Today it's my absolute pleasure to do a spotlight feature for another one of Choc Lit's talented new authors Sarah Waights and her debut novel Never Marry a Politician.
Sarah wrote her first book when she was five. With a father in the forces and the diplomatic corps she spent the best part of her childhood in UK boarding schools, joining her parents in exotic destinations during the school holidays.
After obtaining a degree in music she gave up classical singing and took up a career where she could indulge her love of writing. After several years in public relations, campaigning, political lobbying and freelance journalism she realized her preference for making things up and switched to writing novels instead.
She takes an anthropological interest in family, friends and life in her West Sussex village where she lives in a cottage with roses around the door, along with her artist husband, their children and other pets.
Never Marry a Politician, Sarah debut novel, was a runner up in the 2014 Good Housekeeping Novel Writing Competition.
Never, under any circumstances, marry a politician …
In trying to be the model wife to Ralph, a fiercely ambitious politician, Emily has betrayed her heart and her principles. Once she was a promising journalist, but now reluctant domestic goddess is more her scene.
When unexpected events lead to Ralph becoming a candidate for Prime Minster, Emily finds maintaining the façade of picture-perfect family life an increasing struggle –especially when her romantic past comes back to haunt her in the form of tough-talking journalist, Matt Morley.
Matt is highly skilled at ‘digging the dirt’ and, sure enough, Ralph has a sordid secret that is soon uncovered. In the aftermath of the discovery, will Emily finally find the courage to be true to herself, or is she stuck in the world of PR tactics and photo opportunities for good?
Can you tell us a little bit about your debut novel Never Marry a Politician?
The heroine, Emily, is a bright, resourceful, opinionated woman who tries – and often amusingly fails – to be the perfect wife to her MP husband, Ralph. When ex-lover Matt comes back on the scene the whole edifice of her marriage looks set to crumble and Emily is forced to decide whether to save her marriage at all costs or give in to her instincts and follow her heart.
The book has been reviewed as ‘Laugh out loud funny, from the first line’ and ‘a witty comedy’ by Good Housekeeping Magazine who shortlisted it for the 2014 Good Housekeeping Novel Prize.
Where did the inspiration come from to revolve the story around politics?
What any writer wants is a setting where there are larger than life characters driven by the usual base instincts – lust, ambition, vanity, pride… politics and parliament deliver all this to the point where it is unintentionally hilarious. I couldn’t resist. But, for me – the book is really about how often wives and partners either dutifully pretend to be someone they are not, or stay true to themselves and are criticised for not being supportive enough of their spouse. This is something that HARDLY EVER happens to men! It was inspired initially by watching my mother having to be consort to my father in the diplomatic corps. It was expected that wives were a charming adjunct to their husbands – woe betide any with ideas of their own. I don’t suppose things are now as bad as they were but, I’m thinking of women like Samantha Cameron, who manages to be pretty much perfect but all anyone cares about is how she is dressed. And then there is poor old Sally Bercow, who just does whatever she damned well wants, which is constantly criticised. Actually, I do have a sneaking sympathy for John Bercow. It must be quite – erm – ‘exciting’ for him, wondering what his wife is going to say/do next…
What was the best writing advice you have ever received?
J.F.D.I. (I told the vicar JFDI stands for “Just ‘Flipping’ Do It”, which is nearly right - and a lot more polite.)
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
I get up and stagger about wishing I’d gone to bed earlier, climb about a hundred small metaphorical mountains whilst still in pyjamas with challenges ranging from checking son has remembered his pants to feeding dog and then discovering it’s her third breakfast that day. It’s lucky she’s black - such a slimming colour… I do my copywriting work at home, so, unless I have a client meeting, my commute is just to wander to my study with a large mug of tea and see what the day holds. I generally don’t write fiction in work time but I will let my mind drift when I am walking the dog and, just recently, I have allowed myself to do author tasks like social media and proofing in and amongst my marketing work. It feels really naughty… The lovely thing about having a publishing contract is that I am suddenly a bona fide author and I’ve loved telling people what I do when they ask. That said, I tend to get inspired to write new material later in the day, outside office hours and after all the evening chores. It means I might be tapping away until after midnight which means – if I refer you back to a typical morning – there is a definite groundhog day element.
I also love it when I can persuade the family to go away without me – camping, visiting relatives, whatever I can persuade them to do – and I find I usually get a huge outpouring of work when I’m left to daydream for a day or two. Those are my best writing days of all.
Did you treat yourself to something nice for publishing your first book?
No, but I might when I get my first royalties cheque, although I’m tempted frame it rather than cash it. I think it might depend on how much it’s for… That said, the day I got my publishing contract I met up with a friend and – as it happens – we were standing right outside The Ritz so we went in and had a glass of champagne. It had to be done.
How do you manage to combine work/family life with writing?
It’s been easy up until now because I’ve had the luxury of being really ad hoc about it. I might write ceaselessly for weeks and then not touch a MS for months. Now I’m a grown up published author things are going to have to change but, luckily I’ve got a fair amount of material squirelled away, so I should be able to keep my editor happy for a little while.