I am always amazed, after reading a really good book, to find it was written by a parent who is the primary caretaker of one or a whole mess o’ babies. How do these people do it? Are their kids, like mine, sometimes left waiting in front of the school because their writer parent was too busy line editing to remember they exist? Eh. Probably not. Welcome to the first of a series of interviews with writers who also do the bulk of daily parenting around their houses. Learn how they are able to publish award winning books, keep small people alive and everyone nattily dressed as we present:
Writing While Parenting Kids Full Time
Holy Crap My Kid Has The Flu And I Haven’t Slept Or Showered In Four Days And My Edits Are Due Tomorrow Whose Idea Was This?
I’m thrilled to welcome my first guest, a novelist whose absolutely gorgeous debut (I’m serious, it is really, really good) The Lost Girl, made me super jealous (If I blatantly steal her prose style, is that like - illegal? Attorneys out there let me know, thanks.) and also made me so happy because this woman is a mom, so clearly she must have figured this writing/parenting thing out and I can grill her for some tips.
You’re a writer! And a Mom! Elaborate!
My debut novel was out last year (The Lost Girl, Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins) and I'm currently working on a darkish fantasy that I hope will be my second novel and brainstorming ideas for other books. I have (at the moment, anyway) one son. He's 14 months old and won't stay still for a minute! (Don't even get me started on trying to change nappies...) BUT I do have a very awesome husband who does more than his fair share of hands-on parenting, so I'm pretty lucky there!
Did you Write/Publish before your son was born? If so, how did your writing schedule change after his birth? I've been writing most of my life, but I signed with my agent and then my publisher about five months before I got pregnant. Which means I was working as a writer for over a year before my son was born and OH MY GOD did my schedule ever change! Pre-baby, I would write as little as five minutes a day or as much as 12 hours. I would sleep at the most bizarre times and sometimes not much at all for a week before crashing for, like, two days. I indulged my muse, so to speak, and let it take me wherever it wanted to go. Sometimes my husband would go up to bed and wake up in the morning and come down and head off to work and I wouldn't have moved from my desk. I'd probably then collapse into bed at about 10am. Post-baby, none of these shenanigans have been possible. I have to write when I can, which is often in snatches of half an hour here and there. I have to be quite disciplined about it because a) if I don't write when the opportunity arises, I may not have another chance for ages, b) on the flip side, I can't just write for hours and ignore my son, and c) I used to quite happily sacrifice sleep for writing, knowing I could just catch up when the inspiration had died down, but I can't do that anymore because WHO KNOWS WHEN I MIGHT BE ABLE TO SLEEP AGAIN? There are time, of course, when I'm on a deadline or trying to finish something in a timely manner and so I will stay up after everyone else is asleep and work. But I don't do this as a matter of course anymore. Post-baby, sleep is a luxury I try to get as much of as I can. Otherwise I'm miserable and make everyone around me miserable.
Well, that’s it; we need to get the science community on board to invent some kind of sleep replacement... thing-y. Where do you find the most help with all the multi-tasking?
My husband is great and is always happy to take over when he's home so that I can write, but he works too so sometimes when there's a baby-related crisis it does become a battle of who is going to get to work and who will have to look after the baby. But I think that's inevitable! Our son also goes to a lovely nursery two days a week, which is two full days of working and writing time for me, so that's been a huge help too (but it's also kind of stressful to have to balance the cost of childcare vs. what you may or may not be earning). If my family lived close by I think they'd probably be only too happy to help (and by 'help', I mean 'steal my son and I'd never see him again'), but unfortunately they live about 5000 miles away. We do have a babysitter, but we tend to ask her over when we want to go out together (date night!!! YAY!) and not so that I can write.
Date Night - well done! Good reminder that giving time and care to a marriage/partnership is so important to the health and happiness of the entire family. Okay - Nuttiest thing you’ve done to keep your son occupied while writing?
Oooh, that's a hard one. There have been so many things! But it would probably be the time I put 'Gangnam Style' on the iPad and let him watch it on loop for about half an hour. While I tried frantically to finish a chapter on the laptop. That song is a magic song, I'm telling you. He loves it.
Is your Son impressed - or aware yet - that you’re a writer?
You know, I was going to say that my son is still only a year old so he probably doesn't have any idea what I do... but then I remembered that the other day, my husband left the laptop open on a low footstool and the baby made a beeline for it. He walked over, sat down in front of it, and started banging at the keys. So, I kind of think he knows EXACTLY what it is Mummy does all day! How does he feel about it? Er, he probably resents the heck out of it. He is not a fan of anything that steals attention away from him :-)
That is hilarious - and adorable! (See proof of adorableness below) Does he inspire specifics in your writing? (Names, characters, incidents)
There is a character in the book I'm working on right now who is named after my son. He's a toddler, so I suppose you could say he's based on him too but I wasn't intentionally going for that. I would say, though, that having a baby has inspired a whole new kind of love in my writing. A lot of The Lost Girl is about a parent's love for their child, some of which was enhanced during revisions after my son was born, and one of the key relationships in my current project is one between the main character and her baby brother.
I totally agree on the new kind of love - crazy! To sum up, what’s the best overall advice you can pass on to other parent/writers?
When you're writing, write. Whole-heartedly. When you're with your kids, be totally with them. Try not to let the two things cross over. But sometimes they will and don't feel guilty about that. Don't beat yourself up about not paying enough attention to your kids or not devoting enough time to your writing. Just enjoy what you do, when you do it, and don't worry about the rest. It's easier said than done and sometimes it's downright impossible, I know, but the stress and the guilt really, really isn't necessary. You're probably doing much better than you think you are!
Sangu, thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us - honestly, your work and your devotion to your family’s well-being are both inspiring. And your next book sounds beautiful. I love sibling relationships, especially where babies are involved! Continued best of luck in all your current and future writing and parenting adventures.
Sangu's Debut Novel, The Lost Girl, is available here
Sangu's blog is here
Kirkus Review: A compelling novel of a girl created to "replace" another in the event of her death...Both an interrogation of bioethics and a mesmerizing quest for identity, this debut succeeds through its careful development of the oh-so-human Eva and those around her...A provocative and page-turning thriller/romance that gets at the heart of what it means to be human.