NK Chats To: Isabella Davidson

beta mumHi Isabella, thank you for joining me today. Can you tell me about what your typical writing day is like? 

Thank you for having me on your blog! My typical writing day consists of waking up to my children’s chatting and playing, getting them dressed, preparing breakfast and taking them to school. Then, when I get back home, I sit in my office and start writing. I am most productive in the morning, when I have a clear mind, and feel the most motivation. After my children come back from nursery and school, I have to find any moment I can to continue writing; after putting them to bed, when they are at activities, and any other moment I can find – which isn’t always easy.


What’s the best and most challenging thing about writing your first novel? 

The best part of writing The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land, was when I felt like I had written a really good passage, and thought people would enjoy it. I once laughed at what I wrote, which is usually a good sign. They say that if you are bored writing then your reader will be bored. You have to keep the writing alive and fun if you want your reader to continue reading. If I can move someone to feel something when they read my novel, that is success to me.

The most challenging? The entire process is challenging! Writing the book, word after word, until you finish typing the last word. Then the editing. And more editing. Then sending it off to agents and publishers. Then, once it has been published, promoting your book and trying to get sales. It is like an intense obstacle course over years.


What’s your favourite word and why?

That’s difficult for me to answer! I don’t have a favourite, I like all words, whether simple or complicated. To me, each word has a purpose, a meaning and a place, so all of them are important in their own way.


What was your writing process like from your idea to final draft? Did you plan? How did you approach the first sentence? 

When I first started writing my novel, The Beta Mum, the story line was completely different than this one and it also had a completely different title. I had a general idea of what subject I wanted to write about – the Alpha mums in a nursery setting in west London – but the plot changed completely after I started the Faber Academy novel writing course. There, I received a lot of input, both positive and negative, and I found a new story to tell. I also learned about writing an outline and now in the future, I will always work with a basic outline. We also learned about writing our first line and our last line and how to make them count. It was an invaluable experience and I learned so much.


What advice do you have to keep motivated? 

Sit on that chair and write. Word after word. Even if it is ‘bad’ writing, it can be edited in the future, but it gets the creative juices flowing and helps you re-enter your world. The worst you can do is not write at all. Even if on some days you don’t feel like writing, you have to push yourself to write. And your first draft is meant to be bad! So don’t worry about writing ‘badly.’


Which three fictional characters would you want round for dinner and why?

Daimyo Toranaga and John Blackthorne from the novel Shogun. It was one of my favourite novels growing up and is an encyclopedia of knowledge about Japan. It is exotic and beautiful and so foreign, I would have loved to be a part of it. I tried to learn Japanese from that book! And one final character on a completely different note, Carrie Bradshaw (from the book Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell), because I think we would be good friends!


Which authors do you admire and why?

As a female writer, I admire other female writers: Barbara Kingsolver because I loved the Poisonwood Bible, Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie because she is a great feminist, writes great novels and is really inspiring, and Isabel Allende, who writes beautiful, mythical books and stories.


What elements do you feel make good rounded characters and plot?

I think most people are flawed, so I like to make my characters flawed. It makes them real. No one is perfect, and if they are, they are really boring. I want to show my characters in different lights, even if it makes them less likeable. The good characters doing bad things, and the bad characters doing good things. In terms of plot, a sense of mystery always keeps a story going and a reader invested in the story. I managed that in The Beta Mum both with the identity of Cyber Dad and when she was going to be ‘outed.’ That was a fun way to keep the reader guessing who was who. I hope I can do this in my next novel too!


Having written and published your first book, what would you tell yourself at the beginning of the process if you could? 

I would sit myself down and tell myself that it will be so hard to get a book published and ask if I have the temperament and motivation and dedication to give to writing that novel. If yes, then I would give myself all the support I could ask for.


What keeps you motivated to write?

Luckily for me, I was taking a novel writing class when I wrote my novel and that provided a lot of motivation. I had deadlines and had to submit 2000 words every few weeks to get critiqued. When you know others are about to critique your work, you find motivation! Now, I have had a lot of readers who have asked for a sequel of my book and that is also great motivation to write.


What advice do you have for someone who wants to write? 

Be prepared to put in hours of hard work for months and years. Writing a book is not for the faint hearted and there will inevitably be lots of rejections and disappointments along the way. My writing tutor told us that to get a book published, you need to have tenacity. Talent isn’t enough. And be sure you are writing for the right reasons. It is really tough, and there are many sacrifices to make. Ask yourself if it is really worth it to you. If yes, good luck. It’s a beautiful process and it is rewarding in so many ways.


More about Isabella:

Isabella Davidson is the author of the popular blog, Notting Hill Yummy Mummy, which chronicles the entertaining lives of west London residents. Through the blog, she has written features for the Times, the Saturday Times Magazine, Corner Magazine, efinancial and has been interviewed by the Times, Financial Times, Harper’s Bazaar, Spectator magazine, the Saturday Times Magazine and many more.

She wrote The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land during a Faber Academy Novel Writing course. Prior to starting her writing career, she worked for a Nobel Prize winning humanitarian organization and as a doctor for the National Health Service in the UK. She grew up living in four different continents before settling down in London fifteen years ago. She currently lives in west London with her husband and her two small children.

The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land, by Isabella Davidson is out now and available to order from Amazon.com, Waterstones.com and select London bookstores for £9.99.

Click to view the Notting Hell Yummy Mummy Blog: https://nottinghillmummy.com/


About The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land:

When Sophie Bennett moves from a quiet sleepy suburb of Toronto to glitzy west London, she doesn’t know where she has landed: Venus or Mars. Her three-year-old daughter Kaya attends Cherry Blossoms, the most exclusive nursery in London, where Sophie finds herself adrift in a sea of Alpha Mums. These mothers are glamorous, gorgeous, competitive and super rich, especially Kelly, the blonde, beautiful and bitchy class rep. 

Struggling to fit in and feeling increasingly isolated, Sophie starts The Beta Mum, an anonymous blog describing her struggles with the Alpha Mums. But when her blog goes viral, she risks ruining everything for herself and her daughter. How long will it be until they discover her true identity? Is her marriage strong enough to survive one of her follower’s advances? And will she ever fit in with the Alpha Mums?


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I’m Laura. I started Novel Kicks in 2009. I wanted a place to post my writing as well as give other writers like me the opportunity to do the same. There is also a monthly book club, a writing room which features writing prompts, book reviews, competitions, author interviews and guest posts.

I grew up by the sea (my favourite place in the world) and I currently live in Hampshire. I am married to Chris, have a cat named Buddy and I would love to be a writer. I’m trying to write the novel I’ve talked so much about writing if only I could stop pressing delete. I’ve loved writing since creative writing classes in primary school. I have always wanted to see my teacher Miss Sayers again and thank her for the encouragement. When not trying to write the novel or writing snippets of stories on anything I can get my hands on, I love reading, dancing like a loon and singing to myself very badly. My current obsession is Once Upon a Time and I would be happy to live with magic in the enchanted forest surrounded by all those wonderful stories provided that world also included Harry Potter. I love reading chick lit. contemporary fiction and novels with mystery.

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