Born in Jamaica, Sara and her parents moved to Cayman (home of her paternal grandmother) aged four. She is married to Iain McMurdo and between them they have a blended family of five children: Ashani, 26, Christiana, 22, Marianne, 22, Nyah, 19, and Lewis, 18. Sara’s first novel, The Confessions of Frannie Langton, won the Costa First Novel Award in 2019. She now divides her time between Cayman and England.
Having raised five children and made a spectacularly successful career change, Sara Collins proves that with enough determination and commitment, turning your passion into your profession is possible.
Sara’s first career, which lasted 17 years, was as a lawyer and a human rights activist. Although she made the most of it, her heart was not in the corporate career world and it was a phase of her life she now realises was miserable.
She and her now husband, Iain, met while working as partners at the same law firm and both had children from previous marriages. Choosing to marry and blend their two families was, they both acknowledged, their choice and not their children’s, and so it was up to them to ensure a sense of unity for their children.
In creating a mixed-race family (Iain is Scottish) they had to find their own way to merge two different cultures, as well as two sets of traditions and parenting styles. The greatest challenge was finding time to give each of them the individual attention they needed, Sara observes, which was why, in 2010, she gave up being a lawyer to focus full-time on parenting.
“It’s all about the season of life you’re in,” she reflects. “I believe it’s a myth that you can have it all [a successful career and a fulfilling family life]. I learned that I needed to do things one at a time.”
Through a process of trial and error, Sara, Iain and their children worked out which of their previous family customs were the most important to them and which they could let go. Now, 12 years on, they have formed new family customs and created memories of their own. “When we are all together, we have tremendous fun,” she adds. “Our kids are very loving, interesting people. That makes it seem like a job well done.”
By the time her youngest was in secondary school, and the older children were living their own lives, Sara found herself with more time available. The death of two close friends around this time forced her to confront the fact that life is unpredictable – and that her dream since childhood had been to write novels.
“I realised that I needed to get on with the things I had always hoped I would have time for. I didn’t want to regret never having tried it,” she recalls. So she enrolled in a Masters in Creative Writing at Cambridge University and committed to not giving up until she had given it her very best shot.
Writing her first novel, The Confessions of Frannie Langton, took two arduous years. It required her to shut herself away in the office every single day and immerse herself in her research, her characters and her story. During that time, she openly admits, she neglected her family in order to focus 100% on her novel.
The sacrifice was worth it. Half-way through the course she was signed by an agent and, in 2018, her book was published to critical acclaim. The following year she won the Costa First Novel Award, and was shortlisted for several others. Now, her book is being turned into a TV series for ITV and Sara is writing the screenplay, and working on a second novel.
She’s busier than ever before, but also far more contented. “There is nothing like the joy you feel when your life’s greatest passion becomes the thing you do for a living,” she enthuses. “I love books and now I get paid for writing them, adapting them and reviewing them. I do keep pinching myself.”
The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins is available to buy from Next Chapter in Camana Bay.