Today is the publication day for Amy Bratley's latest novel, The Antenatal Group, and I'm delighted to be able to welcome her here to tell us a little bit more about the book and her own experiences which influenced it.
Can you tell us a little bit about The Antenatal Group?It's the story of five very different women who meet at antenatal class. The book follows the lives of Mel, who is dumped by her partner on the steps of the antenatal class, Lexi who is having a baby by donor sperm, Katy whose life seems perfect until she realises she can't cope, Erin who is hiding a tragic secret from the past and finally Rebecca, who, not long out of her teens, is determined to hold on to her dreams. Ultimately it's about their friendship.
Did the inspiration for this story come from attending your own antenatal classes?
Yes - from my experience of becoming a mum. I found having a baby completely amazing but utterly bewildering too. Suddenly I was in this world of breastfeeding and sleeplessness and being responsible for this fragile little thing. I wasn't at all relaxed with my first child! And once my partner had gone back to work, I thought uh-oh, what now? That's when I turned to the other new mums I'd met - and made some of my closest friends. When I turned up to a cafe with sick all over my shoulder or burst into tears for no apparent reason, they understood. It was this unique friendship I wanted to write about in The Antenatal Group and how, despite their differences, becoming a mum unites women. We're all in it together!
Which came first, the characters or the plot?
I can never work this one out because it all seems to happen at once, but I think with The Antenatal Group, the characters and their personal stories evolved first, then I had to put them all together and come up with a plot.
If you weren’t a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?
I work as a journalist as well as an author and just edited a gardening magazine, despite not being the most green-fingered person in the world! So, I'm not sure. Writing, in whatever form, is the way I've scraped together a living so far. I'd like to be able to write more books, since that's the writing I like best. Otherwise - to answer your question - in my dreams, I'd do something fun like make handmade chocolates!
Have you ever had writer’s block?
Yes! But I try to just write though it until it flows again, or give up and do something completely different. Drinking coffee helps clear it and strangely, so does being in the shower.
Being a writer appears to be such a solitary lifestyle, especially when you’re in the midst of writing, so do you consider the influence of social Media, Facebook and Twitter, a blessing or a hindrance?
I think it's a bit of both, if that's possible. It's lovely to say hello to your pals if you're feeling isolated, but I'd rather take a proper break and phone them or meet up somewhere. It is a solitary lifestyle, but having two little children means I am rarely alone in the daytime. Having a couple of hours on the bed with my laptop at night to write is quite nice.
If you could invite any three authors, alive or dead, to a dinner party who would you choose and why?
I'd invite Charles Dickens because I'd love to have just a glimpse into his amazing brain, Elinor Lipman whose books make me laugh out loud and Dan Rhodes because his books also make me laugh. I probably wouldn't be able to attend the dinner party, I'd be way too intimidated!
Are there any books you’ve read that you wish you’d written?
All of them! I absolutely love reading but am always thinking I wish I'd written that. For their amazing prose, I love Rose Tremain and Maggie O'Farrell but for the idea I wish I'd had, it probably has to be One Day by David Nicholls. Such a simple idea but it must have been brilliant to write. Plus of course, it was a bestseller!
When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
When I was writing my first book I used to walk past Patisserie Valerie in Soho on the way to work and ogle their custard filled donuts. They look amazing and my mouth is watering just thinking about it. I told myself that if I got published, I could have that massive custard filled bun. When I did get published, I went to order one, but couldn't. I thought 'what it if it all hangs on this bun?' and 'what if eating one spells the end?' So I promised I'd have it after the second book and now the third book... Of course I've had lots of the other cakes, but this particular one is going to have to wait...
Can you describe The Antenatal Group in 20 words or less?
A heart-warming read about becoming a new mum; pain relief, birth positions, sleepless nights - and ultimately about good friendship.
If you'd like to know more about Amy and her books, why not visit her website or follow her on Twitter.