Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Write what you know

'Piffle!' Kate was holed up on the sofa feeding her five month old baby. She'd watched the entire Sharpe DVD boxset. There was nothing on TV. 'Nothing on TV... well, until Holby City but that's not until 8pm. Ages! I'll be asleep by then!'

Half an hour later, after her little one had drifted off to sleep and she had put him down, she went to get a decaf and her laptop. She flicked the kettle on and gazed at the kitchen tiles around the plug socket. Beige, grey, beige, grey... . As a writer sometimes you just got the itch, and this one was getting stronger.

'Yes, all right, all right, I'll do it,' she muttered, annoyed that she kept speaking to herself. Writers do this, but it had got worse since having a baby.

She sat down at the kitchen table and opened up a brand new Word document. Her fingers hovered over the keyboard, and then tapped Emergency at City Hospital. She had no idea yet what was going to happen but she had a busy city hospital in mind and that sounded good enough for a working title.

The busy city hospital was the London hospital she's spent a month having a baby. Kate had not thought about it at the time but now it was obvious - that had been the perfect research. She'd paced so many corridors (hunting out nooks to use her mobile phone and trying to find the hospital library), she'd overheard so many conversations: midwives, doctors, patients, visitors, dinner ladies, cleaners. She'd been a patient in all the maternity wards: antenatal, labour ward and postnatal.

'Can't remember ever reading a romance set in a maternity ward,' she noted. But the real key to this story would be to have characters that made it interesting.

She remembered that out of the dozens and dozens of midwives she had met in the hospital, not a single one had been male. Kate took a sip of her decaf. This was interesting. Why would a man become a midwife anyhow? Suddenly a starburst of ideas exploded in her head and she could picture her story's hero. Tall, handsome... no, why not make him look exactly like Patrick Dempsey in Grey's Anatomy? This was the gift of fiction. He had to be a super talented practitioner of midwifery, so he would need to be in situations to show off his skills. Like delivering a baby in a lift.

Where did that idea come from?! The lifts at her London hospital had been constantly breaking down. But did anyone ever give birth in a lift? Kate turned to google and was surprised to find newspaper stories where it has happened. Good. Fiction is fiction, but it still has to be believable.

Kate began to write her heroine. She was a doctor, ambitious about her career, but she would need Mr Male Midwife's help to find a thermometer as the story would start on her first day at work at City Hospital. She'd be on the backfoot being new in the building and he'd be there, capable. Kate shivered with excitement and her fingers tapped at the keys at an increasing pace. The reason why he became a midwife would be very unusual and a real hinge to the story. But it was a secret, a big secret.

Secrets at City Hospital was published by My Weekly Pocket Novel earlier this year and is now available as an ebook. The Linford Romance edition should be published in 2012.


  1. Good post. What's interesting for me is I can identify with it all; that ember of an idea, the questions, the sudden rush of thoughts ... and love that you made it its own story.

  2. Super post Kate. People always ask where a writer's ideas come from and this shows it's a combination of things - being in the right place, thinking out of the box, asking those ever important questions why, what if? Most of all, letting your imagination take you and the readers there.

  3. I love this post, Kate! Your enthusiasm shines through, and I love that you did the research without even realising it! Mind you a handsome midwife is a dangerous thing. A bit like having a gynaecologist who's too good looking... ;-)

  4. Good post Kate. This is exactly how I work too. See something, mull round it and gradually discover the characters until they are telling a story. I often keep writing just because I want to know what hapens too!

  5. I echo all the other posters' comments about an enthusiastic and interesting article. I'm afraid I am a little concerned about your use of the male midwife. I was around in the NHS during the 1980s when an attempt was made to ban men from becoming midwives which failed under equal opportunities legislation, but in reality, there are only one or two practicing male midwives and I think they are restricted mainly to post natal work. There is an entire issue about midwifery and men. A midwife is the only health professional who is allowed to deliver babies in their own right and this responsibility is fiercely guarded by the women concerned. I understand you are writing a romance and the reader will probably not be aware or even interested in the history of midwifery and the medicalisation of childbirth by men, but if you are introducing the idea of a male midwife, it would be good to at least have something of the issues involved aired in the story. I'm really glad you have been able to create a story using your own experience and I hope you future mothering career continues successfully.

  6. I love the cover of your book Kate. I recognise what you're saying about getting that spark of an idea and then the excitement of starting to write but I'm very impressed you did that with a five month old baby! You must have a lot of energy.

  7. What a brilliant post and insight into the mind of a writer at the very moment a story is born. Thanks Kate.

  8. Hi all, thanks for all your comments. Sarah - actually when I was at university I studied some of the gender issues of childbirth - going back to the 18th and 19th centuries, and I guess I find it a surprise that it is still an issue in some people's mind now. Men can be nurses (my grandfather and great grandfather were in fact army nurses) and nowadays women can doctors and so I don't see what is different about midwifery. But there are a lot of politics still caught up in midwifery I understand. My story doesn't deal with those - it is a medical drama and a romance and my male midwife is a capable health professional.

  9. I should add that I have very much enjoyed writing women doing roles perceived or restricted to men in my historical romances (e.g. my co-authored novel The Lady Soldier) so perhaps Mr Male Midwife was a chance to subvert our gender expectations the other direction in today's world.

  10. What a great blog, Kate. Just goes to show how any situation can spark an idea for a story. Congratulations on your success!

  11. Hi Kate,

    Lovely insight as to how the story came to mind.

    As Sarah mentioned, male midwives are virtually unseen and unheard of in the UK. It's always been frowned upon within the nursing fraternity, and although there are a lot of men who would like to be midwives they too hold back because in effect they would be rendered vulnerable to false allegations of misconduct. I can tell you young medics are wary when it comes to women patients and intimate problems etc., and most make sure a nurse is in attendance at all times. How do I know this, hubby's in the profession. ;) Hence, I would never write a medical romance based in the UK, probably never write anything related to the medical profession. Can you imagine: "It's not like that" - "We this" - "We that." -"Yeah, right!"

    Oh no, not thank you. I do not want a divorce on my hands.