To prologue or not to prologue – Maeve Haran

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By Maeve Haran

I am very excited because for my thirteenth novel – What Became of You, My Love? – I have my very first prologue! Not only that but it was suggested at quite a late stage by my editor at Pan Macmillan. I was a bit iffy at first about whether it would add anything. I think prologues became quite a cliché at one time, besides which I was nervous it would give away too much of the story.♥

I am one of those strange people who doesn’t even read the blurb on the back of a novel – I like to find out for myself what the story is all about. That should remind all of us about the delicate art of blurb writing – to hint without giving too much away – very difficult to get right.

I do think it works brilliantly with this book, though. The backbone of the story is that Stella, the central character, now a grandmother in her sixties – had a famous love song written about her when she was an ethereal eighteen-year-old by her then boyfriend who went on to become a rock legend. Listening to Radio Two one day Stella hears him announce that he has come back to find her forty years later. The story is about what happens when he tries.

What I wanted to convey was the very ordinary life Stellla has been leading, absolutely different from the wild and outrageous things that have happened to Cameron, but I also wanted to convince the reader of how they might once have come together. I also wanted to evoke the power of music to take us back to the time when we were young – before our lives had taken the path they ended up following.

The prologue was a perfect device for this. It is set in 1969, the year they met, and in five or six pages sets out to capture the wonderful madness of the Sixties, when the world really did seem to change. It also sets in motion the twist in the tale which I hope the readers won’t fully guess until the end of the story. The prologue provides a brilliantly colourful flash into the past, glittering and elusive, and I think the book would have been much less effective without it.

This doesn’t mean I am convinced that every story can benefit from a prologue – but this one certainly does. Thank you Natasha at PanMac for coming up with the idea when the first draft was already written – you more than did your job as an editor!

Maeve Haran is an Oxford law graduate, former television producer and mother of three grown-up children. She started her writing career with the international bestseller, Having It All, which explored the dilemmas of balancing career and motherhood. Maeve has written eight further contemporary novels and two historical novels. She lives in North London with her husband and a very scruffy Tibetan terrier.

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