Next up in my ‘mums who write’ series is a chat with a debut author whose book I’ve have heard lots about already! The Mother’s Mistake is a gripping tale of postpartum fears and challenges, and has been racing up the Kindle charts ever since it was released earlier this week. Read on to find out how Ruth combines writing with motherhood - and, even more impressively, with severe pregnancy sickness…
Where do you live and with who? How many children do you have and how old are they?
I live in West London with my husband and two children, a daughter aged 3 and a son aged 8 months.
What’s your writing routine like?
I don’t really have a writing routine! I take opportunities to write whenever I can. My daughter goes to a playgroup for a few hours each weekday so I’m only responsible for my baby in the mornings. I try to get some writing done when he naps or if he is happy to play on his playmat for a bit. This means that some days I get an hour or so done and other days I get nothing done. I also do a bit late evenings after the children are in bed and at weekends. But there’s no consistent pattern.
Where do you write from?
In the week, when I don’t know how much time I’ll have (i.e. how long my son’s nap will last) I tend to write from home. At the weekend, if someone else is looking after the children then I write in cafés because if I’m in the house the untouched housework makes me feel too guilty to ignore!
If an idea strikes me, I’ll jot it down on my phone wherever I am; on the tube, waiting for the bus, in queues at the supermarket…
On both a creative and a practical level, what impact do you think being a mother has had on your writing?
On a creative level I’ve found lots of my recent ideas centre around new mothers. I started writing psychological thrillers when I first became a mother, and I think that first year after childbirth can be a particularly vulnerable time for women. My first psychological thriller, The Mother’s Mistake, is about a new mother who isn’t sure whether she’s going crazy or if someone is set on hurting her child. As a sleep-deprived new mother myself, the protagonist came easily to me! My second psychological thriller, out in September, also features a vulnerable new mother.
On a practical level, being a mother has made me far more efficient with my writing time. If my son falls asleep eight minutes before my daughter needs collecting from playgroup, I don’t faff about, I open up my laptop immediately and type as fast as I can!
Do you find it easier to write now you are a mother, or more difficult?
In some ways it’s easier, because I’m forced to make use of every second of time I have. I’m also more experienced now, so I’m more confident about plotting and more likely to stick to the plot I’ve laid out. But having less time definitely ups the pressure.
What do you think is the hardest thing about being a mother who writes?
It’s hard to get a sensible balance when you work in the home. Like most (all?) working mothers, I often feel guilty that I’m either neglecting my children or my work. I think working in the home complicates that further, because often I’m trying to work and look after the children at the same time. The boundaries aren’t as clearly delineated as they were when I was working in an office.
How do you think your love of writing has impacted your children?
At the moment my children are a bit too young to understand, but I hope that as they get older my children will see me doing work I enjoy and feel that that will be a possibility for them too, whether it’s writing or other work that they feel passionate about.
How does your partner support you in your writing?
My husband took paternity leave to look after my daughter which enabled me to work on my first psychological thriller. He also does more than his fair share of the housework and takes the children to the park at weekends to give me a bit of time to write.
Do you think the publishing industry is supportive of writing mums?
I submitted my book to my publisher, Bookouture, just before I got pregnant with my second baby and became very ill with hyperemesis gravidarum. Bookouture was incredibly supportive and pushed my deadlines back significantly to accommodate me. Despite this, I get the impression that maternity leave is not really “a thing” for authors and most work when their children are babies.
What are your top tips for other mothers who’d like to write?
1. Write what you like to read – you’ll enjoy it more and it’ll be easier.
2. Try and find a bit of time to write each day even if it’s only five minutes to scribble down a couple of paragraphs.
3. Don’t put yourself under too much pressure; some days the words will come out perfectly, sometimes they’ll be rubbish. You can always edit later.
Please tell me a little bit about your latest novel.
The Mother’s Mistake is a psychological thriller about a mother’s worst nightmare. Claire Hughes and her young family move to the countryside in the hope of a fresh start, but it isn’t long before Claire’s past catches up with her and her daughter’s life is in danger.
This is the blurb for the book:
Everyone makes mistakes. But does everyone deserve to be forgiven?
She runs past the tinkling of children’s laughter that fills the park. Heart hammering, she reaches the riverbank, breath catching in her throat as her eyes take in the small body, tangled in the reeds, pale and lifeless.
Three years later.
Claire’s life is picture perfect. A new home in the countryside. A new-born baby. A doting husband by her side.
But behind closed doors, her life is falling apart.
And when a threatening note is posted through her letterbox, saying she doesn’t deserve her daughter, it’s clear that someone knows about her past…
Someone knows that Claire doesn’t deserve her perfect life. Someone’s going to do everything in their power to destroy it.
What’s your favourite…
Novel about motherhood: It’s not specifically about motherhood, but I love the way motherhood is portrayed in The Group by Mary McCarthy. It was published in 1963 and when I read it I was surprised by how relevant it was today.
Thing about being a mum: My children’s endless curiosity about the world around them and the joy they find in the little things that adults take for granted. It makes me see the world through fresh eyes.
Thing about being a writer: The freedom to explore ideas and let the creativity flow.
Way to relax: Writing (!)