Early Daze is now available for Kindle on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and all other Amazon sites, but will be FREE Sun 30th and Mon 31st March.
So, Is This About You? Writing From Your Own Experience
One of my beta-readers for Early Daze asked if it was my story. Well, yes and no. It isn’t a memoir, but it certainly draws more on my life than any of my previous works.
Jess’ baby, Samantha, is essentially my daughter. The book follows her progress, with very minor adjustments. The Facebook posts which Jess makes are actually adapted from the ones I wrote at the time. I also had the diary I kept to draw on. A lot of Jess’ thoughts and feelings are ones that I had. It isn’t a book based on research; it’s based on experience.
That said, I didn’t go through everything that Jess did. I didn’t – fortunately – share her struggles to make enough milk for her baby. I was very much a Gwen in that respect. However, I wanted to include that part of story because I know so many women go through that. Breastfeeding may be natural, but it’s difficult for so many mothers. Pumping full-time is not natural and so is harder still. Also, I know that being good at making milk comforted me for my “failure” (and it does feel like that) to carry my baby to term. It must be doubly painful when milk production is slow too.
Jess’ relationships with her fiancé, friends and family are fictional. My husband supported me all the way. Likewise, although I went through a lot of the things Jess did, we’re not the same person. She has plenty of attitudes I don’t share. I always like to give my characters significant differences from me, if only to remind myself that we’re separate!
But I did share her feelings of being cut off from the “real world”. You can’t help it. When you’re staying at the hospital, your life revolves around the NICU. The flats Jess stays in were based on the ones I stayed in. So was the hospital, although my daughter actually transferred to a different one once she moved into Special Care. For the purposes of the story, I needed them both in the same location. The doctors and nurses, however, are fictional.
In Early Daze, Jess develops a crush on one of the other parents. You may think this is a strange thing to happen at such an emotional time, but it isn’t. It’s actually common, for exactly that reason. You’ve just given birth, so your hormones are all mixed up. You’re suffering sleep deprivation, because you’re pumping round the clock. You’ve suffered a big shock from giving birth early and you’re cut off from your normal life. The result of all this is that you go a bit bonkers. While your brain struggles to sort itself out, you think and feel all sorts of strange things. The fact is: human beings are odd creatures.
They say you should write what you know. The trouble with writing about a hard experience you’ve been through is that it’s very hard to step back from your work. When you write, you can do it for yourself. When you publish, you have to be able to put emotional distance between you and your work, because otherwise you will be devastated when people don’t like it. And not everyone will – that’s just inevitable. That’s why I tried to make Jess a lot different from me, to make sure I could think of it as her story rather than mine.
One thing I’m doing differently with this one: I’m donating 10% of the proceeds to charity. Specifically, to Bliss, a charity for premature babies.