This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Laura Kemp, whose second novel Mums on Strike launched this week, talks writing what you know and juggling busy family life with her career as an author.
All around me – things people say, stories they tell, their dramas and even what they're wearing. It's like you can be having a chat with someone and months later, an idea will pop into your head related to it. Being a mum figures strongly too, the depth of feeling you have is incredible, as do the highs and lows of family life. They say 'write what you know' and that is definitely the case for me.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
It's all done from the kitchen where I can sit down and write while putting the washing on! I'm a work from home mum so I can manage about three hours in between all the other stuff that needs doing. I can get lost in it and then when I need a think, I can stick the kettle on.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte for its staggering plot, setting and drama. Total escapism which has never been bettered on screen, that's the mark of a good book to me.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I dived straight in on my first book, Mums Like Us. I knew how it would end but the planning was pretty unsophisticated; scribbled notes in the middle of the night, that kind of thing. But for Mums on Strike, I took longer to plot it out. I suppose that's because I didn't see myself as an author for the first one – it just seemed too precious! However, I'm quite a spontaneous writer, so I like to draw up a synopsis of chapters with a scene for each and then see what comes as I develop my characters. I tend to do a first draft, show it to my fab agent, Lizzy Kremer, have a chat with her, then submit a second draft, which is edited, then by the third or fourth draft it's good to go.What was your journey to being a published author?
I was a journalist for 15 years so writing was my bread and butter. I was primarily a news reporter but then I moved onto the newsdesk and became head of content, which includes news and features. It was only when I took voluntary redundancy when I had my son six years ago that I began to think in terms of fiction, call it therapy, if you like, to deal with motherhood! I freelanced features for the national newspapers and then the idea for Mums Like Us came to me so I started writing it. I was lucky enough to find an agent, David Higham Associates, and within a few months of drafting my novel, I got a two book deal with Arrow. I was very fortunate and it still feels like a dream.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
There are two in my opinion – the money, which isn't what you think it is! – and the idea that a novelist is 'an artist at work'. Well, it isn't in my case! Real life means I treat it like a job and set myself targets to ensure it's done in between drop-off and pick-up. Having said that, I would love a writing shed at the end of the garden; somewhere to hide and drink tea. But I'm a mum so that's out of the question!
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
I can only speak from my own experience so first, I'd find a mentor, someone whose writing you admire and really study it, see what you can learn from them. Mine is Allison Pearson, who wrote I Don't Know How She Does It and was really fantastically encouraging once I'd plucked up the courage to contact her. Next, plot a synopsis so you know where it is going then start writing – an agent will want to read a chunk of work before they take you on. Don't worry about writing a whole book though, a few chapters will set the tone and show what you're capable of.
You've got to be a bit tenacious too, any approach you make for an agent will need to be striking, you've got one shot so make it brilliant!
What are you working on at the moment?
I'm plotting out my next book and gearing up for a screenwriting course, something I've always wanted to do. My dream is to write for Coronation Street – the scripts are always beautifully written, full of warmth and humour. I would love to try writing in a group too, bouncing ideas off other people, and ultimately find a partner to work with.