On Writing Notes on my Family

I began writing Notes on My Family during the final year of my undergraduate degree. I studied Creative Writing at London Metropolitan University.

I knew I wanted to write something very different to anything I had attempted before. I wanted to write in the present tense, for the novel to be fast paced and for there to be a sense of immediacy. It was important for me that the reader felt, from the opening pages, that they were fully immersed in Lou’s world.

I have always been drawn to writing fiction about families. Family dynamics are complex and fascinating. When you have five very different personalities living under one roof there is bound to be conflict, drama and tension, all the elements needed when writing fiction.

I really liked the idea of writing a novel about a dysfunctional family. I originally thought I might write sections of the book from the perspective of the different family members. I started with Lou who, at thirteen and a half, is the baby of the family. Lou’s voice was so strong, so unique, that I very quickly knew that the whole book would be written from her perspective. It was Lou’s story I needed to tell.

I grew up in a village close to a large town in Essex and I used the area as inspiration for the setting of my novel. My mum actually joked, after reading Notes on My Family, that I had stolen the geography of our old house. I wanted to set my book in suburbia, in a commuter town, similar to the one where I grew up. Lou goes to a very ordinary, and perhaps not the greatest, state school.

Lou is having serious problems at home as well as at school, but her life carries on. Lou’s parents announce their divorce, turning her world upside down. Lou’s mum isn’t coping well. Her older brother, Mikey, deals with the situation by baking cakes. Despite the disruption in her life, Lou unexpectedly makes a new friend at school.

I wanted to write a novel about a family in crisis which echoes the chaos of our everyday lives, a novel that reflects the way in which life just keeps coming at us, the way things can so quickly pile-up, whether we have the time to fully process them or not!