I still have to remind myself that my life-long dream is actually coming true: my book is getting published. In the everyday running around of errands and motherhood, it’s hard to remember. But yes, my debut novel, Her Mother’s Daughter, is now hitting the shelves. Yippee!
Her Mother’s Daughter has been a long time in the making. Like Clare, the ten-year-old girl who is ‘the mother’s daughter’, I was born in London to Irish parents. I’ve always felt very much ‘at home’ in Ireland, where we spent our Easter and summer holidays every year. It was where all our family were, and where so many of our happy childhood memories took place. Like Clare, my parents’ marriage also deteriorated, theirs ending in divorce. So, in many ways, writing the novel was a way of working through the pain I experienced as a child. I wanted to capture how, for an innocent child, the complete breakdown of her family really is the falling-apart of her world. You can see this in the ‘nits scene’, when Josephine loses control because Clare has got nits again. A mundane detail like getting nits becomes the source of a family drama, and is very traumatic for a sensitive child like Clare.
The novel also captures the suffering of a woman who never manages to shake the past she tried so hard to leave behind, and the domino effect that has on the whole family. During the writing of the novel, I wasn’t aware that mental health plays such a key part, but of course it does, through Josephine’s internal battles and the beginning of young Clare’s life. It explores what it is to be female in society today, the pressures on women not only to look a certain way but to fulfill a certain role – to be perfect. All of this, together with the abuse Josephine suffered as a child, is too much of a burden. She struggles with living in the present but spending lots of her thinking on the past, and eventually uses alcohol as a crutch before spiraling downhill.
The mother-daughter relationship and inter-generational trauma intrigue me: that a mother’s past can have a profound effect – both on her and on her daughter. In the novel, the mother Josephine struggles and fails to overcome her demons, and this all shapes who Clare is becoming. We see this clearly when Clare starts to obsess over her food, wanting to be beautiful and slim – just as her mummy does.
But as dark as Her Mother’s Daughter gets, the novel is one of hope. That’s where the cute puppy called Sooty comes in. Sooty is the silver lining through the clouds.
My Path to Publication
Where to start? I studied English Language & Literature at the University of Leeds, where I took the odd creative writing module and began playing with words myself, some light relief to all the reading we were doing. (I am a slow reader, so studying English was as wonderful as it was hard for me, as I struggled to keep up with the reading list).
I always dabbled with the idea of studying an MA in Creative Writing, but I couldn’t quite part with all the cash, so I took short courses instead. I joined a writers group. And I wrote. I wrote on Saturday mornings, on evenings, on Sunday afternoons. I drafted and redrafted, shared the drafts with writer friends and took on their comments, both good and bad. I celebrated meeting goals with glasses of wine and marked hard, lonely moments with tears.
When the manuscript was finally ready, I began submitting to agents. By the time I had totted up thirty-eight pitches, I had received many rejections, many notes of silence, but also a fair sprinkling of lovely, hopeful messages such as: ‘It’s good, but not for me. Keep going.’ So I did keep going, until a friend mentioned an agent she’d been in contact with who liked a bit of ‘dark’ writing. That’s how I found Adriann Ranta of Foundry Literary + Media, based in New York.
I thought the hard part was over, but there was another year of rejections to go, as the novel sought an editor who loved it as much as the agent did. Finally, with the help of Abner Stein, who work alongside Foundry Literary + Media in the UK, the novel got into the hands of the lovely Sam Brown at Allen & Unwin. After a little over a year, and another round of final edits thrown in, Her Mother’s Daughter was made into a tangible, actual book. Hooray!
(c) Alice Fitzgerald
Alice Fitzgerald has worked as a journalist for six years. She has been published in literary journals, online at Refinery29 and Hello Giggles and in magazines including Hello!. Her Mother’s Daughter is her debut novel. Born in London to Irish parents, she now lives in Madrid. You can find her on Twitter @AliceFitzWrites.
About Her Mother’s Daughter:
1980: Josephine flees her home in Ireland, hoping never to return. She starts a new, exciting life in London, but as much as she tries, she can’t quite leave the trauma of her childhood behind. Seventeen years and two children later, Josephine gets a call from her sister to tell her that their mother is dying and wants to see her – a summons she can’t refuse. 1997: Ten-year-old Clare is counting down to the summer holidays, when she is going to meet her grandparents in Ireland for the first time. She hopes this trip will put an end to her mum’s dark moods – and drinking. But family secrets can’t stay buried forever and following revelations in Ireland, everything starts to unravel. Have Josephine and her daughter passed the point of no return?
Order your copy online here.