Angela Chadwick was a student on our 6-month online novel-writing course in 2015. Angela’s debut novel XX was one of Sharmaine Lovegroves’ first acquisitions for the new Little, Brown imprint, Dialogue Books, and will be published in hardback and ebook this October. XX follows a lesbian couple who take part in the first trial of ovum to ovum fertilisation. We caught up with Angela as she discussed the importance of depicting under-represented characters in fiction, and her time on the CBC novel-writing course …
Your debut novel, XX is to be published by the new Little, Brown imprint, Dialogue Books this October. How did it feel when you discovered that your debut was going to be one of Dialogue Books’ launch titles?
I was so happy to be one of publisher Sharmaine Lovegrove’s first acquisitions for Dialogue Books. My agent Cara Lee Simpson had arranged a day of meetings with those editors interested in the book, but within five minutes of meeting Sharmaine I was convinced she was the person I wanted to work with. Her vision for the novel was so close to my own and she’d really connected with my characters.
The team at Dialogue are bringing such energy and drive to the launch of the imprint and it’s such an honour being involved.
Your novel explores the question of same sex IVF, it follows two women who take part in the first human trial of ovum to ovum fertilisation. What inspired you to write about such an important and politically charged subject matter?
The idea for the book came to me in the middle of an A level biology class. We were learning the cellular science behind human reproduction, and I suddenly thought: ‘In theory they might one day be able to create babies from two egg cells.’
The idea stayed in a mental draw labelled ‘things I might write’ for many years. Then, around three years ago, there were several cases of internet trolling of high-profile women that made me particularly angry and depressed. I was left feeling as though there’s an ever-present undercurrent of misogyny running beneath too many of our social interactions.
I felt compelled to explore the idea through fiction, and what better way to do so than through a story tackling male-free reproduction. Such a development would leave many men feeling very insecure, and I was intrigued to consider what form these insecurities might take.
Dialogue’s mission statement is to “source, nurture and publish writing talent – and reach audiences – from areas currently under-represented or not covered by the mainstream publishing industry” – your book explores issues and prejudices facing the LGBTQI+ community, what about this story do you feel is particularly important to share?
Female couples are often on the receiving end of terrible derision and hostility, something that would only be amplified if a technique like ovum to ovum fertilisation were to be developed. It was therefore very important to me to place a strong but tender lesbian relationship at the heart of the book. I wanted to celebrate the kind of love that can overcome such disapproval and hate.
Dialogue also champion’s working class writers, and this was especially important to me having grown up on a council estate with parents whose income barely exceeded benefit levels. I feel that working class characters and settings are too absent from much of our literature, and this is something I seek to address through my own work.
Jules, the protagonist of my story was raised in a run-down house by a drug-addicted father. I was fascinated to explore the impact of this on her identity, in her professional life, and on her relationship with a middle-class woman.
You worked on XX during a 6-month online CBC novel-writing course, how did the course impact your approach to writing the novel?
The most useful element of the course for me was the workshops. Receiving 12 critiques of a section of your writing can feel intimidating, but it’s so insightful, particularly when you get a consensus. During these sessions I was able to identify several development areas and work on these.
We hear that you still keep in touch with your CBC course mates, many of our students find a real community of writers on our courses, would you say that was the case with you?
During and after the course I completed extra-curricular chapter swaps with a few classmates, and I found these very helpful. Best of all I now have a couple of long-term writer friends whose judgement I trust completely.
Finally, what’s next for you, are you working on any new projects?
Within days of sending Sharmaine my edited version of XX I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, so the last few months have been devoted to him. I do however have a second book on the go, and progress is starting to speed up now that I’m not quite so sleep deprived.
You can get XX here.
If you want to get advice and guidance on your novel writing, we’ve currently got three short online courses designed to help writers at different stages of the writing process : Starting to Write Your Novel, Write to the End of Your Novel and Edit & Pitch Your Novel.
We’re also offering three brand new picture book courses: Writing a Children’s Picture Book, Illustrating a Children’s Picture Book, or Writing and Illustrating a Children’s Picture Book.