Author Natasha Oliver of ‘The Evolved Ones’ Trilogy tells us how she managed to write a fantasy novel while raising two kids (and likes the process to childbirth!)
Singapore mama Natasha Oliver has just published her first book, Evolved Ones Trilogy: Awakening, a hotly anticipated debut that she impressively wrote while raising two children (her daughters are now aged 6 and 8). Even cooler, the series is actually meant to be a metaphor for motherhood. So how did she do it? Read on to find out…
I’ve been so lost after having kids that it might be sad if it weren’t so damn funny. I never wanted children—yes, I was one of those. I suppose I felt like I had too much to do (be an award-winning novelist), and children seemed to take you on a detour I wasn’t confident you could get back from.
I still remember the discussion my husband and I had on my 35th birthday about having children.
Hubby: You still want that dog.
Me: Yes! But you said you wouldn’t walk it. Or feed it.
Hubby: Yeah. Well, I was thinking we should have a baby instead.
Me: You won’t take care of a dog, yet you want a baby?
Hubby: Well, you’re not getting any younger and research shows…
Me: Excuse me?!
Hubby: I mean, well, I’m not getting any younger either.
I don’t know how he saved himself from my boot, but looking back, that period in my life represents the last time I had any “real” clue what the hell I was doing.
I graduated from my MFA program six months pregnant and with dreams of finally becoming that novelist. Sure, a child complicated things, but I had read those parenting books. All I needed was a proper plan and I’d have everything under control in no time. I mean, I could write while the baby napped. Don’t newborns take like ten naps a day or something?
[Ok, for the record, if anyone tells you that you can get anything done while the baby naps, please throw your drink in their face. Too extreme of a response for you? Then just pour it over of their heads. Go on, you can tell them I told you to.]
In fictional lands where unicorns fly and clouds are made of marshmallows, you can indeed write a novel during your baby’s nap times. Because in that world, you aren’t tired. You draw energy from the sun just like Superman. In the real world, however, the one where laundry needs doing and meals don’t magically appear, a mother’s dreams can become a thing of fantasy.
It took me six years to write the first book of The Evolved Ones trilogy. Before children, it would’ve taken me just under ten days.
Like many women who pursue their passions into parenting, my path was littered with false starts and premature finishes. There were no nap times because, get this, my youngest didn’t nap like the books said she would until she was six months. (Colic, reflux, personality disorder, who knows why she didn’t sleep.)
Did I write when she finally started napping? Nope. It took me over a year to get back to the keyboard after the birth of my second child. I was part of the Singapore Writers’ Group, and they helped keep me motivated, but my return to storytelling was slow and I had long stopped dreaming about being award-winning. My aspirations were more modestly set at finishing.
Fast-forward six years later, I sent the first chapter of my “finished” manuscript to a local publisher’s agent the day before I went on holiday. It was more of a whimsical submission as opposed to one filled with hope. Imagine my surprise when I got back three weeks later to find out they wanted the entire manuscript. Now, here’s the scary part: I hadn’t edited anything beyond that first chapter. (It wasn’t like I was expecting them to like it!)
So, I did what any mother in my situation would do: clear my schedule and tell hubby he’s on kid duty for five days while I went to a hotel in Batam (on a last-minute Fave offer) to edit.
Luckily, I had spent the last five years as a ghost writer and an editor. During that time, unbeknownst to me, I had been training for this occasion. I learned how to juggle multiple things in my head at once: syntax and tone, plot and pacing, the importance of setting, and viral infections and a traveling spouse. I also learned how to rock the hell out of time. Nobody, and I mean nobody, can accomplish what a mom can. I drew upon all of that “life” experience, and dove head first into editing because as Eminem, the rapper, said best, “You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow// This opportunity comes once in a lifetime…”
I sent in my edited manuscript a week later, and then dove right back into it. I had to return to the real world of parenting, but I made the most of the time after they’d gone to bed, and I even had some amazing friends who took the kids for a few playdates so I could get through another round of editing (because it really does take a village).
If I’m honest, the rest is a bit surreal. I was offered a three-book publishing contract, yet I didn’t feel the joy I thought I would. Perhaps because so much of life had happened along the way that what I accomplished felt very different from what I had once dreamed of.
I’m happy to announce the birth of my third “child”, The Evolved Ones, Awakening. At its heart, the book is a metaphor for motherhood and the journey we take to find our new selves. But commercially, I’m instructed to tell you it’s the first book in an exciting new urban fantasy trilogy about a woman who wakes up without memory and goes on a journey to uncover her identity in a world where a handful of humans have developed unique abilities. It features a diverse cast of characters and promises to be a page-turner.
Parenting is a detour of no return, and one of its most beautiful gifts is the person we become along that journey.
Thanks for sharing your story, Natasha! If you’d like to learn more about The Evolved Ones, or chat to Natasha about her experience writing a book with two young children, be sure to check out her book launch event on Sunday 22 September (2-4pm) at the National Library. Click here for more deets!