The lovely Sara Foster lives in Western Australia with her husband and young daughter. She divides her time between writing, book editing and being a mum. Her passions include the natural world, photography, travel and animal conservation. She is the bestselling author of two psychological suspense novels, Come Back to Me and Beneath the Shadows.
Born and raised in the UK, she worked for a time in the HarperCollins fiction department in London, before turning her hand to freelance editing, and writing in her spare time.
It wasn’t until 2007 that Sara decided to take seriously her aim of getting published, and she took time out from editing to finish her first book. Come Back to Me was published in Australia in 2010 and reached the Sydney Morning Herald top ten Australian bestsellers list. Her second book, Beneath the Shadows, reached No. 4 on the Australian Sunday Telegraph bestsellers list, and has been published in the USA and Germany.
Her latest novel, and the topic of today’s Q & A, Shallow Breath, was published in December 2012.
You can find out more about Sara and her writing at www.sarafoster.com.au but today, she has kindly agreed to answer some questions with regard to the environmental issues raised in Shallow Breath, more particularly in relation to the Taiji Dolphins, and how she got past the emotions to write this wonderful story.
Sara, welcome to my Blog and thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions.
With regard to Shallow Breath, Sara, how much research did you undertake for this book?
Research formed a major part of this book – in fact, I had trouble concluding the research and beginning to write. I really wanted the characters’ voices and issues to sound authentic. I spent a lot of time in various local libraries. I watched clips of the whaling protests in the seventies, I went to Monkey Mia and viewed everything I could in their research centre. I looked through reams of old newspapers, listened to audio clips, found pieces on YouTube, and I read books by animal experts in each of the fields I was writing about and more. I learned about octopuses, chimps and parrots as well, and found various themes that applied across the board – particularly relating to new discoveries of animal ‘intelligence’ and teamwork. I interviewed Leif Cocks, who is one of the leaders of orang-utan conservation, and spent a number of hours at Perth Zoo. I looked into how you can go and hunt elephants in Africa, and saw photos I never want to see again. I read forums on kangaroo shooting and visited various kangaroo carers.
And I also travelled to Taiji in Japan
and watched the fishermen set off at dawn in search of dolphins.
I stood on a hotel roof and watched the banger boats belching black smoke as they returned in formation, which meant a pod of dolphins was trapped between them.
I spoke to all the different conservation groups there and saw the dolphins who were being trained or held in captivity. One protestor put a hydrophone into the water, and we listened to them calling to one another. That was the experience that changed me forever. I will never forget it.
Sara, I am very emotional when it comes to things like animal cruelty and I shed a few tears whilst reading Shallow Breath, but one thing I’d like to know is, how did you get past the emotions enough to watch “The Cove” and to actually visit the site?
That’s a really good question, Marcia. I’ve had to grit my teeth a lot and I shed plenty of tears while writing and researching this book, but the novel meant I was able to turn all those feelings into something purposeful, and that really helped.
What advice do you have for the average person out there to make a difference in terms of nature conservation?
1) Everything, no matter how small, makes a difference. Whether you sign a petition, donate some money, host a fundraiser or spread the word, it all helps.
Be informed – some of the issues surrounding conservation can be complex.
You hear stories about well-meaning but naïve people trying to help but causing more problems, or spreading myths and opinions rather than facts.
If you read some of Ric O’Barry’s online articles, you’ll see he talks quite a bit about this in relation to the dolphins. (I’ve added a few of these onto www.shallowbreath.com
I also believe it’s important to channel your anger and anguish constructively, rather than let it overwhelm you.
Doing something positive to help really counteracts those feelings of helplessness.
I didn’t want to write the story and leave people with nowhere to go afterwards, which is why I put together www.shallowbreath.com
– to give people some specific starting points on how they might help or where to learn more.
Sara, thank you so much for stopping by today.
For those of you interested in finding out more about Sara’s conservation efforts, please visit her website.