I’m very excited to be featuring a debut author in my ‘mums who write’ series this month! Melanie Golding’s novel Little Darlings was released on May 2nd, and there’s been a real buzz around it, both here and in America, with the film rights already optioned. It’s a haunting, addictive tale of new motherhood gone wrong (is it any wonder it appeals to me so much?!). Melanie is also a mum of two - and spent her career up until recently working with children, so I was really interested to hear how she has found juggling the bizarre career of author with the all-consuming challenge of being a mum…
Where do you live and with who?
I live in Gloucestershire with my husband and two kids aged 7 and 9.
What’s your writing routine like?
I write full time, and work part time as a musician with an early years story and music group. The full-time writing is only a recent thing, since September 2018: for 9 years I was a full-time childcare provider from my home, together with my husband.
Where do you write from?
When writing my first book I would often just go out to the car and sit in the passenger seat with my laptop to get away from everyone. Nap time was ‘head down for quick burst of writing time’. Also, for a couple of years I would get up before the baby at 5am (I know, they slept late!) and write for an hour or so.
These days I do have an actual desk, but I’m afraid it’s covered in piles of books, paper, bills etc. I usually write at the kitchen table, but right now I’m at my son’s desk, because that’s where I found my laptop, along with a spare half hour.
On both a creative and a practical level, what impact do you think being a mother has had on your writing?
Before I had children, I used to wait for inspiration; I only wrote when I felt like it. I had all the time in the world. When I got pregnant I suddenly realised I didn’t have, and likely wouldn’t ever again have time for leisurely dreaming any more. It was a real motivator. Towards the end of both pregnancies I wrote in a kind of frenzy, because ‘my time’ was nearly up. I don’t think I would have finished my first full length MS if I hadn’t had a baby. Or I would, but it would have taken ten years. That saying ‘if you want something doing, give it to a busy person’ applied directly to me. I gave myself the task of writing a novel at exactly the time in my life when I had the least time to spare.
Do you find it easier to write now you are a mother, or more difficult?
Both. I write for a living now, so there is no longer a lack of motivation or a fear that it won’t be read. In fact, there is a pressure to get the words out and deliver the product. This is both surprising and interesting to me. I am now part of an industry, which I didn’t fully anticipate when creating work as an unpublished writer. But as a mother, my children need me to pay them attention, for hours at a time, during which no writing or thinkwork can be achieved. This makes the process of creating a novel artificially disjointed, and throws up extra challenges when returning to the world of the novel. You have to stitch it together so the seams don’t show. It’s possible that the work suffers, but it’s also true that if one can’t tear oneself fully away from the work, that the children do too.
What do you think is the hardest thing about being a mother who writes?
Time constraints. Now that I have the knack of working anywhere, I feel the need more and more to become deeply immersed. Every day it seems I finally sink fully into it only to be forced out by the kids coming home, needing me to cook the dinner, all of that. Evenings are a washout; there’s no brain energy left.
How do you think your love of writing has impacted your children?
My son said to me ‘we hardly see you now that you’re an author.’ I felt this was unfair, but it illustrates that all things are relative, and he can only judge by his own experience. I think I’d been to London a couple of times that week, but generally, I’m always here. If I was still teaching full-time, or if I had a nine-to-five with a commute, I wouldn’t have any time with my own children during term time at all apart from the weekends. Most ‘normal’ jobs take away your family time. I’m lucky that I can afford to be at home when my kids come home from school most days. I expect that one day they will appreciate it too, but I’m not holding my breath.
How does your partner support you in your writing?
He’s great! I couldn’t ask for more really. He does most of the school runs, all of the supermarket shopping, the lion’s share of the endless ferrying to clubs etc. If I need to get on with something I always can, and everything would be so much harder if he wasn’t there to help me escape into the work.
Do you think the publishing industry is supportive of writing mums?
I have no complaints along these lines, but I realise I’m in a very privileged position right now as my advance is paying the bills. This situation is extremely rare for authors, who often need to work other jobs to keep afloat. For a long time, I wrote and worked a full-time job and had small children, but it’s unsustainable. If I hadn’t been offered the publishing contract when I was, I’m not sure how long I could have kept on writing, and working, and parenting all at the same time.
What are your top tips for other mothers who’d like to write?
Writing for me was an irrepressible impulse over which I had little control. I felt if I didn’t write I would go mad, or die. The only advice is to write, to keep writing, and then to write some more.
Please tell us a little bit about your novel.
In Little Darlings, Lauren becomes terrified that someone will do something terrible to her new baby twins, but her fears are dismissed as a product of her birth trauma and sleep deprivation. Later, when the twins are taken from her side while she’s in the park, the police are called. Everyone is relieved when the babies are found within the hour, apparently safe and well. Lauren, however, is convinced that they are no longer her children.
She will do anything to get her real babies back, even the unthinkable. Is she mad, or does she know something we don’t?
What’s your favourite…
Novel about motherhood: The Hours Before Dawn by Celia Fremlin
Thing about being a mum: Hugs; Sunday morning pancakes; Simpson’s Time
Thing about being a writer: Solitude; creating something from nothing; being your own boss
Way to relax: First Dates and a load of snacks