It is my stop on the blog tour for Chasing Charlie (out on 21st April) today. The author has kindly written this fantastic guest post about the early stages of her novel for my blog. Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour for other exclusive content and reviews.
WRITING IS GOOD FOR HOMESICKNESS BY LINDA MCLAUGHLAN
I never anticipated this happening. When I fell head over heels with the English man who became my husband, I didn’t understand that I’d become dislocated from my homeland. But I of course I am. When I live in the UK, I miss my native New Zealand. But it doesn’t stop there. Oh no. When I am in NZ, I then miss everything British. So far, so complicated! But it isn’t all doom and gloom. My husband and I love both places deeply and feel at home in both. We’re gypsies at heart. We’ve done a lot of travelling together and separately before we met. We dream of exploring so much of the world, and living and working in different places. We are very lucky people.
But still, underneath the surface is that continual ache. Most of the time I don’t know it is there as I’m so used to it now, but now and again it really hurts. And one of the only ways to make it go away completely is to write.
We came to live for a good stretch in England with our little family a few years ago. We had a suitcase each, our one year old daughter and I was three months off giving birth to our son, so my belly almost counted as a suitcase in itself. It certainly made flying all the way from New Zealand a joyful experience.
Fast forward to a year later, and I began writing Chasing Charlie. My now rather rambunctious two year old girl and nine month old baby went off happily to their child-minder for a few hours a week, and I started the mammoth task of writing my first novel. There were many challenges to face while doing this. I optimistically thought that my baby boy would learn to sleep through the night as the novel took shape. He was big enough, and his sister knew how to do it from nine weeks old, surely he would figure it out soon. Turns out I was wrong about that.
So, I was more tired than I thought was possible. I won’t bore you with the gritty-eyed, irritable details, but it sure made writing harder. Who am I kidding, it made everything harder. And woven into the tiredness was of course this damn homesickness gnawing away underneath it all.
But as Chasing Charlie started taking shape, and I got further into the flow of writing it, I discovered something I hadn’t known before. On the good days when I could stay awake – the ones when hubby wouldn’t return to find me dribbling with my head on the keyboard – I could dive into the world of Sam, Claudia, Mara and everyone else, and I would forget to feel homesick! It was such a release to feel so content.
I don’t think it was an accident that Chasing Charlie is set in London. At the early stages, when I was feeling around trying to find the story, I set it in Queen’s Park without over–thinking it. Undoubtedly I was drawn to that area because I had spent time there at the same age that Sam and Mara are in the story. But in hindsight, I think I was also drawn to writing about English characters living in London, because the thing I needed to do more than anything when I was writing this book was feel at home in England. I didn’t need to be dwelling on what was missing, but love what was in front of my nose. Perhaps if I had set Chasing Charlie in New Zealand, the characters who were so busy making themselves known to my imagination and filling my heart, may have also called me to my homeland the whole time. Or perhaps not…
Either way, the act of writing Chasing Charlie helped me fall in love with a country that has given me friends, family, a beautiful place to bring my babies into the world, and taken all my sleep away. The next novel may well be written in New Zealand, I wonder where that one will be set? You’ll have to read it to find out :-).
I salute you, Linda – re-locating to a different country pregnant and with a toddler in tow AND writing a novel, this couldn’t have been easy!