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Amanda Wilkie unexpectedly finds herself alone with three children under five in a rambling Victorian house in London, after her husband walks leaves them claiming he’s just ‘lost the love’, like one might carelessly lose a glove.
A few months later, Amanda’s heavily pregnant friend, Ali, crashes into her kitchen announcing her partner is also about to abscond. Once Ali’s baby Grace is born, Amanda encourages them to move in. When Jacqui, a long-lost friend and fellow single mum, starts dropping by daily, the household is complete.
Getting divorced is no walk in the park, but the three friends refuse to be defined by it. And, as they slowly emerge out of the wreckage like a trio of sequin-clad Gloria Gaynors singing ‘I Will Survive’, they realise that anything is possible. Even loving again…
| Interview |
About the author
Janet Hoggarth has worked on a chicken farm, as a bookseller, children’s book editor and DJ with her best friend (under the name of Whitney and Britney). She has published several children’s books, the most recent ones written under the pseudonym of Jess Bright. Her first adult novel, The Single Mums’ Mansion is based on her experiences of living communally as a single parent.
- What book from your childhood still has a place in your heart today?
Good Night Mr Tom is still one of my all-time favourite books. I first read it when it won the Guardian Fiction Prize in the Eighties and must have re-read it five times. I read it as a bedtime book to my kids a few years ago and they all loved it too. Having my own children made the book even more poignant for me during the part where Will calls Tom, Dad, for the first time. I balled my eyes out!
- Which fictional character stayed with you long after you finished the book?
I love The Walsh Family novels by Marian Keyes, particularly Anna in Anybody Out There? And Rachel in Rachel’s Holiday. I could identify with both women going through a massive trauma as I was going through a divorce myself at the time of reading and felt both characters had something in common with the madness whirling round my own head.
- Can you tell us a little about your journey with your new release?
The Single Mums’ Mansion is based on my time living communally with a friend and all our children in one house while we went through distressing splits from our partners. It is the first time I have written for adults; all my previous books have been for children, some under the pseudonym, Jess Bright. When my agent read a secret blog I had written about my time living in the commune, he thought it would make an interesting adult fiction book. It was nerve wracking finding a publisher because it had been years since I had chanced my arm with an unsolicited manuscript, and in a genre I love reading myself. I felt a lot of pressure to be successful!
- Do you get an emotional connection to your character’s?
I do with all my characters I have ever written, even more so with this book because they are based on facets of real people living through actual events. I think it is important to feel connected to your characters because you have a job to translate that connection on the page to your readers. If you can’t feel an emotional tug, then the readers won’t either. I always liken it to being an actor. I become the characters while I am writing the scene. I try out voices, different mannerisms, sometimes I walk around the room being them and then commit it to paper (well, laptop!). I find that way I can get inside their heads and connect to emotions they’re feeling. I quite like writing men because I am obviously not one and it’s always a challenge to make them appear genuine when all I can do is base anything on my observations, my imagination and quizzing my husband.
- Can you please, share a photo with us that tells a story.
This photo is not as it seems. The man in the picture is now my husband, but at the time he was someone I was just casually dating. The picture was taken at our Royal Wedding Party April 29th 2011 when I lived with Vicki in the Single Mums’ Mansion. Vicki and I pledged to marry each other the same day as Kate and William because men were useless, and we would be friends for ever. We invited everyone we knew to come dressed in proper wedding gear, nearly all the women came in their wedding dresses, and we partied all day and night. I wore my dress from my first marriage and fittingly it got wrecked by the end of the day. The kids had no idea I was dating Neil, and this was only the second time he had had a proper outing as Mummy’s ‘friend’. After a few too many wines I forgot I was supposed to be keeping our romance under wraps and kissed him in public. Vicki took this picture and posted it on Facebook causing an avalanche of enquiries about Neil, with people asking if I had secretly got married again. A year later we were engaged and I got married for real, only not in white!
- What was your favourite read of 2017?
I totally loved The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton and her second novel, The Muse. Her writing is so unique and she creates worlds rich in colour, aromas and emotions so that you’re transported there, living through the events. I could smell the marzipan and the tallow candles in The Miniaturist and the oil paint in The Muse.
- If your book came with a theme song what would it be?
I Will Survive – for sure!
- Is the genre you write your favourite to read?
I don’t have a favourite genre. I do love Women’s Fiction, but I also read almost anything that piques my interest. Non-fiction is always on my bedside table. At the moment I am reading The Hidden Life of Trees. It is fascinating because everything in the book can be translated into life lessons for humans. It has made me want to explore more about nature and the universe. I often find I fall down a rabbit hole with a book and will then read all the other titles that author has written before coming back up for air. I went through a Malcolm Gladwell phase a few years ago! I was obsessed with horror and crime when I was younger.
- If you could ask your readers anything, what would you want to know?
I always want to know what makes you choose a particular book? Does the cover matter?
- What are you working on now?
I’m writing my second novel about a woman who inherits a café on the Scottish coast that holds many secrets and transforms everyone’s lives who visit it. I’m over halfway on the first draft and have eaten about twenty packets of digestives in the process. And chocolate. So much chocolate.
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Thank you to Alison Sherlock and Melanie at Aria Fiction for the opportunity to be on the blog tour.
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