I feel a bit of self-reflection coming on. This can only mean one thing. I’m in between books and I have a bit of time on my hands!
Actually, I am in between books at the moment and I’m off work sick with tonsillitis. No talking allowed. I’m writing this in bursts of energy then lying down again to recover. I haven’t had a sore throat like this since I was a child. The doctor asked yesterday ‘have you been burning the candle at both ends?’ to which I replied, ‘No, no I look after myself now.’
On the way home from the doctors, prescription in hand, I thought about last weekend, when I went straight from my week’s work to the writers’ weekend in Doolin, Clare, working on the proofs of my new book in-between workshops and a bit of partying. (That’s where the serious work is done).
On Sunday I had to rush back to the family who required my care, see to their various clean knickers needs then get back to work on Monday, looking presentable and fresh.
Wilted was the best I could manage.
Nope, the wick has not been lit at either end doctor, I swear.
It can be hard to look after yourself sometimes when you have commitments, a young family and you know, a job. I tend to put things in the diary and say, I’ll make it work, but often making it work means sacrificing something else, and lately I’ve been thinking – it’s usually your health.
Sometimes I fantasize about not having had children and think… what would my life look like now – would I be two stone lighter and fifty grand richer and free, free as a bird, partying around the Seychelles or London or… hell, Clogherhead?
Then I remember what it was like when I didn’t have children and that was that I threw myself into whatever full-time, all-encompassing job I had. I never had time to write or do much creatively when I was working full time. And most people don’t.
When you think about it, it’s having children that has allowed me to follow my writing dream because I made changes in my life that resulted in less time at work and gave me a window of opportunity to write.
These days I am working four days a week, and while that’s still quite a lot, it’s slightly reduced hours and its suits our routine and family life. I absolutely love working outside the home in a ‘normal’ job.
I love the routine it brings, the stability and the income. I’ve noticed that I am far happier when I am working outside the home, that my moods are better, that I, in general, am better.
I also seem to get a lot more done.
I’ve spoken with a lot of women recently about this and many have noted the same – their mental health thrives when they can apply themselves to something they’re talented at, or can achieve at.
It’s the choice I suppose that counts. If you’re forced out to work when you don’t want to go, or if you’re forced to stay at home, when you’d rather work, obviously, either would make you miserable.
Writing wise, I’m just about managing to fit it in around everything else and while I can pretty much stay on top of the novels, there is a lot of creative work I’d like to do outside of that, that has to sit on the back burner for the while.
I’ve dabbled in spoken word over the past year or two and I was delighted to get back to Doolin where I’d first heard it about five years ago. This year I could get up and do my own piece and I practiced my little socks off (in between all the other writing and workshops). The performance went really well and I can see, with time and experience, that my delivery is getting better. It was the first time I’ve got up on a stage to do spoken word and remembered every line!
I took a workshop in it too and so I’m inspired now to write a bit more. I’ve always found rhyming really easy, the trick is to try and rhyme some meaningful words – that’s the hard part. So watch this space, hopefully more to come on that front. It’s definitely a challenge and I like to challenge myself, even if that means I have to not be good at it too. (How to fail!)
I’m also massively interested in script writing and while it’s early days, I hope to be able to get a bit done on that this year. I’m really at the learning stage where I’m studying scripts and the craft from the professionals. I listen to a lot of podcasts on it. It’s such a different form of writing, even the way it’s laid out on the page is difficult for me at the moment, but I’ll get there.
That’s what I love about writing – there are so many avenues to explore – novels are just one thing I love to write!
I am vay vay excited about my third book, Adele, which releases 5 March 2020. There’s something special about this book for me – probably in the subject matter, which is meaty and has a real hook and each time I tell anyone about it, they get excited too.
It’s my first time moving out of the 19th century and I glitterally (see what I did there) adored researching the 1920s era and all that it entailed.
I didn’t really share anything about my research while I was doing it because I didn’t want to give too much away. I have yet to even share the book blurb, although you can read it here now and pre-order if you like!
It was the first time I had to do extensive research, but there was so much involved with retracing a person’s life that it had to be done if I wanted to try and recreate an authentic voice of someone that really lived.
There were a few highlights along the way, the top being a visit to Boston in the US a year ago to view the Astaire archives. These were boxes and boxes of papers, scrapbooks, letters, diaries and photographs taking in the Astaire family lives. I only had a few days and could have spent two weeks in there sifting through the material.
Another highlight was getting a private tour of Lismore Castle, where Adele Astaire lived and continued to visit until 1979. Denis, the castle manager was so open and lovely and I wouldn’t have been able to write the book without that tour, I am sure. He also introduced me to his sister Kathleen who had worked at the castle while Adele was there, so she could provide colour and lots of true stories that would never be written down anywhere.
As a story teller and writer, it’s these pieces of information that fill out the jig saw, that paper over the cracks of the structure of your novel, that make it human and relatable and warm.
This is a very different book for me, certainly a departure from what I’ve done before, but it was something I had to write and now that it’s out of my system I’m setting out to find the next book that’s in me.
I’m happy to work like this. To write what I want to write – to explore what draws me in and interests me. I am attracted to historical fiction for many different reasons, one of which of course is the vast richness of settings, eras and stories that are available if you go looking.
I do have my fourth book idea, and am actively researching, but it’ll be a while before I start writing it. We are heading back to the 19th century for this one and it is London based. (At the moment!)
So, that is the update on the writing front, things are very busy, but very exciting and I should have a few bits of PR to shout about in the coming weeks. Please don’t mute me. It won’t be for long!
I noticed in my last blog post that I had a lot to say about the kids and their sleeping habits and I’m happy to report that things have improved somewhat on that front. Christmas really threw us out; we were both so busy with gigging and then tired and trying to sleep on in the mornings that our routine went out the window, down the field and into the sea.
Himself insisted after Christmas that we try to improve the girls sleeping arrangements and duly went out and bought gorgeous new bunk beds, one with a double on the bottom, so now if our three-year-old is acting up, we can go in and sleep beside her more comfortably.
What’s got us most back on track though is the school routine, having to be up early and out the door, which means a better bed time routine at night too, as everyone is tired.
Hopefully as they get older, things will continue to improve.
We’ve also, somehow, managed to potty train Bonnie. It happened gradually but she loves it now and keeps saying ‘I growed up,’ and pointing at her body and legs to show us how tall she is now. It’s very cute.
Himself keeps saying how he wishes she would stay that size forever and she would melt your heart with the way she goes on, up on the toy box like a stage, pulling faces, singing nursery rhymes. Tantrums are still regular, but we have to be strong and let her at it, because if you gave in to every demand she’d have no teeth left and a four hour kip every night.
Where’s the wine?
I decided to try and do dry January after a particularly bad experience at the end of December when we went out our anniversary. We had a meal and a few cocktails and all was well until I woke the next day with a hangover so bad I thought I might need hospital care. Unfortunately, I’d timed it so that himself was away up the country for a meeting so I had to try and contend with the kids while trying to put myself back together. It wasn’t a pretty sight.
I couldn’t understand what was going on, considering it hadn’t been THAT crazy of a night. Then I realised it was probably a reaction to the new meds I’m on, which I was warned don’t go with alcohol very well.
Boy, did I suffer the consequences.
So, dry January it was and lads, what a new experience!
The first two weeks were the hardest – especially because himself was still having a few tipples whenever he fancied it. I bought a few bottles of Schloer and manged to get by with them. After a while though, the craving started to go and I found a cup of tea and few biccies was enough!
I broke it for Doolin, which has been my plan but I was fairly good (fairly…) and since then am back off it again and hoping to last until the end of February.
The positive effects are massive. The first thing to go was bloating, especially around my tummy. Next thing I noticed were my moods. I am upbeat, positive and in general, good humoured, much more than normal. Productivity is up and I’m planning out weekends without any worry about drink related lie-ons.
It’s really been a mind shift and I’m loving it!
Facebook keeps targeting me with adverts and stories for One Year No Beer, and I a definitely sober curious. The thing is I like my drinks too and don’t think I’m ready to quit for good, but this new routine, new as it is, is working for me. Would be interested to hear if you had any similar experiences.
I got a Fitbit as a Christmas present and I was very good at using it in early January. (Aren’t we all?!) I’ve been hit with the usual health problems though of joint pain and fatigue so that makes if more difficult to do anything strenuous. I’m also now ill of course, which will set me back again.
But we continue on. Hoping for full health to return. Putting things in the diary to look forward to. Living life as best we can. It’s the only way really, isn’t it?
Adele releases 5 March 2020 and I’m having a launch on Saturday 14 March at Waterstone’s in Drogheda, Co. Louth at 3pm. My books The Nanny at Number 43 and December Girl are available on Amazon.