I know of writers who have their mum as top of the ‘critique’ list. Their mum reads every word they write, gives feedback, and feels part of the process through the whole crazy trip.
My mum’s not like that. I didn’t tell any family or friends I had started writing romance for a very long time and it was only when my entry made the final of the 2012 First Kiss competition (RWA) that I dared breathe a word about my writing to anyone.
If anything, my poor mum has suffered at the hand of my art, on the great old adage of: “never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” She asked me once why I write such “awful” mothers. In my usual spin-doctor way, I said: “It’s a good thing mum. I have to make this stuff up because you did such a great job, and I had such a happy childhood… and who ever reads a book about a girl with a perfect childhood?”
No one. Exactly. (And I should put the disclaimer in here right now that my mum did do a wonderful job and both me and my sister turned out fine!)
In His Brand Of Beautiful, Christina’s mother abandons her as a 4 year old girl and runs off to join a cult.
In The Goodbye Ride, Olivia’s mum is borderline obsessive-compulsive, keeping the cleanest house you’ve ever seen, and has tried to commit suicide at least once after the death of Olivia’s younger brother.
My mum has read both HBOB and TGR. I printed the pages for her and passed them on and after mum finished, I know she gave them to at least one aunt.
But Fairway To Heaven was a bit different. I hadn’t printed Fairway out for mum – she’d never asked me to – but I have a hunch I knew printing Fairway for her would be asking for trouble. I thought I could hide Fairway safely behind my mother’s lack of technological know-how. But she and my sister tricked me.
It turns out my sister bought my mum a Tablet for Christmas, and so my mother now has the power for one-click e-book purchasing. I’m still trying to get my head around this as Mum-Malone comes from the generation that thinks the touching of a mouse is precursor to breaking the Internet.
So last week in the school playground as we were waiting to gather up my kids, and her grandkids (my sister’s boys) from school, mum looks me in the eye and says: “So, I read your book.”
About this point, my heart takes a bit of a dive. It’s not that Fairway is steamy, it’s actually quite sweet compared with the other two books I’ve written. The problem is it is very realistic, sometimes “explicit” in terms of describing a physical problem that lovely Jennifer Gates has, that makes it difficult for her to engage in rumpy pumpy with her hero. It’s also in first person, which automatically makes it personal. (To a mother, anyways).
So this is how the playground conversation goes:
Mum: “So I read your book.”
Me: “How? I didn’t print it for you.”
Mum: “Your sister bought me a Tablet for Christmas.”
Me: “Aah. Sneaky. So did you like it?”
Mum: “Yes…” Hesitantly, as one of our charges takes a wild ride down the slide knocking another kid at the bottom, and I’m distracted. “But, love, it’s very realistic.”
About now, I know where this conversation is going… and it’s really not the type of discussion fit for the kindergarten playground.
Mum presses on: “I mean, your husband’s name starts with B, and you’ve got Brayden in the story… and his birthday is May 24th in the book, which is the same… and so I have to ask…”
Me: as my son wrestles his cousin to the ground in the sandpit. “No mum, you really don’t have to ask.”
Mum: “Well, love. I mean… that problem the girl has in the book?”
Me: trying to check if any other mothers are in earshot. “It’s fiction, Mum.”
Mum: “But how would you know about this… stuff otherwise?”
Me: flapping a hand at her: “It’s called research, Mum.”
About now, my youngest gets his fingers stepped on and he lets out a squawk, and I am able to drag both boys from the playground with “say goodbye to Nanna” all-round.
As I’m pretty sure she hasn’t worked out how to Google, I’m sure she will ask again. Hopefully she picks a place more conducive than the school playground to have a discussion about why I gave my heroine a dodgy vagina. (Let’s hope it’s not at my hubby’s birthday lunch in a couple of months!)
(p.s. Love you, Mum) xx