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Saturday, June 28, 2008

"Yummy Mummy" author says chick lit isn't bad

Author Polly Williams found herself quickly branded as a "chick lit" writer after her debut novel "The Yummy Mummy" became an overnight sensation, but she says it's not a bad label.

Since her debut novel in 2006, Williams, 32, has written two more books, both dealing with modern-day complications faced by women: "A Bad Bride's Tale" about marrying the wrong man at the right time and "A Good Girl Comes Undone" about a career woman.

Williams, who moved to writing after a career in journalism, lives in London with her husband and two young sons. She spoke to Reuters about juggling families and writing:

Q: Since your book, the term "Yummy Mummy" seems to be everywhere. Did you come up with it?

A: "No. I plucked it out of the cultural soup and wrote a novel about it. I came along at just the right moment. It was one of those phrases bandied about in reference to celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and it went from celebrity culture to a much wider phenomenon -- women in their early 30s with children who had had a career and took that attitude from the workplace into motherhood."

Q: You went backwards in life from motherhood in "Yummy Mummy" to marriage in "A Bad Bride's Tale" then to the workplace in "A Good Girl Comes Undone." Was that deliberate?

A: "I decided to go back as I didn't want to write another mum book so I went back to the anxieties that some women have when it comes to getting married, and then to the politics of the workplace and difficulties faced when a women earns more than her man and how that affects her sex life and desire."

Q: Are the heroines in your three books similar?

A: "They are all the same age, 34, but at different stages of life. I wanted to make the books relevant to those issues that women really face today, otherwise they would be romances."
Q: Are they autobiographical?

A: "Not really but I couldn't have written "Yummy Mummy" if I hadn't had a baby. It came from that intense period of my life when I felt like I had been flattened by a truck. I'd only been with my boyfriend for about five months when I got pregnant -- now we're married -- and it had a huge impact. "A Good Girl Comes Undone" is the world of magazines where I used to work but the characters are not based on the people I worked with."

Q: Is it possible to get rid of the "chick lit" tab?

A: "Maybe if you write in such a way that is really difficult to read or you're a woman author not writing about those kinds of issues. But this is not just the way we are perceived by readers, but the way you are marketed. It is not always a bad thing. At first I thought "yuk, chick lit" but as time goes past, if it sells a book and attracts certain readers, it's not a bad thing."

Q: How do you juggle your writing and family?

A: "I work four days a week and my husband works at home too, and we have a nanny, so we swap the kids around a lot. There is a lot of chopping and changing to make it work."
Q: What is your biggest challenge when writing?

A: "I think the hardest thing about writing for me is that I don't plot the book from A to B. I know how it starts and how it ends but I just plod along in the middle which is a messy, painful way of writing. I'd like to have a more peaceful path."

Q: Any advice for aspiring writers?

A: "There are people who are writing a book and people who are thinking of writing a book and for many years I was one of those people who was thinking of writing a novel. The easiest thing in the world is not to write a novel. The best advice is to actually sit down and write. You do have to sacrifice to do it."

Q: Have you started the next book yet?

A: "I've started on the fourth but I can't go into it because I fear I will jinx it. It is all about wives."

by Belinda Goldsmith for Reuters
06/28/08 9:52pm