We caught up with Nicole to find out about the inspiration behind her debut and her advice for aspiring authors…
You took our Starting to Write Your Novel course in 2017 – what was your experience of studying online with us?
When I had my idea for Everything’s Perfect I had a new baby at home as well as his older brothers, then aged two and four. I started to write in small snatches of time when the baby was sleeping and his brothers were at school and preschool. I needed some structure and direction but I had very little time so the short course was ideal. It wasn’t too time intensive, but it was focused, and as it was online I could do it at a time that suited me. I was nervous initially as it was the first time I had shared my writing with anyone other than my sister but the group was super friendly and encouraging and it gave me the confidence to dedicate time to my novel. I had begun a number of novels previously but this was the first one I finished and having a good start with the course definitely helped with that.
Now you have a two-book deal with Head of Zeus for your debut novel Everything’s Perfect. How did you feel when you found out that you were going to be a published novelist?
Very, very excited! It was so lovely – and quite surreal – to meet my editor, Laura Palmer, and to discuss my book with her. It has always been my dream to have a book published – I was one of those children with my head always buried in a book and writing stories – but it was starting to feel like an impossible dream!
Can you tell us a bit about Everything’s Perfect and the inspiration behind it?
Everything’s Perfect is a romantic comedy about motherhood, friendship and the quest for perfection in an Instagram age. It follows two women: Cassie Holliday, Instagram superstar at the top of her game, and Beth, an anxious new mum who never ventures online. After a chance meeting their friendship blossoms and they become a lifeline for each other until a video of Beth goes viral and their offline friendship tips into online rivalry. It asks, in a world where everything is curated, what does it mean to have a perfect life?
I love to write about friendship and in Everything’s Perfect I was also inspired by some of the quirks of modern motherhood: achieving work/life balance in the digital age and retaining your identity post-motherhood, not just in relation to how you feel yourself but also how you might choose to project that when interacting online. I’m fascinated by the role online communities now play in our lives – often providing vital support – but also the risks involved and how easily we can be seduced by the idea of having a perfect life.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
A difficult one as we are living in untypical times but the good thing about writing with small children at home is that I am a very flexible writer! I wrote the first draft of Everything’s Perfect between my kitchen table and the café in my gym with my son(s) in the crèche. After I signed with my agent I worked on edits with her for a year before submission. I needed somewhere quieter for that and a friend very kindly let me work in her spare room. Fortuitously we ordered a garden office just before the first lockdown last year and now that my sons are back at school and preschool I get to sit in it alone sometimes! When I do write I don’t have a typical routine but I need silence, hot drinks and no distractions (*turns off social media*).
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Finish your first draft. Once you’ve done it once, you can do it again (I hope so anyway, I’m about to find out!). It was a huge psychological milestone for me to finish writing a book. Previously I’d never got past around 30,000 words. This time I set myself a daily word target of 1,000 words a day, five days a week. I became pretty good at getting 1,000 words down during an hour of nap-time or crèche-time and if I didn’t I would finish it in the evening. I had a friend writing at the time too and we would send each other our daily word count. The accountability was motivating.
Also absorb yourself in the writing world: listen to podcasts, follow – and interact with – other writers, agents and publishers on social media. For a long time writing seemed like this magical, mysterious world in which only a handful of people were able to partake. Once you delve into it and realise most writers share the same anxieties and frustrations as you do it feels more achievable.
Finally, what’s next for your writing journey?
I have a two book deal with Head of Zeus so I’m about to start my second book. It’s called After Paris and follows three women who have been best friends for twenty years. Following a weekend in Paris they never speak again, but none of them know why. What really happened that weekend?
I’m looking forward to a new project – and will be back to writing my 1,000 words a day!
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