Friday, 17 January 2014

Author Interview: Laura Kemp

Today I'm delighted to welcome Laura Kemp to my blog to talk about her second book Mums on Strike which was published yesterday, so welcome Laura.

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book Mums on Strike?
It's the story of a put-upon mum who goes on housework strike because she's sick of being the skivvy. It wasn't always like this - Lisa and her husband Adam used to share everything but when the kids came along, they slipped into traditional roles. But with the children in school and Lisa going back to work, she's ready to become her own person again. The problem is, Adam doesn't see it like that! 

What inspired you to write Mums on Strike?
Definitely sharing Lisa's frustration at being the only one in the house who thinks to stack the dishwasher, put a wash on, plan meals, cook, clean and turn the lights off every night! I've felt 'on the edge' so many times when it's just me running the house so Mums on Strike is my version of the fantasy lots of women have when they're scrubbing the loo, yet again. 

What was the most fun part to write about in Mums on Strike? 
I loved exploring the idea of 'what if women did go on strike?'. Being able to imagine the ramifications of downing tools and its impact on your circle of friends and family and beyond, how society would cope if we all decided 'enough is enough', was a complete thrill! But it wasn't all roses - Lisa finds out how hard it is to relinquish control when all around her is chaos. And it gets worse when Adam starts to run the house well. It's how I'd imagine a strike would play out.

Does Lisa have any of your characteristics?
I hope there is a little bit of Lisa in all of us!

Have you ever been tempted to go on strike yourself?
I've given it a go - and I've written about it so keep your eyes peeled!

Are you currently working on a new book?  If so, are you able to tell us anything about it?
I'm at the planning stage of my next book - it's a sexy comedy - and I know the beginning, middle and end but I'm working on the rest of it!

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?  
I went into journalism after university so yes, I always knew I wanted to be in the communications industry. But it never occurred to me to be a writer until I went on maternity leave aged 33 and started freelancing for newspapers and magazines. Then, amidst the nappies and muslins, I came up with an idea for an anti-yummy mummy book and went about finding an agent.

How long did it take you to get your first book published? 
It took almost two years from finding an agent to the publication of Mums Like Us, my first book, which came out in February last year. The actual writing of it took a few months but there are lots of edits involved once you've got a deal. Then there's the work that goes into the cover and your publisher deciding which date it's coming out. I've only just got used to the wait involved because being a journalist, I was used to imminent deadlines and a quick turnaround. 

Do you have a set daily writing routine? 
When I'm writing a book, I will sit down in my kitchen and bash out a chapter a day, around 1,000 words, a few times a week for a couple of hours when my son's in school. But the book will always be in my head, and ideas come to me throughout the process so it feels like I'm always working on it even if I'm not physically writing. If I'm not working on a book, I'll still be using those hours to write columns, freelance pieces or mucking about on Twitter!

Have you ever had writer’s block?  
No. I think it's because I don't put myself under pressure to sit at a desk day-in day-out. I have learned to trust that the words will come. That's not to say it's perfect first-time because it isn't! But it means I'm busting to write when I do get down to it. I'm a work from home mum so there's always a load of other stuff to do in terms of childcare and running the house. I think it's also because of my journalism background - the pages of a newspaper always need to be filled so you get used to thinking on your feet.

If you weren’t a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow? 
Absolutely no idea! I can't think of any other job that I would've done, I've always loved words.

Where do you get the inspiration from for your stories? 
Motherhood and ageing, the transition from being 'free' and worrying about yourself to being responsible for another life and putting someone else first no matter what. Ideas come to me wherever and whatever I'm doing through the people I meet and the things they do. But inspiration mostly comes when I'm actually writing. I'm a fly-by-the-seat of my pants writer and 'becoming' a character or sitting inside a scene will lead to the plot going somewhere I would never have thought of if I wasn't writing.

Would you say that any of your characters are like you?  If so, which one(s)? 
Stella in Mums Like Us is a bit like me in that I hate the pressure to be perfect being rammed down our throats. And like Lisa, I'm a feminist. But characters take on a life of their own, you can start with 'what you know' but it doesn't stay that way for long.

If you could write another style of genre, what would it be and why? 
I would love to be able to write thrillers - they quicken the pulse and take over when you're not reading one - but I'm just not clever enough to think up all those twists and turns.

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be? 
Be persistent. That not only applies to the actual writing but also in the way you go about finding an agent or pitching an idea. The knockbacks are horrible but once you've digested it, you've got to get back up and go for it again. No one else will do it for you. 

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 hinderance?
It's really weird because I used to be able to write in a huge and noisy newsroom, you get used to zoning out and getting on with it. Now I need total silence - no radio, TV, music, nothing. That's why I love social media, you can dip in and out - it's a blessing for people who work alone because it feels like you're sat in a virtual office which you can switch on and off whenever you want.

If you could invite any three authors, alive or dead, to a dinner party who would you choose and why?
Definitely Allison Pearson, who wrote I Don't Know How She Does It, for her ability to articulate the jumble of thoughts women have in their heads with humour and passion. Milly Johnson because she's so funny and compassionate. Fiona Gibson because I have followed her from her Just 17 days. And I'm going to cheat here with a fourth who isn't even an author but one of the best writers out there, Deborah Ross, who is a send-up specialist. I'd rather we went to the pub, then we could get chips on the way home!

Do you prefer to read physical copies of books or e-books?
Physical ones because I like being able to flick back and forwards without getting confused on my Kindle! I also like the switch from technology which I use all day to paper to tell my brain to switch off.

Are there any books you’ve read that you wish you’d written? 
Anything by Khaled Hosseini. He writes heartbreakingly beautiful stories, both devastating and uplifting.

What’s the last book you’ve read that has made you cry? 
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Hosseini for its courage in a hopeless situation.

When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward? 
When you get to type 'the end', you feel such an achievement so yes, I'll have a glass of wine! But then you haven't really finished because of the edits so you end up having lots of glasses of wine!

Where would be your idyllic location for a writing retreat? 
Istanbul for its beauty and bustle. I love the call to prayer so much, I think it's the only noisy place where I could sit down and write without being disturbed.

If you were going to be stuck on a desert island and could only take 3 books with you, which ones would you choose?
I'd take one of those SAS survival handbooks to teach me how to build a shelter and gut fish. A book of Telegraph concise crosswords. And Wuthering Heights, which drips so much with description that it would still have me seeing a new angle to the story on countless re-reads.

Follow me on Twitter @laurajanekemp, get my latest book news on and say hi to me on Laura Kemp Books on Facebook.

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