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May Book of the month: The Awkward Age by Francesca Segal - Post a question and join us Tuesday 9pm

(77 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 01-May-18 16:57:36

Our May book of the month is Costa Award winning author Francesca Segal's much-awaited second novel, The Awkward Age.

Her first novel "The Innocents' was described as 'subtle, witty and acutely observed' and her latest displays similar traits. In this novel, two parents fall in love in later life and, hoping to take their relationship to the next level, unite their families under one roof. Segal observes the lives of the two families as they grapple with the complexities of blended family life and modern day demands – primarily, the constant pursuit of happiness for our children.

Read our book club bloggers' reviews and read or listen to an extract. ]] and join us in reading in May before our author webchat on Tuesday 5th June.

NapQueen Mon 07-May-18 21:16:31

Im about two thirds of the way through the book. It's the peripheral characters which are making it for me. The storyline between the main four is (imo) extremely predictable. The actions taken by the teens and the outcomes I predicted the moment I read the blurb on the back. I had hoped I was wrong, and still hope that there will be something that makes it a worthwhile read in the final third.

Its a shame, really, as the almost formulaic events happening in the main characters lives overshaddow the writing and storylines of the others within it.

I will finish the book, but hope to be surprised by the final third.

bellabelly Sat 12-May-18 17:46:28

Am so pleased that I haven't missed the webchat for this - I thought it was last week!

I'm on Part 3 at the moment and really enjoying it! I think the writing is superb and, although the main plot is rather predictable, I've been really surprised a couple of times. I won't say any more as I don't want to spoil it for other readers.

Anyway, looking forward to the webchat. smile

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 29-May-18 12:40:42

Hi Bookclubbers - please note that the date for the webchat with Francesca Segal is TUESDAY 5th JUNE and not Weds 6th. Please put the date in your diary to join us at 9pm for author webchat. If you haven't yet read, there's still a week to buy and read May book of the month: The Awkward Age or download to your e-reader.

user1479032759 Mon 04-Jun-18 11:09:51

I finished reading The Awkward Age about.... 6 weeks ago I think? At first I wasn't sure I really enjoyed it - I like it enough to keep reading and I wanted to find out how things ended. I think my trouble was I connected more with the characters on the edge of the story - the grandparents specifically. Not sure what that says about me as i'm 27 but anyway.

On reflection I think some of the aspects that frustrated me about the characters and the tension in the home was deliberate by the author. I certainly felt like giving them a good shake more than once!!

Heather2gether Mon 04-Jun-18 11:27:16

I really enjoyed the book and am looking forward to the webchat. One thing I wondered when reading the book was - what is the awkward age? At first I presumed it was the teenage years but as it went on I realised that it could have been any of the generations. I think you're right user14....., the tensions were a deliberate ploy by the author. All the characters were flawed and this certainly made it frustrating to read at times but also so true of real life. I love a book that leaves you pondering and this certainly did. I'm looking forward to the webchat tomorrow night.

FernieB Mon 04-Jun-18 17:34:42

Agree with above posters about wanting to give the characters a good shake! This mainly applied to Julia and Gwen. Both were a little self absorbed and 'mooning' at times. I didn't particularly warm to any of the females who all seemed to be trying to control and/or manipulate the men in their lives. Loved Phillip and was pleased for him towards the end, escaping Iris.

Enjoyed the book. It's well written and moves at a good pace. I think the ending was inevitable given that they didn't seem to like each other's families from the start.

FernieB Mon 04-Jun-18 17:36:44

I'd like to ask Francesca what was the inspiration for the book? Why choose this particular circumstance as a subject?

IslandLivingEmma Mon 04-Jun-18 20:58:44

Hi,

I really enjoyed reading the novel and for weeks afterwards I was still thinking about it. I wanted to ask you about Julia. In a lot of ways she seems to be someone who is very naive. Was that deliberate? I was quite torn by her. In some ways I thought she was being selfish putting her needs above her daughters and moving James and Nathan in. In other ways I felt like she had overindulged Gwen and that Gwen needed to accept her mum's new relationship. Do you think Julia and James would have had their happy ever after if there had been no children involved?

littlerose12345 Tue 05-Jun-18 12:56:07

Have just finished the book, really enjoyed it and the writing style.

Do you have a specific place you do most of your writing?
Where would be the most ideal place for you to write?

puzzledpandacorn Tue 05-Jun-18 13:07:54

Finished the book last week and although I found the characters annoying (which I think is maybe the point?) I loved the storytelling! The way the narrative unfurls is great and although the subject matter was slightly predictable I thought the way the story was told makes this book very special..

I guess what I’d like to know is whether you ever took sides with any of your characters as you were writing the book? I was torn the whole way through with feeling sympathy for each character in turn, and it changed quite often and quite rapidly!! Is this something you experienced while writing or did you have a perspective you particularly sympathised with more than others?

MamaCBear Tue 05-Jun-18 14:26:49

Just finished reading this and echo other people's feelings of frustration with the characters, you could definitely feel the tension around their actions which made it quite difficult to enjoy at times. Need some time to reflect before tonight's chat.

ClaireTMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 05-Jun-18 17:21:54

Hi Francesca - I was wondering who you'd say your biggest influences are, both in writing style and in subject matter?

MamaCBear Tue 05-Jun-18 18:43:26

Thinking about the characters and in a family of obstetricians I was quite surprised at how quickly they all assumed Gwen was at fault and was making a mistake, at any point did you consider the outcome of the pregnancy going differently? Was quite poignant reading this shortly after the vote in Ireland and Gwen not being respected for her choice.

Also, which was your favourite couple to write about?

d1161119759230b002599 Tue 05-Jun-18 19:13:53

Hi. I really enjoyed the book and all the relationship ins and outs with both couples. My question is what inspired you to write about the step-siblings relationship? Is it something that you think happens often in real life?

impostersyndrome Tue 05-Jun-18 20:49:46

I also enjoyed the book. It confirmed for me the dilemma many people must have after divorce, whether they can marry someone else while they have children at home.

I was struck by how clearly the north London setting was described in all its social and physical detail. My question is, do you think the same scenario would have been easier or more difficult if the people involved didn’t have such comfortable lifestyles?

MiniMiniMiniBar Tue 05-Jun-18 20:54:24

Hi Francesca. I really enjoyed reading about the grandparents and I thought they were every bit as well-formed and interesting as the main four characters. Had you originally planned to give them a bigger part in the book? Do you think they learned anything from their children, or their grandchildren, or vice versa?

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 05-Jun-18 20:55:02

We're looking forward to our webchat with Francesca at 9pm. Just a reminder that everyone who joins us tonight will be entered into a draw to win a copy of next month's Book of the month: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. There's 10 copies up for grabs - good luck!

See you v shortly!

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 05-Jun-18 20:59:29

Welcome Francesca Segal once again to Mumsnet Bookclub. We’re really pleased that you’re able to join us to talk about The Awkward Age, which we’ve been reading over the last month. There's already some questions in, so will hand over to you. Can we also ask you the Mumsnet questions that we put to all authors:

What was your favourite childhood book?

What was the last book you bought someone as a gift?

And the last book you received?

And finally - can you describe to us the room where you The Awkward Age?

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:00:21

Hi, Everyone!

Totally thrilled to be hanging out on Mumsnet with you all.

Thank you so much for the comments already posted on the thread, it’s fascinating to read what all of you have made of the book so far. Half the fun of writing is hearing the different ways in which readers engage with a novel. Happy to answer any and all questions. Okay. Here goes! x

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:02:47

RachelMumsnet

Welcome Francesca Segal once again to Mumsnet Bookclub. We’re really pleased that you’re able to join us to talk about The Awkward Age, which we’ve been reading over the last month. There's already some questions in, so will hand over to you. Can we also ask you the Mumsnet questions that we put to all authors:

What was your favourite childhood book?

What was the last book you bought someone as a gift?

And the last book you received?

And finally - can you describe to us the room where you The Awkward Age?

My favourite childhood book was called ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS - I was absolutely obsessed with. It was about a little girl alone on a desert island... very much like a writer's life, in fact!

I bought SOMEONE AT A DISTANCE by Dorothy Whipple for my wonderful friend Vikki just last week.

It's sad but I can't remember the last book someone bought me!

I wrote the Awkward Age in the odd cafe, but mostly in The British Library, at desk 2082. Not that I am obsessive or anything.

BookerG Tue 05-Jun-18 21:03:03

Hi Francesca, I also enjoyed the book and with 2 teens can really identify a lot of the friction. I read the article in The Times on Sunday where you were talking about moving back into your family home. I wondered (if you're still there) how are family relations going? As much as my mum loves us (myself and my kids) she has a 2 night max rule. I think it’s sad but I can feel the tensions rising if we stay any longer, so I guess she’s got a point - I'm not sure she could tolerate us moving in!

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:04:45

MiniMiniMiniBar

Hi Francesca. I really enjoyed reading about the grandparents and I thought they were every bit as well-formed and interesting as the main four characters. Had you originally planned to give them a bigger part in the book? Do you think they learned anything from their children, or their grandchildren, or vice versa?

Hi MiniMiniMiniBar - I love reading that, because I think Philip and Iris were my favourite characters. Yes, I think you're right and they did learn something from watching Julia and Gwen, as well as reflecting on their own long lives revolving around one another. I don't think it's ever too late for a fresh start...

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:07:13

impostersyndrome

I also enjoyed the book. It confirmed for me the dilemma many people must have after divorce, whether they can marry someone else while they have children at home.

I was struck by how clearly the north London setting was described in all its social and physical detail. My question is, do you think the same scenario would have been easier or more difficult if the people involved didn’t have such comfortable lifestyles?

So much more difficult, I think. My characters are immensely privileged both financially and just in their general circumstances - money buys you freedom and choice, and the mere fact that James is a doctor connects them to a network of people who can help when they need it. I suppose you could argue that challenging situations become easier when you have absolutely no choice and just have to lump it, but I think my characters' social privilege eases their lives - and perhaps sometimes muddles their perspective a bit!

Belo Tue 05-Jun-18 21:07:55

Hi Francesca, I really enjoyed the book. I particularly liked the way the characters were described Gwen and Nathan were so well written - the perfect hateful selfish teenagers. In my understanding Nathan used Gwen as a plaything and Gwen used Nathan for revenge on her mother. I also liked Julia's in laws very much.

I would like to ask what was your starting point for the novel; was it the plot or a particular character?

FernieB Tue 05-Jun-18 21:08:22

That's interesting as Phillip and Iris were definitely my favourites. I loved the way that at first it appeared Phillip was dependant upon Iris but actually it turned out that she needed him far more.

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:08:36

BookerG

Hi Francesca, I also enjoyed the book and with 2 teens can really identify a lot of the friction. I read the article in The Times on Sunday where you were talking about moving back into your family home. I wondered (if you're still there) how are family relations going? As much as my mum loves us (myself and my kids) she has a 2 night max rule. I think it’s sad but I can feel the tensions rising if we stay any longer, so I guess she’s got a point - I'm not sure she could tolerate us moving in!

Hi BookerG - Yes, I am typing this right now at my mom's kitchen table! It works because my mother is great but ALSO - she travels a lot! So we have the house to ourselves quite a bit...

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:11:03

d1161119759230b002599

Hi. I really enjoyed the book and all the relationship ins and outs with both couples. My question is what inspired you to write about the step-siblings relationship? Is it something that you think happens often in real life?

I am always really drawn to situations and circumstances where fundamentally good people who love each other nonetheless wound one another with their choices - I know many readers have found my characters frustrating in this book but I do believe that there is deep love there, between them, even when they are being selfish, and I think it is so awful - and so real - when different family members' needs are in opposition, as Julia's and Gwen's are. And yes - the more I read the more I realised that step-sibling shenanigans are incredibly common. I guess if you throw two teenagers together it's almost inevitable, some of the time!

SallySwann Tue 05-Jun-18 21:12:35

What a beautiful book. I found it interesting that so many characters had a medical background and, in particular, obstetricians. I'd like to ask if you have a medical background or whether a family member has?

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:14:39

MamaCBear

Thinking about the characters and in a family of obstetricians I was quite surprised at how quickly they all assumed Gwen was at fault and was making a mistake, at any point did you consider the outcome of the pregnancy going differently? Was quite poignant reading this shortly after the vote in Ireland and Gwen not being respected for her choice.

Also, which was your favourite couple to write about?

I love this question MamaCBear - I really wrangled with this issue in the book because it is so charged for so many people on either side of the issue.

Personally I have a deeply-held belief in a woman's right to choose, and I didn't want accidentally to write something that could be construed as anti-abortion propaganda. On the other hand I am genuinely interested in the question of who gets a say - and I think it's fair to say a lot of the characters think they had a right to weigh in. Also that no one in this book is particularly interested in listening to Gwen.

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:16:08

Belo

Hi Francesca, I really enjoyed the book. I particularly liked the way the characters were described Gwen and Nathan were so well written - the perfect hateful selfish teenagers. In my understanding Nathan used Gwen as a plaything and Gwen used Nathan for revenge on her mother. I also liked Julia's in laws very much.

I would like to ask what was your starting point for the novel; was it the plot or a particular character?

Hi Belo - It was the situation. I read an article in which two step-siblings had started a relationship and it absolutely electrified me. It was so muddled and awful and difficult and yet the teenagers in that case were so sweet and so genuinely in love and I just thought - wow. That's a novel.

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:18:01

SallySwann

What a beautiful book. I found it interesting that so many characters had a medical background and, in particular, obstetricians. I'd like to ask if you have a medical background or whether a family member has?

Thank you so much, SallySwann! I don't have a medical background but I have always been fascinated by obstetrics and all things related - since long before I had my own kids. Maybe lots of women are. I used to read articles about episiotomy rates and water births and rates of multiple pregnancy just randomly, for fun. Maybe in another life I was a midwife.

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:20:23

Heather2gether

I really enjoyed the book and am looking forward to the webchat. One thing I wondered when reading the book was - what is the awkward age? At first I presumed it was the teenage years but as it went on I realised that it could have been any of the generations. I think you're right user14....., the tensions were a deliberate ploy by the author. All the characters were flawed and this certainly made it frustrating to read at times but also so true of real life. I love a book that leaves you pondering and this certainly did. I'm looking forward to the webchat tomorrow night.

Hi Heather2gether - Thanks so much. I love what you've said because yes, that was what I had in mind. I believe we pass through many awkward ages in life, and awkwardness is definitely not just the preserve of teenagers...

BookerG Tue 05-Jun-18 21:22:26

I was just thinking it would be interesting if it had been the teens who were together and through them, their parents met and fell in love. Imagine the ructions! That would be quite a different novel

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:23:43

puzzledpandacorn

Finished the book last week and although I found the characters annoying (which I think is maybe the point?) I loved the storytelling! The way the narrative unfurls is great and although the subject matter was slightly predictable I thought the way the story was told makes this book very special..

I guess what I’d like to know is whether you ever took sides with any of your characters as you were writing the book? I was torn the whole way through with feeling sympathy for each character in turn, and it changed quite often and quite rapidly!! Is this something you experienced while writing or did you have a perspective you particularly sympathised with more than others?

Hi puzzledpandacorn, I think I had a very similar experience writing it - I would be on one character's shoulder and feeling deeply with them and then I would flit to another and see it from a totally different perspective. That was what I wanted to explore - that everyone's narratives can be conflicting and at the same time true, to them. And that every people who have one another's best interests at heart can still be selfish and thoughtless, or just misguided...

It's hard for me not to favour Philip. And I do really love Iris too, for different reasons...

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:24:38

BookerG

I was just thinking it would be interesting if it had been the teens who were together and through them, their parents met and fell in love. Imagine the ructions! That would be quite a different novel

Oh, I love that! Imagine HOW EMBARRASSING - if your boyfriend's mum started dating your dad! Terrible. I would love to read that book...

SallySwann Tue 05-Jun-18 21:25:03

Your first book won, or was nominated for, several prizes, but how difficult was it gaining that first publishing deal and what prompted you to start writing?

Belo Tue 05-Jun-18 21:25:18

Bookerg, I know a couple who got together that way! It most certainly didn't lead to a happy family!

FernieB Tue 05-Jun-18 21:25:46

Booker - I know someone whose husband left her for their teen sons girlfriends mother! It happens. The fallout was huge.

Francesca - Pamela is a larger than life character with bags of personality. Is she based on anyone?

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:26:43

ClaireTMumsnet

Hi Francesca - I was wondering who you'd say your biggest influences are, both in writing style and in subject matter?

It's hard to say who my biggest influences are - I can say who I adore reading. I love AS Byatt, Nick Hornby, Elizabeth Jane Howard, and Rosamond Lehmann is just a genius. I adore Edward St Aubyn so I am too scared to watch the TV adaptation.

MiniMiniMiniBar Tue 05-Jun-18 21:27:01

Thanks for answering! On a totally different topic, are you writing a new book at the moment and if so are you allowed to say what it's about?

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:27:21

Belo

*Bookerg*, I know a couple who got together that way! It most certainly didn't lead to a happy family!

What happened??? Fascinating!

MamaCBear Tue 05-Jun-18 21:29:03

The most moving moment for me was Mole dying. It was the most relatable part for me personally and I liked that this was a way of bonding Joan into the family for Gwen. Pleased that things worked out for Philip.

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:29:09

MiniMiniMiniBar

Thanks for answering! On a totally different topic, are you writing a new book at the moment and if so are you allowed to say what it's about?

Yes and Yes! I am writing something totally different - it is a slim little non-fiction book, a diary of the fifty-six days that my premature twin daughters spent in hospital. It is part love letter to the NHS, part love letter to my daughters, and most of all a love letter to the other incredible women I met in the NICU - the sisterhood of us, on the ward. I've never written non-fiction before so it is a very different experience, but it's a joy to be doing it. It's coming out Spring next year, as yet with no title...

SallySwann Tue 05-Jun-18 21:29:33

You have left The Awkward Age at a point where there is potential for a sequel. So, how tempted are you to revisit these characters at some point in their future lives? Also, have you started writing your next novel and, if so, what can you say about it please?

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:30:35

FernieB

Booker - I know someone whose husband left her for their teen sons girlfriends mother! It happens. The fallout was huge.

Francesca - Pamela is a larger than life character with bags of personality. Is she based on anyone?

Oh no - at least it wasn't the teen son's girlfriend, at least, which was where I thought you were going!

She's a little bit based on a few people. I do adore angry hippies - I think that mixture of zen posture and acid tongue is so fascinating.

Celama Tue 05-Jun-18 21:31:15

Hi Francesca
I enjoyed the book especially the way it was divided into sections and found it very easy, continuous read where I could happily read chapter after chapter as they flowed into each other. Like others have said, I did find Julia and Gwen particularly irritating - why did you decide to make them so insipid when everyone else had a much stronger personality?

Belo Tue 05-Jun-18 21:32:30

The parents ended up getting married and the two kids fell out and hated their step parents. The parents are still together and the last time I saw my ex-colleague, she told me that 15 years on the kids (now late 20s) has finally come to terms with the marriage!

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:33:08

SallySwann

Your first book won, or was nominated for, several prizes, but how difficult was it gaining that first publishing deal and what prompted you to start writing?

I've always written, since I was a child. My first publishing deal - I wrote a column reviewing debut fiction for the Observer for about five years and so a few agents began to know my name because I was reviewing their clients. That was very valuable because it meant that when I wrote to people they at least read my submissions.

So getting an agent was my first hurdle, and after that I think it took... six years, to signing first book deal?

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:34:56

Celama

Hi Francesca
I enjoyed the book especially the way it was divided into sections and found it very easy, continuous read where I could happily read chapter after chapter as they flowed into each other. Like others have said, I did find Julia and Gwen particularly irritating - why did you decide to make them so insipid when everyone else had a much stronger personality?

It's such an interesting question because I also found them frustrating.

I think it was just how I thought they would behave, rather than how I wanted them to. They were both shaped in different ways by their circumstances and this was where I saw them - trapped together in their complex mutual dependence, Julia too passive, Gwen too domineering...

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:37:48

IslandLivingEmma

Hi,

I really enjoyed reading the novel and for weeks afterwards I was still thinking about it. I wanted to ask you about Julia. In a lot of ways she seems to be someone who is very naive. Was that deliberate? I was quite torn by her. In some ways I thought she was being selfish putting her needs above her daughters and moving James and Nathan in. In other ways I felt like she had overindulged Gwen and that Gwen needed to accept her mum's new relationship. Do you think Julia and James would have had their happy ever after if there had been no children involved?

Well, I know quite a few readers who still hope that they will have their happily ever after!

I loved thinking about Julia for precisely the dilemma you describe and I truly didn't know for myself what I thought was the right thing for her to do. She has been alone and lonely for a long time and is entitled to her happiness. At the same time, her daughter is vulnerable and is deeply unsettled by the change. Whose needs come first? I really didn't - and still don't - know the answer.

FernieB Tue 05-Jun-18 21:39:09

"I do adore angry hippies"**. grin. I used to know a couple.

I thought Gwen was very convincing. As a mum to teen twin girls I've experienced a few 'Gwen' moments where emotions rule. When she clearly didn't really want the baby but was too stubborn/scared to back down, I was smiling as I recognised this trait from my own teens.

Heather2gether Tue 05-Jun-18 21:40:04

Thanks for answering my question. Along with the frustrations and annoyance with some of the characters, I also thought it was really funny at times and also desperately sad. Do you deliberately set out to balance pathos and humour or does it just happen naturally?
spoiler alert: The chapters that deal with the abortion I found particularly upsetting. I guess particularly poignant with the irish referendum.

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:40:42

littlerose12345

Have just finished the book, really enjoyed it and the writing style.

Do you have a specific place you do most of your writing?
Where would be the most ideal place for you to write?

I used to write in cafes and I did for a long time but now I find more and more that I am bothered by the distraction, by peripheral noise, and by the need to pack everything up every time I need the loo (which is usually about once every twenty minutes). So now I usually go to the British Library and I sit at the same desk, at the same hours, and I find that gets the job done far better. I do believe the Pavlovian cues can really help. My brain says, 'ah, this is where we work'.

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:41:35

FernieB

"I do adore angry hippies"**. grin. I used to know a couple.

I thought Gwen was very convincing. As a mum to teen twin girls I've experienced a few 'Gwen' moments where emotions rule. When she clearly didn't really want the baby but was too stubborn/scared to back down, I was smiling as I recognised this trait from my own teens.

Teen twin girls! Oh, this gives me the fear - my twin girls are two and a half and I am already quaking! Any tips?!

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:43:35

Heather2gether

Thanks for answering my question. Along with the frustrations and annoyance with some of the characters, I also thought it was really funny at times and also desperately sad. Do you deliberately set out to balance pathos and humour or does it just happen naturally?
spoiler alert: The chapters that deal with the abortion I found particularly upsetting. I guess particularly poignant after the irish referendum.

I think it just happens naturally in the writing. Or perhaps not in the writing but in the editing. I read back and if a chapter has gone somewhere dark there is an instinct to reach for some levity and humour as a tonic, or if you have had a lighter scene that is sometimes a good time to punch a reader in the guts. But I am not very theory-led with any of this, I just follow my ear.

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:43:59

Belo

The parents ended up getting married and the two kids fell out and hated their step parents. The parents are still together and the last time I saw my ex-colleague, she told me that 15 years on the kids (now late 20s) has finally come to terms with the marriage!

Oh, it only took fifteen years. Excellent!

SallySwann Tue 05-Jun-18 21:44:14

Which character is most like you and which character would you most like to be?

starlight36 Tue 05-Jun-18 21:44:53

Hi Francessca,
I really enjoyed the novel and particularly enjoyed the characterisation of the main characters. You have perfectly captured the selfishness we all have, regardless of age. My question is how you find inspiration for your characters? Are you like a magpie constantly observing the behaviour of others and storing up titbits for inspiration?

impostersyndrome Tue 05-Jun-18 21:45:06

Thanks for answering my question. Just wanted to add that I also really enjoyed your column on Sunday about moving back in with your mum. That bit where she collected you from the station: Makes me feel better about mollycoddling my student son!

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:45:42

MiniMiniMiniBar

Thanks for answering! On a totally different topic, are you writing a new book at the moment and if so are you allowed to say what it's about?

Yes - I am writing a non-fiction book about the fifty-six days that my twins spent in neonatal intensive care. Sorry to repeat myself as this is on another answer! But it is my love letter to the NHS, and to the amazing group of friends I made in hospital, the fellow mothers on the ward. I wanted to write a homage to that sisterhood. Total departure for me...

FernieB Tue 05-Jun-18 21:46:28

The thing I found most helpful was when my twins were arguing, I'd go in and tell them both off. They quickly United in hating me and were friends again! This was far more effective than trying to get them to talk about the issue. It worked with 4 year olds and still works now at 18!

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:46:45

impostersyndrome

Thanks for answering my question. Just wanted to add that I also really enjoyed your column on Sunday about moving back in with your mum. That bit where she collected you from the station: Makes me feel better about mollycoddling my student son!

Thank you! She arrived moments ago with a glass of wine for me at the computer. Mollycoddle away - we love it!

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:47:08

FernieB

The thing I found most helpful was when my twins were arguing, I'd go in and tell them both off. They quickly United in hating me and were friends again! This was far more effective than trying to get them to talk about the issue. It worked with 4 year olds and still works now at 18!

Oh, this is amazing!

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:48:38

starlight36

Hi Francessca,
I really enjoyed the novel and particularly enjoyed the characterisation of the main characters. You have perfectly captured the selfishness we all have, regardless of age. My question is how you find inspiration for your characters? Are you like a magpie constantly observing the behaviour of others and storing up titbits for inspiration?

Thank you so much.

Yes, I think so, but I am not one of those writers with a notebook and pen all the time. I write things down on scraps of paper and then immediately lose them, or write a shopping list on top of them. What salad of images and memories I have to draw upon is all just in my subconscious. I will say I am extremely nosy.

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:50:34

SallySwann

Which character is most like you and which character would you most like to be?

Well I am in awe of Iris and I love Philip - i don't know which character is most like me, that is a really interesting question. I think as writers we must place a little animating spark of our own in each character but maybe we aren't aware always of what that might be. I am probably a little bit in all of them.

Lifebeginner Tue 05-Jun-18 21:50:45

Hi Francesca, I found with both The Innocents and The Awkward Age that they were as much about the quirksand inclinations of a particular segment of society as about the characters. How do you immerse yourself in the segment of society you choose to write about? Do you draw on experiences from the communities you are a part of?

MiniMiniMiniBar Tue 05-Jun-18 21:52:52

Sounds really interesting, can't wait to read! Quite in awe of you being able to write with twin toddlers at home!

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:54:25

Lifebeginner

Hi Francesca, I found with both The Innocents and The Awkward Age that they were as much about the quirksand inclinations of a particular segment of society as about the characters. How do you immerse yourself in the segment of society you choose to write about? Do you draw on experiences from the communities you are a part of?

I love this question. I think the best answer is that I draw on experiences of communities in which I am a peripheral part. It is always easiest to observe from the sidelines, I think. But maybe we writers always feel on the sidelines. I was an only child till I was nearly ten, too - I am very comfortable alone, taking it in. But I also adore social satire and comedies of manners - I think social portraiture is what I most love to read, so it is what I am naturally drawn to write.

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:54:54

MiniMiniMiniBar

Sounds really interesting, can't wait to read! Quite in awe of you being able to write with twin toddlers at home!

it's going VERY slowly...!

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 05-Jun-18 21:55:08

Sadly that almost brings us to the end the hour. Thanks so much to everyone who joined us tonight - it’s been such fun and a huge thank you to Francesca for your full and honest answers. My fave quote of the evening has to be from starlight who described you as “like a magpie constantly observing the behaviour of others and storing up titbits for inspiration” So true! Please do join us again and good luck with your next novel.

Final question -the winner of the Women’s Prize is announced tomorrow eve - have you read the short list and any thoughts on who will win?

Thanks again everyone. Just nipping now to the Mumsnet lucky-hat and will be announcing the winners of next month's books v shortly

Celama Tue 05-Jun-18 21:55:56

Thanks for answering. Yes, that sounds right! And still in agreement with others, Philip and Iris were great characters

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:57:24

RachelMumsnet

Sadly that almost brings us to the end the hour. Thanks so much to everyone who joined us tonight - it’s been such fun and a huge thank you to Francesca for your full and honest answers. My fave quote of the evening has to be from starlight who described you as “like a magpie constantly observing the behaviour of others and storing up titbits for inspiration” So true! Please do join us again and good luck with your next novel.

Final question -the winner of the Women’s Prize is announced tomorrow eve - have you read the short list and any thoughts on who will win?

Thanks again everyone. Just nipping now to the Mumsnet lucky-hat and will be announcing the winners of next month's books v shortly

Thank you so much for having me and for amazing questions - I've had a lovely evening.

I haven't read all of them but I adored Jessie Greengrass's SIGHT, and I think that's a strong contender.

Goodnight everyone - I'm off for a glass of wine in the bath before one of my children shouts for me. Thank you all, and thank you Mumsnet smile

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 05-Jun-18 22:03:18

Congratulations to: Miniminiminibar, Lifebeginner, Sallyswann, starlight36, FernieB, impostersyndrome, Belo, littlerose12345, Celama, MamaCbear, puzzledpandacorn who have all won copies of next month's book of the month: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. We'll be in touch by PM in the morning with details of how to claim your books.

Goodnight all x

impostersyndrome Tue 05-Jun-18 22:09:41

Thanks! Night all.

littlerose12345 Tue 05-Jun-18 22:34:43

Thank you! Great webchat! X

Lifebeginner Tue 05-Jun-18 23:01:04

Thank you! Really enjoyed the chat grin

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