Taking the Plunge
My new novel “The Pupil’, published by Aria on 7 August, tells the story of Katie Hayes, who decides to go against everyone’s advice and pursue her childhood dream of being a writer. Of course, things are not as straightforward as that and she finds herself caught up in a triangle of lies and manipulation with her writing tutor, Sam Morton, and his literary agent wife, Viola Matthews, after she discovers that one moment twelve years earlier connects them all.
One of the themes of the book is the idea of finding the courage to step out of your comfort zone and finally try your hand at something you have always wanted to do. Katie is a suburban housewife with two beautiful children and a seemingly supportive husband on the surface. When she signs up to a writing course tutored by Sam, she finds that the odds are stacked against her ever achieving her dream. Her husband doesn’t think she can cope and seems determined to keep her trapped in her role as housewife, her best friend thinks she is silly for even contemplating a writing career when she already has everything she needs, and her mother has never believed in her and is more convinced she will fail than succeed.
The inspiration for setting the novel in the world of the debut novel slush pile came from my own personal experience. Like Katie, I wanted to be a writer from a very young age, but my life veered off in a different direction and by the time I reached 40, I had written one novel, long buried in a drawer somewhere, and had dabbled in others. I started fleshing out an idea that had been banging around in my head for a while, but with a demanding career and two children, there were very few minutes in the day to dedicate to writing. However, I also realised that if it was something I was serious about doing, then I needed to commit, so I signed up to a writing course with the first few chapters of my book. That course fuelled my motivation to finish the novel, which a few years later then went on to become a bestseller (“The Accident”, published by Aria last year) and part of a four-book publishing deal.
There have been many times over the last few years when I have fielded questions from various people about how I stay motivated to write and the effort it takes to juggle it with my family commitments and a day job. And I am honest in answering that sometimes it is incredibly hard. I am not a full-time writer, although I would love to be, and there are days when I want to give up, usually when reading a negative review or when the words on the page sound thin and pathetic.
But there are also many more days when the words flow easily and it sounds just right or when I receive a message from a reader telling me how my novel brought tears to their eyes or helped to distract them from their own everyday reality and I know that the hard work, juggling schedules and constant self-assessment are worth it. I love what I do. I love having the opportunity to create stories and characters for my readers, knowing that I had the courage to take the plunge. Just as importantly, I acknowledge that my day job, my family and my interactions with other people when I am not writing give me the detail and flesh that I need to add to the bones of a story idea and are therefore a necessity for my writing career.
Of course, I don’t have an unsupportive husband or doubting family – quite the opposite - so my journey has certainly been easier that Katie’s. She may be a woman with many flaws, but she is also a woman with courage and tenacity – and that should be applauded.
So if there is something you have wanted to try your hand at, but haven’t had the opportunity, courage or circumstance to do it, I would urge you to give it a go. I don’t think you’d ever regret trying, but you certainly may regret not giving it a go.