Author Fiona Cassidy talks about adoption BUDDING writers are often encouraged to write what they know, and for northern Irish writer Fiona Cassidy ( real name Fionnuala McGoldrick) her last two novels have been absolute masterclasses in this motto.
Her first book, Anyone for Seconds, chronicled the ups and downs of a modern ' blended family', which is a situation she can certainly identify with – she and her partner Philip both have two children each from previous relationships, as well as a child of their own and one on the way. And her latest book, Anyone for Me, also deals with a subject very close to Cassidy's heart: adoption.
" I always knew I was adopted," says 35-year-old Cassidy who grew up in Galbally, Co Tyrone and continues to live there. " My parents were always really good at making me feel special, and saying they were 'chosen' to look after me because my birth mother couldn't."
Cassidy says this openness is something she is deeply grateful to her parents for; however by her teens she was beginning to feel the need to delve a bit deeper into her history.
" My teenage years were defi nitely quite turbulent and confused, and I always had a really wild imagination. I had a romantic notion that Ricki Lake or Cilla Black would invite me on their show and introduce me to my birth mother."
By 18, Cassidy had got her hands on her original birth certifi cate and found out the name of her birth mother. " I hadn't told my parents because I knew they'd be wary. Not wary of me trying to meet my birth mother, but wary that I wouldn't go through the proper channels. They knew how impulsive I was."
But even as a young naive teenager with a world of questions swirling around in her head, Cassidy knew " how wrong it would be" to just turn up on this woman's doorstep. " I knew it would be pushing the boundaries too far, and I was never interested in hurting people or disrupting other people's lives."
However, Cassidy did make contact with her maternal aunt – she found her name on her baptismal cert – and had a conversation with her.
" It was at this point that I realised my fantasy of the big tearful reunion was not going to happen. It was made fairly obvious that I was adopted for a reason and that it would be better to leave things as they were."
The possibility of meeting her mother did linger for years however, and it has only been in recent times that Cassidy has accepted it is not going to materialise after being told so by her birth family.
" I still fi nd it hard to accept, and I've had to go through a lot of counselling to come to terms with it. But I'm getting there. What I didn't want to become was the adopted person who is unhappy with her lot. The fact is I have a wonderful family, a wonderful partner and I'm so blessed with the parents I've got."
Cassidy says she found writing Anyone for Me " extremely therapeutic".
" I didn't have to do any research because I had lived through it. I knew exactly what the character was feeling and going through."
And the book has garnered her praise from people in similar situations for its accurate portrayal of what it's like to be adopted. " They email me and tell me how much they like the book. I'd defi - nitely like to become more involved in this area – speaking about the adoption process and helping people who have been through it."
Having worked up until recently as a promotions manager for a charity, Cassidy decided to give up the day job to focus full time on her family, her writing and her other career – teaching creative-writing classes.
" I was working flat out, hardly seeing the children, and I realised something had to give and I didn't want it to be my sanity!"
Of her books, Cassidy says she endeavours to write escapist, fun fiction " because there's enough misery in the world".
" My philosophy is you either laugh or you cry, and I think within my own life my sense of humour has got me through a lot."
Now four months pregnant and working on her third novel, she says that she's been quite ill with morning sickness, but is very happy to be pregnant following a traumatic miscarriage last year.
" That was quite shocking and took a while to get over. I wear an angel necklace around my neck now which symbolises that baby. He or she will always be with me and of course it's something you'll never forget."
Cassidy says the only advice she can give to people who adopt a child is to be open about their child's background.
" I was always so grateful to my parents for not trying to cover anything up, and for being so supportive of me when I was trying to meet my birth mother. It must have been incredibly hard, probably fearing they could be replaced. But they have always been so sensitive to my needs. I can't emphasise how blessed I am to have them."
Anyone for Me is published by Poolbeg Press and is priced at 13.99.
Mother & Babies