, and this led me to thinking about whether we as readers have the right to demand a happy ending.  It also led to a slightly bigger question: is an author’s first duty to the novel’s readers or to its characters?
As I said at the start, the novel in question was beautifully written, the story was well-told and the characters felt real. And if I’m honest, the author was, I felt, very truthful in her ending. Realistically, what happened in the story is probably what would have happened if those people and their situation had been real.
Was she ever tempted to give us readers the happy ending (or at least, one bearing a glimmer of hope) so many of us crave? In terms of the integrity of her story, I think she took the more courageous route and told us the truth, but despite the fact that I absolutely loved this novel, I still can’t help feeling just slightly disappointed that things didn’t turn out as I’d have liked them to.

What do you think? Should there always be a happy ending? Is an ending with the merest suggestion of hope ok? Or should the author stay true to her story, even if it means readers might not like it?