I’m delighted to be hosting Helen Mackinven today who is chatting to us about her second novel, Buy Buy Baby. Find out more about characters Clare and Julia, Helen’s inspiration for Buy Buy Baby and not only the scene she enjoyed writing the most but also the scene that was a challenge.
Helen’s short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies and literary journals, such as Gutter magazine and one of her novels was shortlisted in a UK-wide competition by Hookline Books. Her debut novel, Talk of the Toun, a coming-of-age story set in 1985 in central Scotland was published by ThunderPoint in 2015 and Buy Buy Baby was published by Cranachan in 2016. She is currently a Scottish Book Trust writer-in-residence at Levenmouth Academy in Fife.
Originally from the Falkirk area, Helen moved to a three-hundred-year old cottage in a small rural village in North Lanarkshire to live with her husband after watching far too many episodes of Escape to the Country. She has two grown-up sons but has filled her empty nest with two dogs, two pygmy goats and an ever-changing number of chickens as she attempts to juggle work and play in her version of The Good Life.
Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise Buy Buy Baby in 20 words or less.
Buy Buy Baby is a bittersweet story of two very different women united in their desperate quest for motherhood.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
I wanted to explore the issue of motherhood and how some women can become obsessed with the longing to be a mum. Luckily, I had no trouble conceiving when I wanted to start a family but I could appreciate how stressful the situation would be if that wasn’t the case. In Buy Buy Baby, neither women have fertility problems but they have no man in their lives to father a child. This makes them feel somehow incomplete or less of a woman and they are both prepared to go to any lengths, emotionally and financially to achieve their goal and become pregnant. The key issue at the heart of the book is whether or not they’re willing to pay the price to become a mum.
Please tell us about the characters in Buy Buy Baby.
The story is a dual narrative with each woman featuring in their own alternate chapters throughout the novel. Both women couldn’t be more different with one being a home bird who leads a quiet life and the other is a city girl with a flashy car and designer wardrobe.
Clare is divorced from her abusive husband and talks to her dog, has an expensive eBay habit and relies on wine to forget she’s no longer a mum following the death of her young son. Cheeky besom Julia is career-driven and appears to have it all. But after disastrous attempts at internet dating, she feels there is a baby-shaped hole in her life. In steps Dan, a total charmer with a solution to their problems but neither of them realise that they’re both involved with the same man.
What scene did you enjoy writing the most Helen?
The only time in the book where Clare and Julia actually meet in person is at a ‘swishing party’ where they’ve both been invited to swap unwanted clothes and accessorises with other women. The party is ripe for bitchy comments between guests and I enjoyed bringing the vicious nature of the characters to life. On the surface, the women are friendly but they also belittle each other in a series of subtle but nasty remarks.
… and what scene was the hardest to write?
Domestic abuse is an issue that is featured in the novel and the scenes between Carol and her ex-husband are the ones which I hope the readers will find the most harrowing as I worked hard to make Carol’s plight an emotionally draining experience. The way in which her husband humiliates Carol is just as damaging as the physical pain she encounters and it was a challenge to make the scene as realistic as possible but without the use of gratuitous violence.
Do you have a most creative time of day?
When I first began writing, I worked full-time so my routine was established whereby I had to write at night, after the family dinner and domestic duties. That seemed to work for me as I enjoy getting cosy in my pjs and sitting up in to bed to write, shut off away from other distractions. I’m also more of a night owl than a lark and can’t imagine writing early in the morning so the evening suits me best.
Which authors do you feel have influenced your writing?
I enjoy reading Scottish and Irish contemporary fiction and authors such as Anne Donovan, Jackie Kay, Janice Galloway, Roddy Doyle, Paul McVeigh and Maggie O’Farrell are just some of the writers whose work has inspired me. My own writing uses dialect and black humour so I tend to seek out other writers with a similar style. One of my favourite novels is The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe as it’s a brilliant example of a story which is very funny but also heartbreakingly sad.
Finally Helen, what has been the best part of your writing journey so far?
Without a doubt, it has been meeting readers who’ve taken the time and effort to come to an event and told me that they’ve enjoyed my books. To think that words that I’ve strung together have made folk laugh and cry is amazing and I can’t ever imagine that I will tire of hearing that my writing has been positively received by readers.
Thank you for being my guest.
Wishing you success with all your projects Helen.
Set in and around Glasgow, Buy Buy Baby is a moving and funny story of life, loss and longing. Packed full of bitchy banter, it follows the bittersweet quest of two very different women united by the same desire – they desperately want a baby.
Carol talks to her dog, has an expensive eBay habit and relies on wine to forget she’s no longer a mum following the death of her young son.
Cheeky besom Julia is career-driven and appears to have it all. But after disastrous attempts at internet dating, she feels there is a baby-shaped hole in her life.
In steps Dan, a total charmer with a solution to their problems.
But only if they are willing to pay the price, on every level…