Edel Coffey on writing 'Breaking Point'
Edel Coffey writes that the idea of Breaking Point came to her when she heard on the news that a baby had been found dead in a car
I first got the idea to write Breaking Point in 2017. One day after doing the school run I heard on the news that a baby had been found dead in a car. She had been forgotten by her parent.
As the mother of four small children, I couldn’t get the story out of my head. I was sleep-deprived, juggling a career, marriage, childcare, responsibilities to other family members ... I felt this could happen to anyone — I felt it could happen to me. I started counting my children every time we went anywhere in the car.
The death of the baby became an emblem for me of everything that was wrong with this running-on-empty life, which everyone seemed to be living.
I had wanted to write a book about this subject for a long time. I wanted to know where our always-on culture might lead us or what it would take for us to reappraise how we were living. This was all pre-pandemic, of course, and it’s interesting to see how many of the things we thought implausible then, such as flexible working or working from home, have since become the norm.
I wrote Breaking Point very quickly after that, in the small pockets of time I had available early in the morning or late at night, or on the school run while I waited for my children. Every time I thought about opening social media, I opened my notebook or laptop instead. I wrote the novel in the style of a pacy psychological thriller to reflect the breakneck speed at which so many of us live. Through the stories of Susannah, a doctor, and Adelaide, a journalist, both of whom have lost children, I hoped to examine how our way of living forces many of us to make impossible choices.
I did a lot of research around the issues in the book and I was fascinated by how rapidly our culture has changed, particularly around the family, and how we seem to have accepted very poor solutions for working mothers.
Obviously the difficult subject matter was not easy to research or to write, but there were also parts of the book that were very enjoyable. I think the character of Julie, a larger-than-life reporter, and the producers and editors in the newsrooms Adelaide works in, provided as much light relief for me writing the book as I hope they do for readers reading the book. And I think the emergence of the love story at the heart of the novel surprised me as much as it surprised the character who ends up finding love.
Ultimately, I wanted to write a thought-provoking story that readers could enjoy, but I also wanted the story to reflect something about our society, our culture, and to show that this phenomenon of burnout has become a global issue, and is particularly relevant now in our post-Covid 19 world where people are re-evaluating their work and home lives. It’s not just something that happens in the punishing work culture of America, where I set the novel, but also in Ireland, where I live, in the UK, Australia, SA, and all over the world.
Breaking Point by Edel Coffey is published by Sphere.