For as long as I can remember, writing a book has been on my bucket list.
You know the saying in life that you should: have a child, plant a tree and write a book?
Well, I have had two children, I’ve planted a few trees and so I decided that I should try to write a book before I turned 40 (this year!).
Writing is something I’ve always done without actually realising it. I wrote short stories on ski holidays, I took a creative writing class in university and wrote bits and pieces when I visited my family in the summers during my university years.
Then, I started working as a doctor which kept me pretty busy for ten years. I then had these dreams of writing my first book during my maternity leave after the birth of my first child.
Well, that certainly did not happen. I was completely overwhelmed and lost from that enormous responsibility of having a child and again put my dream on hold.
The blog was inspired by daily conversations I overheard and experiences I had as a young mother living in west London.
After my second child, I started an anonymous blog www.nottinghillyummymummy.com chronicling the lives of west London residents, which was a silly, fun blog but also one way to practice my writing in manageable chunks.
The blog was inspired by daily conversations I overheard and experiences I had as a young mother living in west London. It’s certainly an entertaining place and thought that it would be a great setting for a book! The super competitiveness, the super rich and the super pushy mums make for some great characters. My characters are all fictional, but many of the events and experiences are based on some amount of truth…
When I was commissioned to write a piece for The Saturday Times Magazine and people started complimenting my writing, it gave me enough confidence to think that perhaps it was time to write that novel that had always been in the back of my mind.
Last year when my youngest started nursery, I took a novel writing class at the Faber Academy in London.
Writing a novel is incredibly hard and there is so much that I didn’t know before I started. The course was so useful on so many levels: support from my classmates and my writing tutor because writing is a solitary activity, feedback from them on what worked and what didn’t work and also motivation to write every week and to finish the book. There were so many moments when I wanted to quit, when I didn’t know where to go with my story, and moments when I just thought ‘why am I doing this to myself!’ It is through the class though that I managed to finish my book.
I don’t have a daily writing ritual, with two young children, you write whenever you find the time.
I don’t have a daily writing ritual, with two young children, you write whenever you find the time. I wrote when my children were at school or nursery, at night after they went to bed, or on holidays, when my children were in the Kids club. To finish that book, you have to sit on that chair, day after day, and write. Writing can be compared to pottery in that you start with a lump of ideas and with time you slowly mould it into creating something concrete and hopefully beautiful.
Then came all the pitching to agents and publishers, which is not for the faint hearted! There was a lot of rejection and people saying ‘I really enjoyed your book but… my concern is that no one will buy it.’ They told me that chick-lit books were dead or at least needed a murder (ie. Big Little Lies) but I still felt that there were readers for my book.
I finally decided to go with an indie publisher that someone else from the Faber Course used.
It’s a little like a hybrid between a traditional publisher and a self-publisher.
They provide the publishing support and professional quality publishing (which I knew nothing about), but you get to keep control of the publishing reigns.
For me, this was the right way to go and I am so glad this is the path I chose.
Otherwise, I wouldn’t have managed to publish my book before turning 40!
Publishing has really changed, especially with self-publishing and Amazon, because anyone can write a book.
The Martian, which was made into a blockbuster movie with Matt Damon, started out as a self-published book.
So, if you have a quality book, to me, it doesn’t really matter any more how you are published, it is about writing a book that people will enjoy (of course publishing snobs will disagree). And well, we all know about 50 Shades of Grey. They were both eventually picked up by publishing houses. Publishers want to know that a book will sell, so this is a way to prove it to them: write a book, make it sell.
Of course, none of this is actually easy, whether with self-publishing, or traditional publishing. Selling books is really hard, especially in the digital era when our attention spans are really short.
I decided to write under a pseudonym, Isabella Davidson, because my blog is anonymous and I wanted to keep the anonymity.
But then The Times wanted to do a feature on me and wanted to do a photo shoot – which would mean I would give up my anonymity. It’s the kind of exposure any writer dreams of, so I sat my husband down, and told him that I would be exposing myself to the world and would he be OK with it.
He said yes, and that’s when I decided to reveal myself to the world in the Saturday Times Magazine – although it didn’t end up being the most flattering article on me. It has brought a lot of exposure to my book though, which is great.
It’s been a long road, full of tears, happy ones and sad ones, but it has been an incredible experience so far.
When the physical books arrived at my house and I looked at my achievement in my hands, it was almost a surreal experience. I have had a lot of wonderful reviews so far on Goodreads and on book blogs from advance copies, and it makes the whole experience worthwhile. Just to have people reading my book and enjoying it, from Germany to Portugal to Wigan, is a really rewarding thing.
I’ve met so many great and supportive people along the way too and I am thankful for all of them. Many people ask what’s next for me, and I answer that if enough people enjoy my book, there will surely be a sequel, so I will keep you posted!
By Isabella Davidson