Name: Victoria Fox
Number of children: 1 (19 months)
Job title: Author
Duties: I write on average a book a year – that’s about 110,000 words. Typically it takes me six months to get the first draft down; then I hand it to my editor and agent and chew my hands off for a week waiting for them to read it. Despite being on my eighth novel, I still can’t seem to nail the first attempt. I guess when I do it’ll be because I’ve hit a formula that isn’t challenging me any more – so, in a way, it’s a relief to know that every story takes me to task. My editor will come back with chops and changes I knew in my heart were needed, and I then embark on the editing stage, rewriting and reworking until the book is as polished and perfect as it possibly can be.
Hours: Since I became self-employed, I’ve tried to keep as much to nine-to-five, five days a week, as I can. This meant I could stay in sync with my family and friends, enjoy evenings and weekends, and generally maintain contact with reality – something that becomes increasingly important when you’re spending most of the week with imaginary people in imaginary scenarios! When our daughter arrived, this careful regime was completely thrown out of the window. I don’t think I wrote at all for several months – physically and emotionally it was hard, and the creative flow wasn’t coming. When she turned six months, though, I started to feel like myself again, and now I work three days a week, nine-to-five, with childcare.
Childcare arrangements: She goes to my parents two days a week, and my sister-in-law’s for one.
What I love about work: It’s part of my life that is all mine, and nothing to do with being a parent. Not to suggest I don’t love my child with every piece of my heart, but sometimes the monotony of CBeebies and That’s Not My Bunny Rabbit and picking pieces of squashed banana up off the floor leaves me craving intellectual stimulation. I can remember the first time I returned to writing after she was born. It was exhausting but I felt so invigorated afterwards. It was like a reminder that I had a brain and it still worked; moreover, that after the life-changing rollercoaster of giving birth and looking after a baby, I hadn’t gone anywhere. I was still me.
What I find difficult is: Having a white board in my office filled with scribbled plotlines and connections and colour-coded character developments, only to have my daughter bowl in and rub it all off and then have a tantrum when I tell her no.
My working life would be easier if… I didn’t use white boards.
Work/mum life balance: Having days ‘off’ to work means that the time my daughter and I do spend together is all the better – we go to the lake, feed the ducks, see our friends, play in the park, go swimming, sing songs at Rhyme Time, and I can relax and enjoy that time because I’m not feeling guilty about work. In that sense, I think I’ve got the balance right for me. It’s different for everyone though. I have endless admiration for mums who care for their children all day, every day – and equal admiration for women who work five days a week. The ‘balance’ thing is a tough one, and one that women alone seem to have to shoulder. I think we’ll always feel a pinch of blame, however we manage it. We could always be doing something more or something better, even if we give our children everything we’ve got. Somewhere there has to be a line where you say, This is OK. I’m doing enough.
How having children has changed the work I do: My first six books were steamy bonkbusters. My latest, The Silent Fountain, is a Gothic romance: it’s a little more grown up and certainly tamer in the sex and swearing stakes. The change in direction was a decision my publisher and I made long before my daughter was born, but, now she’s here, I’m glad of the new content. Sitting at my desk trying to write about characters jumping into bed with each other while my baby screams in the background (and all I want is my own bed – for no other reason than to sleep) would have been weird.
Fantasy job / If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be… Clever enough to be an astronomer. I love the stars.
Mojomums helps mums get their mojo back – what advice would you give to mums who feel they have lost theirs? My advice would be to find something that interests and inspires you that is separate to your baby. It doesn’t have to be work, if you don’t work. It could be drawing, or exercising, or blogging, or baking. Just as long as it feels personal to you – something that’s all yours and no one else’s. I think this is one of the biggest challenges women face when they become mothers. Babies can take everything from you but they shouldn’t take your identity. Your identity is yours to protect and you can nourish it by taking time for yourself, to pursue whatever it is that you enjoy and that you alone benefit from, and not feeling guilty about it.
Victoria’s new novel, The Silent Fountain, is released on 9 March 2017 and is available from many high street bookstores and online from Amazon.