Acclaimed novelist Susan Johnson, who has a great blog of her own, wrote a truly gripping memoir, A Better Woman, about writing, motherhood, illness and the dilemmas of choosing a creative life. I recall being reduced to tears of gratitude frequently while reading it. Susan really was in the vanguard of this discussion and, though I didn’t discover her book till I was halfway through writing The Divided Heart, it became a huge inspiration for my book and I recommend it to anyone interested in the art and parenting theme.
In her (characteristically priceless) comment on my previous post, Susan mentioned Stephanie Meyer, author of the colossally successful Twilight series of vampire books (now film), who apparently wrote the first book amid the bedlam of mothering two toddlers and a baby.
Of course I felt compelled to follow this up, and found these fascinating words on Stephanie Meyer’s site. There Meyer says she knows exactly what date she started writing Twilight, which was inspired by a particularly vivid dream, because it was also the first day of swimming lessons for her kids.
“Up to this point, I had not written anything besides a few chapters (of other stories) that I never got very far on, and nothing at all since the birth of my first son, six years earlier,” she writes. “Though I had a million things to do (i.e. making breakfast for hungry children, dressing and changing the diapers of said children, finding the swimsuits that no one ever puts away in the right place, etc.), I stayed in bed, thinking about the dream.”
She went on to write that first book in a matter of months. Hers is a compelling example of way the adrenaline of obsession can get you through. She mentions being in love with the lead male character and caring for the main female character like a daughter. (Stephanie Meyer has three sons.) I found this notion intriguing--the way a character might be like a sort of crush, with that associated flush of energy.
In The Divided Heart, Nikki Gemmell talks about writing becoming her space for fantasy when day-to-life is all about sore nipples and wiping bottoms. I think there’s a lot to be said for this—the need for escape coming to the fore when our life is at its most routine and prescribed. For Nikki, the sensuality of mothering and the new relationship with her body also played a part, creating its own form of liberation.
If only all our dreams could wind up making us millions—might help in avoiding the madhouse, whatdya reckon, Susan?
P.S. If anyone else out there has read Emily Perkins’ brilliant psychological thriller Novel About My Wife, do you want to send me your theories on what happened to Ann?! The only online mention of this I have found is on Kerry Clare’s blog, Pickle Me This—a great site with an interview with Perkins, in which she also talks about writing and motherhood (but purposely doesn't answer the 'what happened' question). Mind you, the further away I get from finishing Perkins’ novel, the more I realise that it doesn’t matter (knowing what happened), but it’s fun to theorise…