Feburary 2013


Copywriter Sam Binnie is the author of The Wedding Diaries and The Baby Diaries. She was the 2005 winner of the Harper's / Orange Prize Short Story Competition, and lives in London with her husband and two children. (Interview by Jade Craddock)

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  1. 1. How would you describe your books?

    They’re a series featuring Kiki and Thom, a couple trying to deal with major life events (a wedding, a baby) without falling out with Kiki’s family or succumbing to the pressures and myths around these big episodes.

  2. 2. Tell us about The Baby Diaries, the second book in your series.

    Kiki and Thom discover that, post-honeymoon, Kiki is a bit pregnant. It’s a (hopefully) humorous look at pregnancy, childbirth and those early months which are always painted in either a glowing light of Pre- Raphaelite maternal beauty, or the dark gloom of Isn’t It All Horrific? I was trying to capture the reality – that, as with most things in life, the truth for most is somewhere in the middle.

  3. 3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of writing in a diary format?

    The cynical advantage is that there’s a handy framework when you’re planning something like a wedding or a baby, so it’s not too hard to hit my word-count targets each day. The difficulty comes in trying to make sure that things happen on the right day (no going in for an important work meeting on a Sunday, for instance) and things are spaced realistically within the timeline, since I’ve specified so clearly when they happen.

  4. 4. Is there much of your own experience as a mother in the book?

    Yes, absolutely. I’ve been v v lucky to have two good pregnancies, labours and babies, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t littered with hilarious (and not hilarious at all) misadventures.

  5. 5. Kiki faces discrimination as a mother and bemoans the fact that men do not face the same problems, do you think that mothers still face prejudice?

    Very much so. There’s barely a day goes by without an article/Twitter debate/radio discussion about breastfeeding, natural labour, abortion, or What Women Consume In Pregnancy popping up, with contributors chipping in driven purely by fear or judgment. Let’s all just relax a bit, people. Something’s happened in the last decade or two which means there are increasing cases of pregnant women being legislated against in places like the US, so that if something happens to their baby, they’re charged with ‘foetal homicide’. It’s clear that basic human rights have somehow swung back, so the second a fertilised egg hits their womb, women stop being humans and are instead simply incubators which may or may not perform the task required. Plus, it’s still somehow funny for people to be grossed out by a woman breastfeeding anywhere but her locked nursery. Why aren’t we all embarrassed by that reaction? And the hundreds of daily judgments one gets as a mother is mind-boggling; can’t we all just cut women some slack, please?

  6. 6. Your book dispels a lot of the myths about pregnancy/motherhood, what do you find to be the most ridiculous myth?

    That you will love your baby instantly and overwhelmingly, and that this love will fulfil you and change you forever. I know it’s true for some people, but I think it’s a damaging myth which puts a great deal of pressure on a new mother (and co-parent). Why should you be told how you ‘must’ be feeling? I knew I had to look after my babies, but didn’t really love them for a while, and I certainly didn’t feel like a different person.

  7. 7. Was it always your intention to write chick lit?

    No – I came to it quite late, discovering Marian Keyes after years of having people recommend her to me. Wanting to write about the subjects so many of my friends were going through – in a light way – it just turned out to be chick lit.

  8. 8. What are the difficulties in writing chick lit?

    I can’t bear the sense of ghettoisation. This argument has been covered a thousand times by louder voices than mine, but it’s still absurd that very few men I know would read chick lit while plenty of women read Nick Hornby, David Nicholls or Mike Gayle. Part of it is, of course, the packaging, but part of it is this sense of women as a ‘minority’, rather than the other half of the population. I despair that so many readers are missing out on the funny, moving, provocative, thoughtful writing from these fantastic authors.

  9. 9. What do you think makes a good chick lit novel?

    For me, humour, absolutely. But also a sense that the writer has sharply captured something about life that makes me sigh, ‘Yes, that’s just what it is, that’s just how I felt,’ – Marian Keyes, Mhairi MacFarlane, Helen Fielding and Stella Newman have all done that brilliantly, I think.

  10. 10. You’re a copywriter by trade - has this influenced your own writing?

    I hope so. Years of copywriting has taught me to cull, cull, cull, plus given me some idea of the market. It doesn’t mean that I write what I think will please the market, but it does give me much more realistic expectations of a writing career.

  11. 11. The next book in the series is called the Home Maker Diaries what can readers expect?

    [NB: I think it’s now called The Starter Home] The third in the series will see Kiki, Thom and their baby heading out into the joyful world of house-buying. I’m going through that journey myself at the moment, and remembering exactly why we haven’t moved prior to having so many of us that we’re bursting at the seams of our flat. I’m really hoping that we’re not going to discover some of the horrors I’ve got planned for Kiki and Thom, though…

  12. 12. There are three books planned for the series, would you be tempted to do any more?

    Possibly. At the moment it feels like a natural arc, that Kiki and Thom get these three big things out of the way and then want a bit of breathing space. I do love them, though – perhaps I’d bring them back for a cameo in another character’s book.

  13. 13. Do you have any other books in the pipeline?

    I do. Pregnancy seems to bring out the dystopian in me, so I spend ages re-reading Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Stand, On the Beach; although I’m not sure I could hack actually conjuring up those worlds myself when I’m trying to feed a newborn, there are plenty of ideas around those worlds, simmering away in my brain and my notebooks, that I look forward to getting stuck into.

  14. 14. How can aspiring authors make their writing stand out?

    If you’re writing in the chick lit genre, why not trying changing all your human protagonists into zoo animals? I don’t need any more competition in this field.

  15. 15. What one thing should aspiring writers know about the publishing industry that might surprise them?

    That (whisper) no one really knows how to spot a bestseller. Everyone’s just doing their best at the bits of the job they can control. Also, that if you’re the lowest-selling author in your imprint at the end of the year, your publisher has the legal right to come to your home and drink your blood.

  16. 16. And finally I loved the title A Womb of One’s Own - if you had to name a baby book what would you call it?

    Oh no, do I have to come up with another? In honour of my sister, I’d call it ‘My Baby Was Sick In My Mouth And I Still Had To Pretend To Like Him’.

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