Today, 14th July 2016, is release day in e-book and hardback of Amanda Prowse’s wonderful novel My Husband’s Wife, my review of which you can read here. Published by Head of Zeus My Husband’s Wife is available for purchase here.
Having loved everything Amanda has ever written I’m delighted that, to celebrate My Husband’s Wife, Amanda kindly agreed to be interviewed on Linda’s Book Bag. (Actually, that’s an understatement – I’m beside myself with excitement!)
My Husband’s Wife
Once a week, Rosie Tipcott counts her blessings. She goes to sit on her favourite bench overlooking Woolacombe and thanks her lucky stars for her wonderful husband, her mischievous young daughters, and her neat little house by the sea. She vows to dedicate every waking hour to making her family happy.
But life doesn’t always work out as we would want it to and when Rosie is on the receiving end of some unexpected and unwelcome news, it sets in motion a chain of events that she never would have thought possible and forces her to re-evaluate her life and everything that she thought she knew.
Read Rosie’s story in My Husband’s Wife to follow how this ordinary wife and mother reacts when her world falls apart. Can she overcome the situation and get her life back on track?
An Interview with Amanda Prowse
Amanda, I’m thrilled to be welcoming you onto Linda’s Book Bag to celebrate launch day for My Husband’s Wife. Thank you so much for being here and agreeing to be interviewed.
Although I think you need no introduction, please could you tell readers a little about yourself?
I’m Amanda Prowse and while I’ve just turned 50, I refuse to act like it as I still feel and think that I’m 16 on the inside. In reality, I’m a mum to two teenage boys. I’m an army wife and I’m a writer of women’s fiction. Essentially I write books about ordinary women like you and I who find themselves in extraordinary situations and its how they dig deep, drawing on strength that they probably didn’t know that they had, to get them through those events, or at least make the best of a bad situation.
When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?
Probably when I was writing my first book, Poppy Day. I’ve always loved reading and been an avid reader but I never thought that someone like me would be able to write a book or be able to get a book published. It felt like it was beyond my ability, with no contacts or experience of the publishing world. I didn’t grow up in a house full of books and I never thought it would be possible for someone like me, but then when I was writing my first book, something just clicked and by the time that I finished it, I really felt that I was onto something.
I first realised that I was doing something unusual when I was on the LBC Radio Book Club in London with another author and the host said ‘How hard is it to get your next idea?’ I said something quite casually like ‘You know when you get the whoosh come into your head and you see the book and then you just write it down?’ and everyone just looked at me. There was a bit of a pause in proceedings and they said ‘What do you mean?’ so I said, ‘Well you know, you get that whoosh moment when the book comes in?’ Again they all just looked at me like I was nuts. At that moment I realised that maybe this doesn’t happen to everyone, maybe there’s only a few people that it happens to. I understood that I had this kind of very odd but wonderful gift for what I do; which is to see these books in their entirety in my head and be able to write them down very quickly. Also it helps a lot in that pretty much what I write is almost what goes to print, it doesn’t need much editing because I have a very clear idea of the finished version. So that was the moment I realised that maybe I could do something that other people couldn’t and that it was a bit special. I’m thankful for it every day.
If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?
I never considered myself to be very creative until I started writing because I always had quite a pedestrian job as a management consultant. Prior to writing, when I think about it, my creative flair came out through the way I dressed and the way that I styled my home. I’ve never shied away from being quirky or having an unusual decorative piece that other people might baulk at, so I suppose looking back that I’ve always had that flair in me, I just didn’t really know how to get it out.
(Well, I’m glad you found out!)
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
I write everywhere and anywhere. I write on the bus, on the train and on any long flights, so plane journeys are great for me, because no one in my family can knock on the door and say ‘Where’s my pants?” I’m kind of in my own little bubble on long haul flights so I get a lot of writing done!
I write also write in bed, I write on the sofa, I write in my study, I write in my garden, and in the car. If I’m driving or being driven that’s often my thinking time and I’m writing in my head then as well thinking, ‘Yes that will work’ and I’ll generate an idea, image or a picture. While I’m going along, something will just pop into my head that will enhance the story I’m working on so I’ll store it away and think I’ll add that in next time I’m on my laptop.
Another example of working anywhere was that quite recently I was recording Another Love as an audio book in a London studio when I looked out of the window over some rooftops in Queens Park where I was, and with my left hand I picked up my pen and just jotted a few little notes for something I’d seen. The producer said ‘What are you doing?’ and I had to say ‘I’m sorry, I‘ve just had a bit of an idea for a book I’m working on’. He’s like ‘You’re trying to read an audio book,’ and I thought ‘Yep, that is true multi-tasking’, so yes, anywhere and everywhere.
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
I’m very highly motivated to write; I get up early and I write every day. I have so many stories that I have more already than I could write in my lifetime. When they come into my head, I write down one line to remind me of that story. I have over thirty ‘definites’ in my special notebook now and many more that sadly might not make it to print.
The hardest part of writing is saying goodbye to a character at the end of a book. They become very real to me, particularly Poppy with whom I’ve had a very close relationship over the past four years, in fact since I first started writing.
Even Rosie in My Husband’s Wife is special to me. I’m very very fond of her; I got to know her, I can picture her and I feel like she’s my friend. To send that book off to my publisher and know that’s probably the last time I will think of her or write about her for a while is like waving a friend off at the airport wishing them a happy, safe, long life but actually thinking you’d rather having them living next door to you so you could pop in for a cuppa. I guess that’s the hardest bit, I miss my friends when they go.
Do you have other interests that give you ideas for writing?
Walking, I love walking. I love being near water so if I’m near a beach, a pond, a river it doesn’t matter, any water I find quite inspirational. Just sitting and looking at it can really get me to a quiet place of contemplation where my ideas flow better and more often.
Simeon and I will go for a long walk after dinner, a couple of hours just wherever we are – it doesn’t matter. It could be a coastal path, up a hill, around a mountain, it could be a busy city but we walk and we chat and that’s good. It helps me talk things though with him and it helps my idea and my creative process.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?
The only downside of my job is that it takes up so much of my time that my reading has absolutely dropped through the floor. Instead of devouring three or four books a week, which I did my whole life and loved every second of, I’m now reduced to reading one or two books a month, so I have to be very, very particular. I read any good story from any genre, I love the Twilight series, I will go back and re-read things like The Thorn Birds, my absolute favourite. Most recently, I’ve enjoyed The Last Dance in Havana and The Optician’s Wife.
I have to be very careful and more picky about what I read because its such a rare thing for me to be able to do nowadays but literally any good story by any good author is the best answer I can give.
My Husband’s Wife is part of your No Greater Courage series. How did that series come about?
The No Greater Courage series was a follow up to the No Greater Love series, which featured different forms of love at its core; but then I started to write about women’s bravery much more and how women had to be brave to get through certain situations. I think that women have an amazing capacity for this and it always surprises me the strength that women show in situations where you just think that actually they would crumble.
Your writing encompasses some challenging themes at times, like adultery, alcoholism and post-natal depression. Why do you choose to write about such issues?
I don’t set out to write about these issues but these tend to be the stories that come into my head. I believe that you can only really write convincingly about what you know. These are the things that have touched my life and have shaped, moved or scarred me in some way, so its just really drawing on my own personal experience. For example, in A Mother’s Story I write about Post Natal Psychosis. I had nothing like that condition, but I did suffer Post Natal Depression in a mild form and therefore I was able to imagine what that would be like if that was exacerbated.
Actually I think all these topics – drinking too much, feeling unhappy about your weight or being the victim of someone who has an affair – this is what happens to us, this is real life, this is what life is. Life is this beautiful, wonderful journey into the unknown but then there are these huge potholes of devastation and sadness that we fall into and that we have to find a way to dig our way out of. That’s just what life is. I think that’s why so many women find my books relatable because they see aspects of their own story and their own life in them.
(I agree – and if it hasn’t happened to us as readers directly, we probably know someone for whom it has been part of their life.)
How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?
I use the Internet a LOT and don’t hesitate to use consultants for very specialist advice when they are needed. I always interview at least a dozen women before I write on a particular subject and these ladies find it therapeutic to share their stories with me. This stage is critical in helping to shape my opinion. When I’ve finished the bulk of the manuscript, I go back to the consultants and volunteers to check that I have the right details.
For example, I’ve just been writing a book dealing with anorexia. After I’d finished the book, but before I sent it off for editing so I still had a chance to adapt and amend it, I spoke to a group who suffered from eating disorders to make sure that I was pitching it right, that what I thought was true was realistic and accurate so that I could tweak the slightest detail that wasn’t absolutely spot on. For my credibility as a professional writer it is vital that it is a true representation rather than just something that comes out of my head and with each book being so different and varied, it takes a lot of effort.
Frequently when I read your books I find I am reduced to tears – often of joy and frequently of sadness when I identify with your characters. How are you affected when you’re writing?
Exactly the same! As I’m writing it I often find myself laughing, particularly in My Husband’s Wife when I was writing a lot of the dialogue between the children and their mother. I found it hilarious; they’re really funny girls, great little characters and I use that humour as a kind of foil for the darker moments and anyone who has read Will You Remember Me? will know exactly what I’m talking about.
So yes, exactly the same for me Linda, sometimes I’m laughing, sometimes I’m crying, my stomach churns at the tense moments and I get that great raised fist pumping moment of joy when something great happens. What’s more, I know if I’m feeling it and it’s happening for me, that its going to work in the book and the chances are that this is also how the readers will react; so actually it’s a really good marker for me.
People say my books are a true emotional roller coaster and I think that’s a really good way of describing them; the fear, the anticipation, the joy, the laughter and the sadness, it’s like a very complex recipe, but it all seems to work at the end.
(It certainly does!)
You also balance the emotional elements with a lighter humour too. How difficult is it to achieve that in your writing?
I think I’ve kind of strayed into this question in my response above. It’s not a conscious thing but as I see the book in my head before I write it down, those moments are there and obviously that comes from my real life where I balance tragedy or sadness. I think partly that it’s all these years of being an Army wife and, as military families will tell you, you kind of need a particular brand of humour just to get you through the darker times. Very often, even in times of great distress or sadness, if you can find something to laugh at, or find a small element of humour where appropriate, it can lift the darkest moment and remind you that actually life is good.
The women in your stories find themselves on roller coaster journeys. To what extent are they based on elements of your own life or on the lives of those you know?
They’re all based on my own life experiences, albeit not such extreme examples as the situations that many of my characters find themselves in. That being said, however, when something has happened to you, like you’ve ever deeply loved someone and know how much you need and value that love, then it’s easy to imagine having your heart broken.
At the end of the day we all have the same emotional weapons in our arsenal; we’re all the same, it’s all we have; joy, sadness, humour, resilience. All these aspects of human nature are there in my life, so it’s the case when I am writing a story, of pulling out those pieces that are most appropriate and making it work. In summary, I think that so long as you’ve experienced living life fully, you can imagine what it’s like to feel these things, so that these elements are all loosely based on my experience, or of those close around me, but with the volume turned up I guess.
In many ways your plots are quite prosaic, concentrating mostly on ordinary life. What draws you to writing about the events that many of us have experienced?
I think that you can only truly write with conviction about what you know. I’ve never climbed a mountain, I’ve never done anything heroic, saved a life, sailed an ocean or swum a shark infested sea. I’ve never done anything like that, so all I can write about is ordinary life and actually I’m just a very ordinary wife and mum and I write about all of our lives. I think is probably the key to a lot of my success because I’m writing about all of us – it’s no coincidence when people say ‘that could have been my story , that could have been my sister, that could have been my friend’, because it is, it is all of their stories. I actually think I’m kind of a like a mouthpiece for us all. I hope I speak up for us all and I hope I take topics that are difficult for us to discuss and make it easier to talk about by turning them into fiction.
The title My Husband’s Wife has several references and meanings in the story. I know you won’t want to give away the plot, but which comes first, the title or the concept in your writing?
That’s a good question! All of my books come to me fully formed and ready to write down, so I don’t have to give them too much thought. This is because it’s like watching a film in my head and I just write about what I’m seeing. Very often its like I’m seeing that movie for the very first time. I enjoy it and I think ‘Oh, that was good’ and more often not, the title comes with the story. I see the story title just as I would see it as a movie title page so I see My Husband’s Wife and then I see the story as if it were a film playing out. After that I just write it down. As I’m saying that, I realise that it sounds pretty wacky, but that that’s how it happens to me and very often the story and the title come together.
Occasionally my publishers will suggest a new or a different title and I always go with their suggestions. These guys are the professionals and that they know best and usually it works. I really like the title My Husband’s Wife . It does have a rather layered meaning which is kind of clear when you get to the end of the book.
I find your development of setting incredibly realistic. How do you create settings? Do you have photographs of the interiors and places? Do you create mood boards or use something like Pinterest, or are those images all in your mind?
I spend a lot of time visualising the settings and fix a very firm image of them in my mind. This creates a very strong reference for me, which I populate with minute detail. I imagine I see the rooms and that I’m an integral part of it all, so I just describe where I am and what I see. Often I see a lot more than is in the book. I don’t include all of the detail as that might be a bit over the top and it could become a bit monotonous – no one needs to know if there are four cups or sixteen cups, or maybe that the clock said 2 o’clock or 4 o’clock, so I just share the most interesting pieces that I think are necessary to convey the scene. The finer detail is in my head and it will always be there but that’s kind of my own background material.
In My Husband’s Wife Rosie is very much shaped by her past. To what extent do you think that is part of the human condition?
I think it’s impossible not to be shaped by the events of your past but I’d just like to add as a caveat that just because you’ve been through something negative or debilitating, or sad, or harmful, it doesn’t mean that’s the person you become. Very often a lot of the very strong inspirational women I meet have used these negative aspects of their past, turned it into fuel and gone on to make something bloody brilliant happen in their future as a result of it.
(That’s fabulous advice for us all, I think, Amanda.)
My Husband’s Wife is dedicated to your husband Simeon and I know he is hugely supportive of your writing. How has his help enabled you to achieve your success?
Simeon is the reason I am able to write. I think it is very rare to have a partner who says ‘Yep sure, give up your job, we’ll sell the house, we’ll sell the car, we’ll cut back on all of our expenditure, just sit at home and write a book and we’ll see how it goes’. I mean that level of support was something that I never expected and it was tough for my family when I started. At first being skint and having to live off pasta and beans felt like a wonderful Bohemian adventure, but it very quickly became horrible not being able to buy the kids new trainers or have a holiday. Things that are small actually and don’t really matter, but feel like a big deal when you can’t do it or can’t afford it. He’s the one that told me I should write and he had faith in me. That made me think that if Simeon has faith in me then maybe I can do this after all.
The reason it’s so important is that he’s the one who allowed me to bring my dream to fruition without pressure. He said ‘Have a go. If it doesn’t work at least you’ve tried’. Because I was writing pressure free, it was the most amazing gift he could have ever given me.
And he continues to be incredibly supportive. We both are of each other. I support his career, he supports mine and we look at our diaries and just whose ever job takes priority is just where we are.
So basically yes, he is very supportive and I love him very much. I’m thankful for him every day.
My Husband’s Wife has an unidentified female on the cover. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?
Its funny, this is one of the strongest images that I think relates to the character in the book. Very often the creative team who are putting together my covers and the team who are looking at the actual book are working remotely.
The moment I saw the cover of My Husband’s Wife I thought ‘That’s Rosie, that looks like Rosie’, and her vulnerability, her ordinariness, her size and her posture for me perfectly sum up the character. I have absolutely no say in my covers, I leave them down to a team who are the experts which is how I believe it should be done.
I don’t have a say about the colour. I don’t even think about them actually. I don’t think about the colours, the covers, the text, the font, any of it. I just write the stories and then it goes off to a team and that’s their passion, that’s their strength. I think its important to leave them free to do their job and I think they do it very well. But it was amazing the first time I saw the cover and thought ‘Yep that is Rosie’. I’m over the moon with it.
If you could choose to be a character from My Husband’s Wife who would you be and why?
Oh that’s a very good question again and tricky to answer without giving too many spoilers. I would probably be Mo, Rosie’s Mother in Law. She has a lovely balance in her life and she seems settled and she has a beautiful view and a garden. What more could I want out of life than that?
If My Husband’s Wife became a film, who would you like to play Rosie and why?
Oh my word! Obviously we are in talks with people for a lot of my books to be made into films. I would have no choice over this but I think the lady who played the Beth in Broadchurch, Jodie Whittaker, maybe not physically, but personality wise, she would be perfect.
I know you support charities through your work. Would you like to tell readers a little more about this?
Yes, I am an ambassador for the UK Sepsis Trust. Sepsis is a widespread but relatively unknown condition that kills more people every year in the UK than Road Traffic Accidents, HIV, Breast, Bowel and Prostate Cancer put together. It’s one of those conditions that can be fatal but which is entirely treatable if you catch it early enough. The problem is that most people, including healthcare professionals, can often miss the early tell-tale signs.
To help readers find out about the symptoms of Sepsis and what to look out for, I wrote a book called Three and a Half Heartbeats about a family who are touched by Sepsis and I have donated all of the proceeds to the charity to help promote their fantastic, lifesaving work.
It has been very rewarding to be involved in the project as I’ve been contacted by a number of readers who told me that as a result of their reading the book, they correctly identified the symptoms of Sepsis in their loved ones and having voiced their concerns to Doctors, had their amateur diagnosis confirmed and saved the lives of friends or family members.
(I just want to interrupt here Amanda and say I’m one of those readers. My father had undiagnosed sepsis earlier this year and I recognised it because of the work you’ve done. He almost died, but pulled through and I’m very grateful.)
My philosophy is centred on the idea that to be happy, you only need enough. To me, it is very important to give something back. I’m delighted to have helped people in a practical way through the medium of story telling.
And finally, Amanda, if you had 15 words to persuade a reader that My Husband’s Wife should be their next read, what would you say?
For anyone who’s felt the leap of fear in their throat that one day, the one they love might have a change of heart.
(That’s more than 15 but I’ll let you off!)
About Amanda Prowse
Amanda Prowse is a No.1 International Bestselling author who, along with her family, has been a regular visitor to the beautiful North Devon resort of Woolacombe for years.
Always looking for new ideas for stories, a chance encounter at the Beachcomber Café on the seafront during her annual summer holiday last year gave Amanda Prowse an idea for her latest book, with Woolacombe as its setting. Now, in the summer of 2016, My Husband’s Wife is set to be THE holiday read of the season.
Amanda Prowse is recognised as the most prolific writer in the UK today and has been described as ‘The Queen of domestic drama’ by the Daily Mail.
Amanda Prowse is the bestselling author of contemporary family fiction and has written twelve books and six novellas that have been translated into dozens of languages all around the world.
Her titles include What Have I Done? which was voted an Amazon Kindle editor’s book of 2013 and A Mother’s Story that received the accolade of being the best family fiction novel by the Daily Mail. It also won the coveted Sainsbury’s eBook of the Year 2015.
You can follow Amanda Prowse on Twitter and visit her web site here. You will also find her on Facebook.
All of Amanda Prowse’s wonderful writing is available here .