Just prior to writing The Greatest Gift, my eleventh full-length novel, I was experiencing what I’m self-diagnosing as creative fatigue. I had written a lot of books in quite a short time, I had a young family, we had just sold our business and moved towns and we were doing house renovations to name but a few of the things distracting me. I was at a loss for what to write next and was struggling to find the love in my writing, so I’d pretty much decided that in the name of my mental health I needed to take a break.
But the universe had other ideas. Just as I was preparing for a few months off sorting out my house, baking cakes and catching up on my ridiculously large TBR pile, an idea landed in the form of a Facebook message from a stranger. This woman was writing a memoir and wanted some publishing advice. I helped her as much as I could and, as we got talking, she told me she was an egg donor. That’s right, already a mum of three, she’d decided she wanted to help others who couldn’t have children.
Immediately, my writer brain wanted to know more. Why did she do this? Who were the people she helped? How did this process actually work? Luckily Mel – who has since become a friend – was happy to share. Within a few hours, I knew I wanted to write a book about the people affected by egg donation, the highs and lows of the journey, and also how relationships can grow or detonate when things don’t quite go according to plan.
I was excited by this new idea and, thankfully, so was my publisher. The first challenge of the book had been conquered, but now I actually had to write the damn thing, and this process always brings its own challenges – the biggest of all being to transfer how I see things in my head onto the page in a way that actually works.
Luckily, the timing coincided with the beginning of National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org) and I decided to sign up. For those who haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo, it’s an online challenge where writers from all around the globe attempt to write 50,000 words in the month of November. I’ve only done it a couple of times before, but I’ve always liked the idea of writing fast because it means less opportunity for the doubt demons to try and get the better of me.
I ended up writing 55,000 words and making a really good start on the book. But then school holidays hit, and if having three kids at home all the time wasn’t enough of a deterrent to my productivity, my back decided to go on strike. New Year’s Eve saw me in hospital unable to walk and the recovery process was slow. Much of the final chapters of this book were written while lying in bed on my back.
But this is a story that wanted to be told, and because I loved the premise and my characters so much, I could not leave them hanging. An idea you are excited about is truly the greatest gift for an author and I hope this book is also a gift to those who pick it up and read it.