Meet the author
Reigate author Kerry Fisher has her fifth novel out now - and it sounds like the perfect Christmas read.
Firstly Kerry, congrats on your new book The Secret Child. Give us a quick precis of what it’s about.
It’s the story of a woman who secretly gives up her baby for adoption to save her marriage and the family she’s already got. This one act impacts on everything – the sort of mother she becomes to her other children, how she reacts to her husband, how she views herself. When I was writing it, I was thinking about the unbreakable, unshakeable bonds of motherhood and how secrets have a horrible habit of lying dormant, ready to burst out at inconvenient moments, however deeply you think you’ve buried them. It’s a highly emotional book but it has happy moments as well.
Sound like I won’t be able to put it down. That’s my kind of book. (And I’ve already ordered it – so I’ll be reading it in front of the fire over Christmas!) What was your inspiration for the novel?
I was talking to a friend who had her baby in a Mother and Baby home in the sixties. She kept her baby but what she said about the women who had to give theirs away broke my heart: they were told that it was the right thing to do, that their babies would have a much better life but afterwards, their children were like a shameful secret and no one ever mentioned them again.
Who would you choose to play your leading ladies?
Julie Walters for Susie, the woman who gave her baby away. Carey Mulligan for her daughter, Grace. Both feisty with resulting fireworks between them.
This is your 5th book? Is it in the same vein as your other books?
My debut, The Not So Perfect Mum (previously The School Gate Survival Guide), was a light, jolly look at school gate snobbery. As I’ve gone on, the topics I’ve tackled have become much darker, though all of my books have a thread of humour running through them. The last two, The Silent Wife and The Secret Child, were definitely a look at the dark underbelly of family dynamics.
Getting published is notoriously tricky – but with five under your belt you’ve clearly got it sussed! What was your path to publication?
You are right about it being tricky! I tried without success to get an agent for several years, then eventually self-published. I managed to prove that there was a market for my debut, The Not So Perfect Mum, and it was picked up by HarperCollins after seven months. I’ve made that sound easy but I had about 120 rejections from agents over four years, plus lots of frustration and tears but giving up felt (marginally) worse than carrying on!
So the kids kicked the travel journalism into touch – shame about that – but now you’re a super successful author, so it’s not all bad?
I travel vicariously now in my novels – The Island Escape is partly set in Sardinia and Corsica. After The Lie has a large chunk set in Florence, where I used to live, and The Silent Wife has several scenes in a castle in Tuscany. I still travel now but with teenagers in tow, whose main concern is less where we’re going and more whether there’ll be free WIFI. Sigh.
How long does it take you to bash out a book? And was it always like this?
My first book took forever – it was lovely, fiddling about, writing two hundred words a day with no deadline pressure! I can write a novel in six months but that is flat out, full-time plus weekend working. I much prefer to write one book a year. I’ve got significantly better at recognising when I’m heading down a blind alley now, so I don’t generally have to do heartbreaking things such as cut 20,000 words and rewrite whole chunks of the book.
What advice do you have for would-be authors, like, um, me?
Stop thinking you’ll ‘find’ time to write one day and ‘make’ time to write. I write 1500 words a day minimum and catch up at weekends if I’m not on target. Read everything that’s currently popular in the genre you want to write in. Learn your craft – go to author talks, workshops, take online courses, read books about how to write. Get used to showing people your work early on because that sick feeling of putting your precious words out into the world never goes away but you do grow a thicker skin eventually. You can’t please everyone all the time but if several people give you the same feedback, you’d be wise to consider what they say. It’s human nature to want to hear only ‘magnificent masterpiece’ but even brutal feedback is good preparation for Amazon reviews later on. My favourite: ‘Absolutely rubbish. I wish I’d saved my money and bought a Twix.’