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Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

With a poignant ending and memorable characters, THE APPLE TART OF HOPE is a story of love and friendship that reminds us to keep hope in our hearts. Author Sarah Moore Fitzgerald discusses this touching novel.

Sarah, please tell us about your new book, THE APPLE TART OF HOPE.

THE APPLE TART OF HOPE is my second novel, and it includes themes of mystery, loss, friendship and the rocky journey in and through adolescence. The two main characters, Meg and Oscar, have been neighbors and friends since they were very young. When the story opens, Oscar is missing, presumed dead. As the plot unfolds, we find out what has really happened, and why. There’s a villain too, and her name is Paloma Killealy (more about her later).

Where did you get your inspiration for this story?

I think my writing is inspired by lots of things, not all of which I’m fully aware of. I did know several very sensitive boys when I was growing up, and I’ve often observed how the world doesn’t really allow boys to be gentle and kind, and how they have to cover up those instincts with a veneer of toughness.

The setting for the story was definitely inspired by the place I grew up—a coastal town in Ireland called Dalkey. I lived a few minutes away from the pier that’s depicted (by the novel’s wonderful illustrator, Leo Nicholls) on the front cover. I spent a lot of time around that pier and it always seemed to me to be full of a mysterious kind of energy and enchantment. And so it’s not surprising that it became a focal point for this story.

THE APPLE TART OF HOPE is told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of Meg and Oscar. What was challenging about writing in this format? What was rewarding about it?

In the depths of despair while trying to write this novel, and suffering from a particularly virulent strain of writer’s block, I read Donal Ryan’s very wonderful The Spinning Heart, which is a breathtakingly brilliant novel told in 21 perspectives, which gave me courage to write my novel in two perspectives.

I wasn’t supremely confident that I’d be able to make sense of the challenge. I started to write from the viewpoints of the two main characters and this effort felt like a breakthrough. I gradually found myself playing with the story in a way that allowed for the intertwining of two different interpretations of the world.

It’s definitely difficult, and you have to work harder on structure and exposition as the plot progresses, but I think in the end it was a good decision—mainly because there is drama to be found in different perspectives on the same events.

THE APPLE TART OF HOPE touches on bullying young people face, and how bullying can often have very damaging effects. Why did you find this important to include in the story?

One of the important lessons when growing up is to learn to stand up to bullies, not to be diminished by forces that would diminish us if we let them. I have often noticed that somehow the more enchanting and unique someone is, the more vulnerable they can be to bullying from others, and this is something that the story explores. Paloma is a terrible bully. She’s beautiful and manipulative and destructive, but she has her own story too. I hope also that readers will notice that bullies tend to be damaged in some way, and they’re not two dimensional cardboard cutouts. Understanding why people behave like bullies is an important part of the story too.

What do you hope readers gain from reading THE APPLE TART OF HOPE?

While there are different themes in the story, I think the main message underpinning it is the importance of keeping hope in your heart. I hope readers will enjoy the story and that this message will resonate with them.

If you could give any advice to young authors, what would it be?

Believe in yourself. Give yourself time. Work hard. Redraft. Good luck!

About the Author

Sarah Moore Fitzgerald is the author of The Apple Tart of Hope and Back to Blackbrick, novels for young readers. Born in New Jersey, Sarah is a professor at the University of Limerick in Ireland, where she now lives with her family.

Books by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

The Apple Tart of Hope, Trade Binding
The Apple Tart of Hope , Paperback