Therese here. Today’s guest is author Kate Lord Brown. Kate’s debut, a sprawling WWII novel about female pilots called The Beauty Chorus, was published in early April. Here’s the back-of-book description:
New Year’s Eve, 1940: Evie Chase, the beautiful debutante daughter of a rich and adoring RAF commander, listens wistfully to the swing music drifting out from the ballroom, unable to join in the fun. With bombs falling nightly in London, she is determined that the coming year will bring a lot more than dances, picnics and tennis matches. She is determined to make a difference to the war effort. 5th January, 1941: Evie curses her fashionable heels as they skid on the frozen ground of her local airfield. She is here to join the ATA, the civilian pilots who ferry Tiger Moths and Spitfires to bases across war-torn Britain. Two other women wait nervously to join up: Stella Grainger, a forlorn young mother who has returned from Singapore without her baby boy and Megan Jones, an idealistic teenager who has never left her Welsh village. Billeted together in a tiny cottage in a sleepy country village, Evie, Stella and Megan must learn to live and work together. Brave, beautiful and fiercely independent, these women soon move beyond their different backgrounds as they find romance, confront loss, and forge friendships that will last a lifetime.
Kate has worked as an art consultant, curating collections for palaces and embassies in Europe and the Middle East, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She was a finalist in ITV’s the People’s Author competition in 2009, and has written for magazines including Condé Nast Traveller and Blueprint. She currently lives in the Middle East with her husband who is an airline pilot, and their young family. I’m thrilled she’s with us today to talk about something that challenges many of us: juggling the demands of job and family. Enjoy!
The Juggling Act
Maybe you’ve heard that famous line by Connolly: ‘There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.’ Don’t believe it for a moment – the man was talking nonsense, and my debut novel is living proof that juggling the demands of small children and writing can be done.
I’m more with J G Ballard, who always maintained that family life gave him the stability to write, the anchor and the incentive that allowed him to sit down everyday and work. Having children spurred me on – made me more, not less determined to be published. The last few years of raising babies, running a business, writing books hasn’t been easy – but then it’s never been dull. I’ve learnt a couple of things along the way that I thought I’d pass on, and hope you find them helpful:
1) Write everything down. A friend joked that post pregnancy she had the mental capacity of a chimpanzee. For me, I think that’s over-optimistic. If your mind is anything like mine, it is constantly full of a swirling to-do list of lunchboxes, car rotas, dental appointments and vet bills. If your book is going to get written, the moment you think of something – a character trait, a plot twist – write it down before it flies away. There is nothing worse than sitting down at your desk after the children are asleep and thinking ‘now, what was it that came to me earlier …’
2) Carve yourself out some space. It doesn’t matter how small. I started writing balancing my keyboard on my (then) boyfriend’s sock drawer in the corridor of our studio flat. A room of one’s own, or a room with a view would be lovely, but in the meantime find a space – ‘put your desk in the corner of the room’ as Stephen King said, and just get on with it.
3) Look at your time. You may think you have no time to write, but if you really, really want to write that book, or article you have to make time. I used to write early morning – but then my son started waking at 3.30am, 5.30am … and by breakfast my brain was no good for anything, let alone writing. You will probably have to give something up – I stopped watching TV in the evening, and worked when they were asleep. That can win you maybe four hours a day. If your children are still of an age to nap, the dusting can wait – grab another hour during the day.
4) Books are written a few words at a time. You may think ‘I’ll never write 80,000 words … there’s too much to do’, but you can do it. Using all the methods above, I put a tiny table down in the basement. During the day I’d write notes to myself on whatever scraps of paper I could find (often in Crayola …) and ‘post’ them downstairs to the basement, tossing them over the child gate and into the darkness away from small hands and our mad puppy. It worked a bit like an Oracle. After everyone was tucked down for the night, I would go and scoop up all the pieces, and sift through them. Each snatch of dialogue, each thought for a scene was like a trigger, or a key that allowed me to hook straight into the story again.
So, you see the Pram in the Hall doesn’t have to be an obstacle. Just think of it as something to lean on – like a desk, but with wheels.
Thanks so much, Kate, for practical tips–and for using a word we don’t hear very often here in the states: pram!
Photo courtesy Flickr’s missmac