Thursday 19 May 2016

A Conversation with Cari Rosen

Cari Rosen is editor of Gransnet, sister (mother?) site of Mumsnet and the author of The Secret Diary of a New Mum (Aged 43 1/4), The New Granny’s Survival Guide and Northern and Proud of It. She appears regularly on television and radio and writes for a number of national newspapers. Away from work Cari spends far too much time in Tesco. And on Twitter. And eating chocolate. She can often be found walking long distances around London and usually has her nose in a book.

It’s boom time in the world of middle-aged maternity and now The Secret Diary of A New Mum (Aged 43 ¼), tells it as it really is.

Mid-life motherhood is one of the hottest topics around and the papers are full of it. The number of babies born to mothers over 40 has doubled in a decade – and one in every five births is to a mum aged 35 plus.

"Brilliantly observed. Reading this book about motherhood is like looking in the mirror, funny, embarrassing and yet cruelly honest. It feels good to laugh about it now the stitches are out." (Fay Ripley)

How do you cope when you are old enough to be the mother of everyone else in your NCT group? What do you say when people start asking about baby number two? And how do you survive a career break and get back to work before you are pensioned off?

The Secret Diary Of A New Mum (Aged 43 ¼) can at last provide the answers as it lifts the lid on what it’s like to face menopause and new motherhood at the same time.

Tell us of your journey as a writer

Many novels started in my head. Several started on paper. All consigned to the bin!

The first book I actually ended up writing came from nowhere as the result of a casual comment on Facebook. I’d said something about my toddler and a friend I hadn’t seen in 20 years remarked “I love your updates. When are you publishing? How about The Secret Diary of Cari Rosen, Aged 42 ¼?

A cliché, perhaps, but it really was a ker-ching moment. I scribbled down a paragraph and showed it to the literary agent I was working with for one day a week (definitely a case of right place, right time). He steered me through the whole writing-a-pitch-document thing (for memoir/non-fiction you don’t necessarily need to have written the whole book before submission) and within a couple of months I had a deal.

I’ve since had another two books published and am currently working on a novel.

How do you see your role as a writer and what do you like most about it?

Writing has to fit around my day job (as an editor) and family life and it can be hard to find time to really get my teeth into something. That’s the frustrating bit – what I like most is immersing myself in a story and playing around with the best way to tell it.

Have you ever created a character who you dislike but find yourself empathising with?

Yes – in the book I’m working on now there’s a character who’s fairly odious. But there are reasons for him being the way he is and when they become clear it’s much easier to understand what’s made him that way.

Last year, GW organised #diverseauthorday. What has been your experience of writing about diverse characters? 

The books I’ve had published so far are 1) memoir 2) non-fiction and 3) a miscellany. So essentially all fairly factual. The novel is also (part) based on a real story so I’m not yet sure how diverse the characters will be.

If you could be transported instantly, anywhere in the world, where would you most like to spend your time writing? And why? 

That’s a tricky one. One of my favourite places in the world is Scotland and I love the idea of holing up in the hills with my laptop – though I fear I would spend too much time admiring the scenery and going on sorties to replenish my stocks of Scottish tablet.

I did recently spend a weekend at Gladstone’s Library in North Wales with a bunch of fellow Prime Writers and that was pretty productive for all of us. I think we all found having others around to bounce ideas off/provide chocolate/empathise about bits that just weren’t working (etc) really valuable. So perhaps I should forget splendid isolation (however tempting) and stick to group retreats.

What is the one book you wish you had written?

Good question! There are so many books I’ve loved that it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. In terms of literary fiction – anything by Maggie O’Farrell. For the bank balance, 50 Shades of Grey (which I have slightly less than no desire to actually read – but all credit to E L James for finding what was obviously a huge gap in the market.) Otherwise…Bridget Jones’ Diary., which coincided with my own Bridget period (including parachuting with a microphone and more big pants than I care to remember)

What advice do you have for would be novelists?

Don’t give up. And chocolate definitely helps.

What are you currently working on? What can we look forward to reading? 

The aforementioned novel. It’s a work in progress!

Who is your favourite literary character from childhood and why? 

I remember wanting to be Petrova from Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes. I was never a ballet-and-neat-hair kind of child and I felt we were kindred spirits. I also loved Titty from Arthur Ransome’s books (for many of the same reasons). My favourite book as a child was Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer.

The Secret Diary Of A New Mum (Aged 43 ¼) is published by Vermilion (Harper Collins)

You can follow Cari on Twitter: @cazroz

Cari Rosen is taking part in this year's Finchley Literary Festival

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