9 March 2012

Author Interview: Rosie Fiore

Yesterday I reviewed Rosie Fiore's brilliant new book Babies in Waiting, and thought it was a wonderful and touching read about pregnancy, babies and motherhood. Rosie was kind enough to agree to answer a few questions for me, so my thanks go to her for taking the time to answer the questions for me!

Q1. Please tell me about your new book Babies in Waiting.

This was the original pitch to my agent:
“Meet Gemma, 18, Toni, 26, and Louise, 38. All pregnant, all due to have babies this September.
One of them got knocked up by mistake on a one-night stand. One of them conceived in a hurry because she was running out of time. And one of them fell pregnant on purpose to keep a man.
You probably think you know which is which.
You’d be wrong.”

I know from experience, as many women do, that pregnancy doesn’t always come at the right time and in the right circumstances. I wanted to write about that nine-month journey, and how much things can change in that time!

Q2. I loved that each of the women had their own story, and their own experience of pregnancy. What research did you have to put in to this book about their pregnancies and births to make sure it sounded realistic?

I have two children of my own, and I had them sixteen and a half years apart, so that’s quite a lot of experience right there! And, like most women, I have sisters, relatives, friend and acquaintances whose experiences were extremely diverse. I also spent months obsessively reading and posting on one of the major pregnancy and baby forums and you see all forms of humanity there, that’s for sure! In terms of medical details, I relied on Google (the writer’s friend!), and sent lots of stupid questions to my sister who is a doctor. We also had the book read by another doctor before publication to make sure I hadn’t got anything horrendously wrong.

Q3. Each of the women, Louise, Gemma and Toni have their own issues, but are all really likeable. Where did you draw on inspiration for these characters?

Characters are funny things. I don’t believe that any writer simply “copies” someone they’ve met. I start with the barest idea of who someone is, and then as I make decisions that at first seem small (where does she live? Does she have siblings? What work does she do?), they begin to take on a life of their own. All three women grew very organically. I found quite late on in the book that some of the things I’d planned for them just didn’t work, and I had to change direction. You have to let them tell you what they would do.
Q4. Can you tell me about your publishing journey for Babies in Waiting? How long did it take you to write it, to getting it picked up by Quercus - how did you feel to find out it was going to be published?!

It was a long, long journey. I’ve been a commercial wrier for about twenty years. I wrote my first novel, This Year’s Black, in 2003, and was lucky to get a publication deal in my native South Africa, even though I was living in London at the time. It did really well, got great reviews and reasonable sales, and I thought, “Well, that’s it! Now I’ll just get an agent and a UK deal!” To cut the story short, it took me four years to get an agent, and it took another four years and three more books before Quercus made my dream come true, I definitely paid my dues!

Q5. Why did you want to become an author?

I’ve always worked as a writer, in all sorts of forms, TV, theatre, advertising… but there is no bigger, blanker, more exciting canvas than a novel.

Q6. How do you feel about the term "chick lit" and your books being classified under this term?

It’s a very misleading term in my opinion. I’ve read books that are labelled chick-lit that are awful, fluffy sexist rubbish, full of cardboard characters and, I believe, terribly demeaning to women. But on the other side of the coin, there are wonderful writers creating insightful, witty, compelling stories about complex and interesting characters, and those books are also called chick-lit and jacketed and marketed in the same way.

We all know when we read a bad one because we want to throw it across the room and we have no empathy for the heroine. We all also know a good one because it’s so very satisfying, and we feel like we know the characters as friends at the end. I’m more than happy to aim for that end of the chick-lit spectrum!

Q7. Who are some of your favourite authors? Is there a book out there that you wish you had written yourself because it's so good?!

I’m a very broad and eclectic reader, and I have read and loved thousands of books. Recently read for the first time and LOVED David Copperfield, and Dickens remains (in my opinion) the greatest, funniest novelist with the best characters. I found Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex awe-inspiringly brilliant. And Catcher in the Rye has been a favourite since I was 16. That’s the one I wish I’d written, I think. On a more recent and commercial front, I thought Lisa Jewell’s After the Party is one of the best studies of a long-term relationship I’ve ever seen, and I’m currently reading Stella Newman’s Pear Shaped, and it’s very, very good.

Q8. What do you do when you aren't writing?

I spend most of my time running around after a very active two-and-a-half year old, worrying about a fiercely independent, brilliant and brave nineteen-year-old who doesn’t need me nearly as much as he should, laughing with my amazing husband, cooking, reading and singing in a choir because I am a giant nerd.

Q9. What is the best piece of advice you've received as a writer?

In Julia Margaret Cameron’s amazing book, The Artist’s Way, she says “Show up at the page”. That’s it. It’s very simple. If you’re not writing, you’re not a writer. Having a great idea isn’t writing, Thinking about it isn’t writing. Wrestling the words onto the page, whether they’re right or wrong, whether they’re finished or not, that’s writing. And it’s the only way to learn.

Q10. Are you working on your next novel yet, and if so, can you tell me anything about it?

I’m about two-thirds of the way through the first draft of my new book. It’s provisionally called Now and Then. It’s about the eternal problem of balancing work, family and relationships, and it’s also about that moment we all have when you wake up and look at your life and wonder, “How the hell did I end up here?” I’m loving every second of writing it.

Thanks, Rosie!

You can buy Babies in Waiting in both paperback and as an eBook now!

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