99 Red Balloons by Elisabeth Carpenter
99 Red Balloons follows Stephanie after her eight-year-old niece disappears. She tries to support her sister, Emma, during the search for her daughter. As a mother, it’s my worst nightmare. I wanted to explore the effects it would have on the wider family circle. It’s a time when people come together, but also a time when relationships are tested to the limit. It’s such a horrific subject – I hope I’ve treated it with respect.
The book also tells the story of Maggie, whose granddaughter was abducted in the 1980s. She becomes obsessed with the disappearance of Grace after seeing the parents on a television appeal. She’s a strong woman who feels so alone sometimes, but still clings on to the hope that her granddaughter is still alive out there. She was my favourite of the characters to write; she has a great friendship with Jim – he keeps her on her toes. Readers seem to identify with Maggie, as she’s a person who has suffered great losses in her life yet still carries on.
The title of the book came about because the song was on the radio all the time when I lived in Germany as a child. Part of the book is set there, so the song weaved itself through the narrative. Maggie’s character is based in Preston, where I live now with my partner, Dom, and two sons. I love living in the north of England – with the cold, unpredictable weather! Many novels are set in the south, so I thought it would be a refreshing change to feature lovely Lancashire.