- Lynne Shelby
Laughing Out Loud - Kathleen Whyman - This Writing Life #23
Today, I'm delighted to welcome Kathleen Whyman with a guest post about her journey to publication. Kathleen's hilarious debut novel, Wife Support System, is out now. Over to you, Kathleen...
Thank you so much for having me on your blog.
For those who don’t know me (Hello! Nice to e-meet you), my name’s Kathleen Whyman. My first novel, Wife Support System, came out in July, published by Hera Books, has been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Joan Hessayon Award.
My second novel, Second Wife Syndrome, has been shortlisted for the Comedy Women in Print prize in the unpublished comic novel category.
After having longed to be a novelist all my life, I can’t believe this is happening, but it definitely hasn’t been an overnight thing.
I’ve always loved writing. My style is witty (you may disagree after reading this blog post) banter and when I’m writing it’s as though I’m chatting to friends. I wrote my first book, The Ghost of Cripple Creek, when I was 10. It filled two exercise books, although quite a lot of that space was devoted to illustrations. These must have been awful, as I can’t draw for toffee. Fortunately I don’t like toffee, so I’m not too concerned about this. I submitted it to a publisher, who sent me a letter saying that it wasn’t right for them, but that I should keep writing. They didn’t return the book though. I’m still upset about this.
I wrote short stories throughout my teens – I have several rejection letters from Jackie magazine – and started a couple of novels in my twenties, but never got very far with them. (I blame the close proximity of my local pub.) I wrote a novel when I was pregnant with my first daughter Eve (not being able to go out drinking meant that I had much more time on my hands than I was used to), about the pros and cons of being pregnant. The main con being not able to go out drinking. I finished the novel, but wisely abandoned it.
As an NCTJ-trained journalist, I had an outlet for writing in my day job, but I still longed to be a novelist. I got slightly sidetracked from this goal over the years by work, children and Mad Men box sets. It was Eve’s words – 'Stop talking about writing a book and just write one' – that gave me the motivation to knuckle down and write Wife Support System. I began writing the day my youngest daughter, Elena, started primary school and it got published a week after she left in year six. If someone had told me it would take seven years, about 15 rewrites and countless rejections from agents and publishers I’d probably have cried and gone back to watching Mad Men.
As I didn’t know this though, I kept going, absorbing every piece of feedback and advice I was given. The fact that agents were taking the time to give me feedback, rather than just issuing a standard ‘thanks, but no thanks’ email gave me hope that my novel wasn’t total crap. Just a little bit crap.
Along the way I had to axe one of the main characters (the one who was most like me because she was too boring – no offence taken), cut thousands of words, add scenes and flesh out characters and cut even more thousands of words. I’m not sure what kept me going really. Probably a combination of determination, delusion and dark chocolate. (I nibble on Hotel Chocolat’s 100% dark chocolate puddles while writing. Because they don’t contain sugar, I’ve convinced myself that these are so healthy they’re practically one of my five-a-day.))
Along the way I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) and enrolled on their New Writers’ Scheme. As part of the membership you can submit a novel to be critiqued by a professional. This is such a fantastic resource and the feedback I received definitely helped shape Wife Support System.
It was at an RNA event that I met Keshini Naidoo, cofounder of Hera Books. She asked to see Wife Support System and emailed me a few weeks later saying that she and her partner loved it and wanted to publish it. This was at the beginning of January (best start to the new year ever!) and after a few months of more editing and proofreading, my novel came out at the end of July to coincide with the school holidays.
It’s only been a few weeks and I’m still on a high. Working with Keshini has been a joy (I’ve never met anyone so hardworking, motivating and cheerful – even when juggling work with home schooling and lockdown!). Being published has given me confidence that I’m not wasting hours and hours writing and that maybe, if I’m very lucky, this could be my actual job, rather than something I reward myself with when I’ve done the boring jobs.
If ever you’ve been tempted to write a book, please go for it. It might take a while, but if you love writing then it’ll be worth it. And it’s a great excuse to eat lots of chocolate!
Thank you so much, Kathleen, for telling us about your journey to publication. I very much enjoyed Wife Support System, a book that really did make me laugh out loud.
About Wife Support System
We’ve got the balance all wrong. Instead of living with our partners, struggling to do everything by ourselves and only seeing each other now and then, we should do it the other way round. We should live together and see them now and then.
Erica knows her suggestion’s extreme, but when her nanny leaves without notice, she’s extremely desperate. Polly and Louise aren’t convinced, but when circumstances force them to move into Polly's enormous but run-down house, they have to admit life’s much easier when the childcare and workload is shared.
At first, communal living seems like the answer to their prayers - childcare on tap, rotas for cleaning and someone always available to cook dinner (no more last-minute pizza delivery!). But over time, resentment starts to grow as they judge each other’s parenting styles and bicker over cleaning, cooking and whose turn it is to buy toilet rolls.
And as one woman has her head turned by a handsome colleague, one resorts to spying on her husband and another fights to keep a dark secret, they need each other more than ever. But can Polly, Louise and Erica keep their friendship and relationships strong? Or will their perfect mumtopia fall apart?
To purchase Wife Support System, please Left Click + Ctrl on the links below:
About Kathleen Whyman
Kathleen Whyman’s first novel, Wife Support System, is published through Hera Books and has been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Joan Hessayon Award. Her second novel, Second Wife Syndrome, has been shortlisted for the Comedy Women in Print prize in the unpublished comic novel category.
As well as being an author, Kathleen is a freelance journalist and copywriter. She writes a column for Writers’ Forum and contributes to the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s magazine Romance Matters. Kathleen lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and two daughters.
Twitter – @kathleenwhyman1
Instagram – @kathleenwhyman1
Facebook – @kathleenfwhyman