This month we have fellow nano Essex writer Emma who has just released her book that I will be covering in the next few posts very soon! 🙂
Tell us a bit about your book
The Undercover Mother follows Jenny, a journalist on maternity leave who writes an anonymous blog to prove to her boss, sister and random women in queues that life doesn’t have to change just because you’ve had a baby. It’s a novel about self-discovery, embracing change and finding friendship in the unlikeliest of places.
What would you say is the genre for your book
I guess it comes under romantic comedy. Although there is no romance. So, let’s go with humour.
Where did the inspiration come from?
I became a mum for the first time when I was 35 and it was a huge learning curve! I had a tough birth experience and could be heard mumbling ‘everyone lies’ for months afterwards. Writing the novel was therapy.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
Because Jenny uses the mums she meets at antenatal as material without telling them, calling her blog The Undercover Mother seemed to fit. Then I just gave the novel the same name.
How long did it take you to finish writing the book before the first edit? How many drafts were there in total?
It took me 7 months to write the first draft which I then hid in a drawer for 6 months. After that, I edited it and sent it out to an agent who liked my writing but not the convoluted, multi-narrator, flashback plot I had written. I went away, did an online self-edit course with The Writers’ Workshop and did the work to improve it. After securing my publishing deal with Bookouture, we went through three stages of edits which my lovely editor assured me were only ‘light’ ones.
Are there any characters in the book based on people you know?
Dan, Jenny’s husband is very similar to my own husband. We are both lucky to have such patient men in our lives!
How did you celebrate being published? Did you have a launch party?
Oh my gosh – I milked it for all it was worth! I had several mini-celebrations with my friends after getting the deal. Then, during publication week, I had a book signing and a party for my friends. It was a lot of fun.
Would you care to give us an extract?
Preoccupied with checking her phone for a message from her boss, the length of the queue she was in and the question of whether the baby needed one or two giant cookies for breakfast, Jenny didn’t notice the woman’s splayed palms until they landed squarely on her stomach. She jumped so high she nearly lost hold of her sandwich. ‘Look at your beautiful bump! How long have you got?’
Jenny took a small step backwards. ‘Five weeks.’ It wasn’t a problem that the woman was touching The Bump – although a bit of warning might be nice – but there was no time for a conversation about the delights of pregnancy today. Eva was an even-tempered boss, but she hated lateness more than a missing apostrophe, and Jenny needed her in a good mood. She pushed her sandwich along the counter and focused on the jar of cookies. Avoid eye contact. Buy the sandwich. Get to work.
But Queue Woman didn’t get the message. ‘Is this your first one?’
‘Yep.’ Jenny nodded. ‘First one.’ Here came The All-Knowing Smile. She got it a lot now. Why did everyone assume they knew better than her?
‘You’ve certainly got a lot of changes coming your—’ Leaning forward, the woman scrutinised Jenny’s sandwich. ‘Is that bacon and brie?’
Jenny knew what was coming next. ‘Actually, I’ve researched and apparently…’ Queue Woman snatched the sandwich out of her hands, scanned the selection on the counter and replaced it with a ham and cheddar panini.
‘Thank God I was here. You nearly ate soft cheese!’ The Smile again. Accompanied by a shake of the head. ‘Pregnancy brain.’ Leaning down, she stage-whispered at Jenny’s stomach. ‘Silly Mummy.’
Jenny looked at the ceiling. She just wanted to buy a sandwich – and a cookie or two – and get to work. At least in the office people still talked to her face rather than her midriff. They’d enjoyed their joke of pointedly counting off the months since her wedding and had then barely mentioned her pregnancy since. But now she needed to talk about it. Maternity leave started next week and she still hadn’t been able to pin down her boss about the plan for her column. Eva had evaded her questions, as if the ‘Girl About Town’ articles would write themselves. Admittedly, they wouldn’t need to cover the column for long because Jenny was only going to be off for six months and she’d also pick up some of the work from home once the baby was settled. Writing when it slept.
Queue Woman was back at face level. Frowning. ‘You look tired. Do you need to sit down?’ She lowered her voice. ‘My friend was about your age when she had her first baby and she said it was exhausting.’
Thirty-seven is not old! Jenny bit her tongue. Even her doctor had said her ovaries were chucking out eggs like the last day of the January sales and that she should ‘get on with it’ if she wanted a baby. Just showed how much he knew. ‘No, I’m fine, thanks. Really.’ The queue began to move and Jenny bought the panini she hadn’t chosen, three cookies and a large latte – decaf, to avoid another lecture. On the way out, her mobile buzzed in her bag. A message from Eva. Come and see me as soon as you get in. Don’t speak to ANYONE.
How do you beat writers block? Any tips?
Free writing to a timer works well for me. I set a timer for 20 minutes and I am not allowed to stop writing. Usually there is a thread in there which gets me started again. If I really don’t feel creative, I give myself a break and try again later.
Do you have any hobbies apart from writing?
I’m a huge reader. I usually have a paperback and a kindle book on the go at once. The best thing about being published by Bookouture is that they have a lot of great authors which has encouraged me to read outside my genre. I’m quite partial to a psychological thriller these days!
When you write, do you consider yourself to be a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a planner with a sprinkling of pantser. I do like to have a clear character arc for each of my characters and I plan a five act structure. However, best laid plans are often tweaked and changed as I get to know my characters better and there’s the odd flash of inspiration.
Do you have any advice for fellow writers?
Read a lot and write as often as you can. Be prepared to work on your writing if you know there are things you can improve. For me it was plotting, until I read a great book called Into the Woods by John Yorke. Don’t give up. Ignore the new story whispering in your ear until you have finished the one in front of you.
If your book became a film- who would you pick to play the main characters?
I am rubbish at knowing the names of actors and actresses. I would like a comic actress to play Jenny. Maybe Kristen Wiig from Bridesmaids. (I just had to google her name.)
I see you have new work in progress- care to tell us about it?
I’m not sure if I am allowed to yet! Can I keep you posted? I love it though and am hoping it will make you laugh and cry.
Lastly, where can readers find you and your book on the internet?
The Undercover Mother can be found on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2B58ltB
Emma Robinson thinks of herself as one of the ‘Bridget Jones generation’ – who are now grown up and having children – and writes novels for women who feel the same.
She also has a blog, Motherhood for Slackers, which takes a humorous look at parenthood, and includes poems such as ‘Dear Teacher’ about her son starting school which has been shared around the world. Emma is an English teacher and lives in Essex with a patient husband and two children who are an endless source of material.
Thankyou so much Emma and congrats again! Im halfway through the story so far and love it- can relate to so much! 🙂 Will give the 20min timer approach a go!