Woman in Progress: Jasmine Richards, author
Our second guest Woman in Progress is children's author Jasmine Richards. Not only is Jas the mum to two ridiculously cute children, but her third novel, Keeper of Myths, comes out today. Writing a novel, let alone more than one, let alone getting them published is such an achievement, and quite frankly it makes us a little bit jealous.
It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.
Today wasn’t supposed to be my birthday. Well, my book birthday actually – the day my novel, Keeper of Myths, hits the shelves. Holding the solid weight of the hardback in my hands and knowing that parents and children will be reading it from today feels really rather surprising. Even a little remarkable . . .
You see, I wrote Keeper of Myths whilst I was on maternity leave with my second child, Tamsin, and there were definitely points during its writing where I really wasn’t sure I’d get it finished.
I had planned to deliver this manuscript the same week my daughter was due but somehow between the day-job as a commissioning editor, having awful morning sickness, looking after my three year old son and trying to keep things on track at home whilst my husband was off doing pioneering transplant stuff, it didn’t happen.
I had to face facts.
Writing this book wasn’t going to get any easier once the baby arrived but that is what I was going to have to do. After a couple of excruciating conversations with my publisher where I had to admit my failure, I managed to get the deadline moved on by a few months. It still wasn’t a lot of time but it was something. For sure, there is a lesson here about not committing to unrealistic deadlines in the first place and the power of saying no, but it has been a very painful lesson.
Because this was my second child, I knew I couldn’t write a book with a newborn and I wasn’t even going to try. I knew I’d be tired beyond imagining, I knew I’d be too busy falling in love with my new daughter and grieving for all that one-on-one time I used to have with my son.
I made the decision early on that I would give myself permission not to worry about the book for those first three months. I’d just go with the flow and give my son the reassurance and time he needed to get used to the new little person in our lives.
Doing that was the right choice but it came at a price. It meant I had far less time to write the book overall but I had one thing in my favour. The book was a sequel to my 2016 novel Secrets of Valhalla. And much like having your second child, some things come a bit easier second time round.
For starters, I was definitely more confident with the whole writing process because I knew the characters really well and, in particular, Buzz, my protagonist. I was really familiar with the world he and his friend Mary inhabited and I also had the security of knowing I’d crossed the finish line with these characters last time and that, with their help, I could do it again.
Trickier was finding ways to surprise myself and therefore the reader.
I had to seek ways to keep the energy up because I’d lost that feeling of uncertainty that comes with writing yourself into a new world and the excitement of getting to know your characters for the first time. At certain points I had to fight against the ‘been here, done that’ feeling and the creeping dread that comes with the knowledge of how hard it can be to finish a book.
Having a second child presents some of the same challenges.
Having had a baby, I knew what was around the corner. I knew why labour was called labour and dreaded the emotional and physical tiredness that was coming my way. I also knew about the nappies in the first couple of months – so many nappies. But I got one thing wrong. I assumed that my new baby was going to be the same as my first but she wasn’t. To my horror she refused to take a dummy. To my delight she took to breastfeeding straight away versus the three months of stress and anxiety I had trying to get my son to breastfeed. She was much more vocal than my son from the get go and she slept through the night for a good few months really early on although, alas, this is now a distant memory. Still, I will forever be grateful that she was a sleeper when my deadline was at its nearest.
Yes, definitely the novelty of changing nappies had worn off with baby number two but there were far more surprises than I could have ever imagined and the same ended up being true of Keeper of Myths. Those characters I knew so well did manage to surprise me and ended up in situations I could not envision at the beginning of the process. Characters I thought would make a reappearance stayed stubbornly in the shadows but new characters took their place.
The familiarity of writing a sequel is both a blessing and a curse.
The same is not true of having a second child, not for me at least. Actually knowing what you’re doing gives you more space to enjoy their absolute tininess as does the knowledge that it passes all too soon.
Find Jasmine's books for young adults on Amazon and if you want to read more about her and her books on her own site. She's also very kindly answered our Woman in Progress Q&A, which you can find here.