I have a lovely new friend here today to share her story and her novel! Yvonne has an incredible talent and I am honored to have her share her writing here on my blog. You can find her at Writing a river and Inquiring parent. She is a master of words and stories and also? Being a mother. Take some time to read her perspective, as she faithfully follows her dream while working on her MA and writing a novel. All of this while she she mothers her children. Amazing. Take a look, and then please go check out her novel over on amazon!
I was halfway through an MA in Creative Writing when our second daughter flew into life three months early. (She literally flew, because the midwife said, “Push,” so I did. Then she said, “Stop pushing.” But it was too late.)
Our baby survived, and came home. Then just past her date she caught a cold – and both her lungs collapsed.
Witnessing your baby almost die has a profound effect on a mother. It’s not just that you set aside your own ambitions. It goes beyond that. Your ambitions are your child’s survival.
I did complete that MA, with Distinction, while caring for a premature baby and a sleep-resistant toddler. We got through chickenpox, more bronchiolitis and recurrent ear infections, with all the broken nights that entailed. Sometimes I look back and wonder how on earth I did it, especially since my husband was often away at the time. But it’s what mothers do, isn’t it? We get through.
By the time I’d printed out the last sheet of my dissertation, I had ten chapters of my first novel, Drawings in Sand. It took 7 more years to finish, making it 12 years from idea to completion. During that, we moved 6 times, and I had a miscarriage as well as our two daughters.
I don’t regret that it took so long. The person I was when I finished wasn’t who I’d been at the beginning, and if I’d finished earlier, it would have been a different novel.
For a start, I wasn’t a mother when I wrote the very first pages. Afterwards, I realised the main character could forget about her daughter far too easily. The following extract is one example of how motherhood wove its way into the novel.
Kirsty was a little ghost who followed Stella around, flitting into her mind as she faced a class of rowdy kids, moaned with other teachers in the staffroom, when she was out drinking. She never escaped; Kirsty was always there. She imagined Kirsty was asleep, cosy in her bed, teddy bear in her arms.
I’m from Scotland, home of Scotch whisky and a heavy drinking culture. Men aren’t men unless they can hold their drink. Scottish literature abounds with novels, stories and poems that glorify this culture. Our most famous poet, 18th century Robbie Burns, was almost as well-known for his hedonistic lifestyle as for his poems – several of which wax lyrical to whisky.
Drawings in Sand began as a reaction to literature that glorified this culture. I wanted to show the effects of alcohol abuse – both on the drinker and families. Growing up, I’d seen it destroy families around us. I also wanted to show that it is possible to break free and that even patterns passed down through generations can be broken.
Over the years, I became more and more interested in the way beliefs in general are passed on through generations and in what happens when that changes. I began letting go of old habits and beliefs and learned deeper compassion and understanding. So my main character, who starts off filled with self-loathing, also grows more aware and compassionate throughout the novel.
What I love most is when people leave reviews or privately tell me that reading Drawings in Sand helped them understand themselves or a family member, or that it helped them heal old issues. That’s when I know I’ve done the job I set out to do.
Stella isn’t allowed in the basement. But she’s there, hiding from the quarrels above and whispering secrets to a beautiful mother in a painting. Thirty years later she still doesn’t know who that mother and her baby are. Nor can she remember what she did last night. Woken by her young daughter, Kirsty, to the worst hangover of her life Stella believes she can’t sink much lower. Then she argues with her volatile lover, Macklin, and he goes missing for days. She solicits sympathy from her brother, Sam, but gets none. There’s no respite at work where she lies to her boss about unfinished work and loses control of the classes she teaches. After an explosive phone call with Kirsty’s father, Ross, Stella’s only escape is more booze, even though Kirsty is with Ross and due home any minute, even though Stella knows he disapproves, even though she is convinced he wants custody and getting drunk will provide all the ammunition he needs.
The next day, Stella collapses when she should be chairing a meeting. The kindly attention of a colleague pierces Stella’s fear in a way her self-hatred never could, and a journey of self-discovery begins. As she learns to live without booze she re-evaluates her relationships and delves deep into the secrets of her family’s past. Nothing is as she thought it was, and nothing is as it appears to be, not even the mother she thought didn’t love her.
Drawings in Sand is a story of transformation and forgiveness: it dives deep into the darker side of the human condition, and rises into redemption and light.
Link to novel: http://www.amazon.com/Drawings-In-Sand-Yvonne-Spence-ebook/dp/B005H7LOR4/
Here is also a link to her short stories: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BRNDZ0Q
Yvonne Spence grew up on the Shetland Isles, and has lived in 3 of Scotland’s major cities as well as London and the South coast of England. Like the main character in her first novel, she has worked as an art teacher, but the staff room tales in Drawings in Sand are entirely fictional! She also had a few other jobs, including: chambermaid, fashion designer and creative writing tutor. Her husband is a pilot, which is not as glamorous as it sounds. They have two daughters, two cats and two tanks of tropical fish.
Several of her short stories have been published in magazines and a few won prizes. Drawings in Sand is her first novel, and is available in Amazon’s Kindle Store. She has also published an e-book of short stories set in the Shetland Isles, Looking For America. She is currently working on another novel and sending Drawings in Sand out to agents and publishers because she’d like to publish in the traditional way for the print version.
Janine Huldie says
Sounds like a wonderful book to read and thank you for sharing a bit of the background that went into the book itself. I definitely can tell you I am not the same person I was before having my girls. I think becoming a parent does have a way of changing you in ways you never could have imagined (will fully admit this), but still wouldn’t have had it any other way 🙂
Thank you Janine. I agree becoming a parent does change you! For me that began even before I had my daughters – I had a miscarriage and it changed how I looked at life so much. It was hard at the time, but it was so valuable in the long run.
What a wonderful introduction and description! I love hearing about background info, especially as a writer who wants to know how to incorporate parts of my life into future books.
Parenting has changed everything about my writing and photography.
Hello Tamara, and nice to meet you. You are right, Chris’s intro is something! Hope I live up to it. I wish you luck with your plans for books – I’d say it’s pretty impossible not to incorporate parts of our lives into what we write! Even fantasy writers have to use their own experience to write about emotions. So I’m sure you’ll get there.
So bummed that I can’t find this book for my Nook. I might have to see if I can get it on the Kindle app on my iPad because I’m hooked!!!
Sorry KIm! It was distributed through Smashwords for a while, which made it available for Nook, but there were few sales that way. Then I wanted to do a big charity giveaway last month in memory of my father, and to do that it had to be exclusive to Amazon. But for sure, if you have a Kindle app on your iPad you’d have no problems.
I’m very pleased you want to read my book, thank you!
another jennifer says
I am intrigued by the subject of this novel, partly because I do a lot of work in the substance abuse field. Also love hearing the story behind the book. Very cool. Thanks for sharing, Chris.
Hi Jennifer, I’m pleased to hear the novel intrigues you. I did a lot of research into the alcohol issues – talking with counselors about how it would affect children as well as how counseling works. It was incredibly helpful to chat with those people.
I am interested to read about your work! I will take a look at your blog.
I cannot believe you wrote that book in the midst of all of those major things going on in your life. I have already read the book and found it to be very good, but after reading this, I appreciate it even more.
Aw, thanks Christine, you are so sweet!
Kristi Campbell says
OOH I adore Yvonne and I adore this book. I got it a while ago but hadn’t started it until recently. I’m about 1/2 way through and it’s amazing. I keep thinking about the story. xo to you both!
And Kristi, I adore you too! I’m so glad to hear you are enjoying the book.
Cathy Chester says
Your book sounds fascinating, and I certainly give you a lot of credit to do all that you did for yourself and your family. Kudos to you, and it’s certainly nice to meet you!
Cathy, isn’t it just what mothers do though? I saw the video of you a while ago, and was very impressed! I certainly enjoyed writing the book and hope you enjoy it if you get a chance to read!
Michelle @ A Dish of Daily Life says
Your book sounds wonderful Yvonne…I’ll add it to my summer reading list. I’m so far behind on my reading, but I have the Kindle app on my iPad and I have plans to do a little more relaxing and reading this summer!
Thanks Michelle! Relaxing and reading sounds a great idea! I know what you mean about being behind with reading – I have so many books waiting for me.
Tamara Woods says
Yvonne, it’s so wonderful to see the background behind your book. I’m definitely excited to get a copy. It sounds like taking your time made your book all the better for it.
Tamara, I was also interested to read about how your book came about! We all have our stories I guess. Yes, taking my time did make it a better book – sometimes I wish I could write faster though.