I had such an incredible response to my first ever ‘mums who write’ post with Laura Pearson, so I’m really excited to be posting another one today. This time, I chat to historical fiction novelist Lizzie Page about her writing life, which she admirably juggles alongside the needs of three children one of whom is a bonafide teenager (I am exhausted just thinking about it). Her latest novel, When I Was Yours, is released on 16 April. Read on to find out more about how she makes writing and motherhood work for her…
Where do you live and with who?
I live by the sea-side in Essex with husband Steve, my three children and dog, Lenny. They are 18, 11 and 9. (I feel like the old woman who lived in a shoe.)
What’s your writing routine like?
My writing is haphazard. ‘Routine’ is not a great word for it. 😊 Some days, I’ll do the school run and then get writing for the remaining six hours. Other days, I’ll find anything to avoid writing until it’s time to pick the kids up again. (Not housework though, never housework. I’m not a writer who likes to clean).
I write full-time but we’re not just living off my writing. That would, so far, be impossible.
Where do you write from?
I write at a desk in my living room. Next to me, my middle-son is playing Fortnite. It’s not ideal but hey ho. I have written on grubby envelopes and receipts found in my bag – I seem never to have a notebook at the right time, and I can’t seem to be creative on the phone – I’ve written while ignoring the kids at soft play, swimming lessons, hockey and football matches. I have perfected the art of responding to ‘Did you see that goal?’ with a ‘Darling…you were awesome!’
What impact do you think being a mother has had on your writing?
It’s both a blessing and a burden. :) I think I write better mother characters and better children characters than I did before, but of course there are authors who do that brilliantly anyway – (not me).
Time constraints are the biggest one, but again, I appreciate non-parents have massive demands on them too.
Generally, though, having these three extra people in my life, who I know pretty damn intimately, has been hugely illuminating and entertaining and I hope I carry that understanding of ‘the human condition’ into my work.
Do you find it easier to write now you are a mother, or more difficult?
I’ve had to learn to squeeze my writing in when I can. I’ve had to accept that there will never be a long stretch of uninterrupted time – but that’s OK, I can work around that. I think I have a sense of urgency, a sense of wanting to leave something behind, ambition maybe, that I never had before – so in that sense its easier.
What do you think is the hardest thing about being a mother who writes?
I think it’s pretty great generally. I get to daydream constantly, I get to go to all the kids’ school stuff (ha! a downside). I get to be very hands on with their lives, while having an amazing interior life of my own.
I don’t think it’s hard being a mother who writes: I think it must be much harder to have a mother who writes (sorry kids!).
How do you think your love of writing has impacted your children?
Hmmm, people expect my children will be great book-lovers. That’s not quite the case. 😊
I think being rejected, rejected, rejected and then published was fantastic for them to see. I hope that will show them the importance of perseverance. I also read my reviews out to them and I hope together we’ve learnt ‘you can’t please all the people all the time’ – which I think is a good life lesson.
How does your partner support you in your writing?
He regularly asks me the Amazon rankings and says, ‘why aren’t they higher?’. He regularly comes up with outlandish plot ideas. He tells his (disinterested) colleagues about my work. He doesn’t help edit or even read my books (!) but financially, he’s enabled this whole shebang so I don’t mind too much.
Do you think the publishing industry is supportive of writing mums? If not, what could they do better?
Hmm, interesting question. I think there is a lack of diversity in the industry as a whole, but I wouldn’t have said a lack of support for writing mums is an area that needs working on. I would very much like the industry to look at enabling more working class voices to the fore, especially working class women, mothers and minorities.
I have no complaints about Bookouture my publishers. They’re very responsive and understanding of family obligations.
What are your top tips for other mothers who’d like to write?
Writing can feel like a self-indulgence. Women are socialised to put others first. It can feel wrong to carve out time for yourself to write. But carve out time for yourself you must. Mothers have lives too!
Please tell us a little bit about your latest novel.
When I Was Yours is a story about Vivienne who serves as a volunteer nurse in World War One and then as a host-mother to Pearl, an evacuee child from London in World War Two.
As Pearl and Vivienne learn to live together, they discover a connection that runs more deeply than anyone could have guessed – from before Pearl was born and deep into Vivienne’s war-time past. It is her relationship with Pearl that forces Vivienne to confront what happened in her marriage and to her long-lost sister who she loved so dearly. When I Was Yours looks at the choices we make, the awfulness of war, British anti-Semitism and love – romantic and maternal.
What’s your favourite…
Novel about motherhood: I’m going to cheat and mention two that I’ve read recently:
The first is Francesca Jakobi’s Bitter. I thought this was a wonderful exploration of motherhood when it’s difficult. How or why it goes wrong and how painful that can be.
The second is Emma Robinson’s The Undercover Mother. This is completely different, a light-hearted look at a pregnant woman preparing for motherhood and struggling or resisting some of the changes that are taking place (I remember that well).
Thing about being a mum: Oof. Well, it’s not the responsibility or the washing. It must be the gorgeousness of my kids. I find them fascinating. You should hear me and my husband going on about them (no, you shouldn’t).
Thing about being a writer: I just love it. Creating new worlds, putting together all the words, shaping them, editing them, hating them, then liking them again. It’s fabulous to hold the final product – the story - in your hands and I like the way it’s both very solitary – at the beginning – but then very much a team effort later on. It’s really the best of both worlds. Plus doing stuff like this interview is a huge privilege. Every day I thank my lucky stars.