My May bookclub feature is the hilarious Up and In by the delightful Deborah Disney. Deborah is a QLD based author for HarperCollins, who used to be a lawyer, she’s a married mum of school aged children and she is my dear friend. I love her, I love this book and I just know you will too! Here is the Amazon blurb followed by my review of the book and my interview with Deborah.
A wonderfully wry tale about the pressure women put on themselves and one another to fit in, measure up and look glamorous while doing it.
Distinctly middle-class parents, Maria and Joe have committed every bit of available income to giving their daughters Kate and Sarah the best education possible, which to them means attending the most exclusive girls school in the state. But when Kate befriends the spoilt and moody Mirabella, Maria finds herself thrust into a high society of champagne-swilling mother-istas she hasn't budgeted for. Saturday morning netball is no longer a fun mother-daughter outing, but a minefield of social politics.
While the increasingly neurotic Maria struggles to negotiate the school mum hierarchy, Joe quietly battles a midlife crisis and Kate attempts to grow up as gracefully as possible (without having her life ruined by embarrassing parents).
For every woman who has ever felt she may be wearing the wrong shoes, this is a book that will remind you - you're not alone.
Fans of Liane Moriarty and Fiona Higgins are sure to enjoy this debut offering from new Australian author, Deborah Disney
Maria is all of us – she is the mother, the wife, the friend, the sister-in-law who is trying to please everyone and her wish is to simply get through each day with as little drama as possible. Unfortunately for her she has crossed the queen bee of school mums, aptly named Bea, and that wish is not going to come true because of one accidental faux pas that is dogging her. Suddenly her daughter’s under 10s netball team becomes a battlefield for Maria as the mummy mafia is after her blood! On top of that she is dealing with her much loved sister-in-law’s health scare, trying to keep her “in the middle of his mid-life crisis” hubby’s feet on the ground and facing the challenge of raising two little ones, of which Kate, the oldest, is becoming increasingly more difficult thanks to the influence of the spoiled brat brigade of mummy mafia offspring in the under 10s netball team.
Deborah has written a hilarious satire that every school mum can relate to. I promise you actually will laugh out loud while reading about the Queen Bea and Maria’s run-ins and you will find yourself wishing you could send Maria a text inviting her over for a cuppa and a gossip. Maria is a hugely likeable character who you will genuinely fall in love with as she navigates the social minefield of being a school mum and Deborah’s style is so down to earth and free flowing that you will forget that Maria actually is a character and not one of your best friends.
I absolutely loved reading Up and In, and it made me so grateful for the lovely, normal mums that were on my own daughter’s under 10s netball team! I can’t wait to read what Deborah comes up with next. I usually love a book with a good romance in it but I didn’t miss it at all here, I was too busy laughing!
An interview with Deborah
Getting my house ready for sale. But (and just in case my publisher reads this) I am also taking advantage of the mind-numbing experience of cleaning out cupboards to let my creative juices simmer and I often dash off to my laptop to check facebook … ahem … to write down some notes about an idea I have had. I actually have two books that are on the boil, but one is bubbling a bit more frothily than the other right now.
What do you love the most about the main character in your book?
That she is funny.
Why do you write?
Because I am. (I had to get in early with that one … someone else is bound to use it …)
What is the best piece of writing advice you have received?
With respect to writing a novel, I think the biggest impact on my writing stemmed from some advice from the submissions editor at HarperCollins, which was to always respect the intelligence of my readers. Before I heard that, I was tending to explain things too much, and re-describing earlier scenes if they were being tied into later scenes. Readers don’t need you to do that, and I think my book is far better than it otherwise would have been for having received that advice so early in the writing process.
How did you come up with the title?
The working title of Up and In was Beawildered. I was quite attached to that title actually because I liked the play on the name of the main antagonist in the story, and also because I thought the misspelling might help to draw attention to it. My publisher thought that it was too long a word and wouldn’t look good on the cover (either that or they thought it was crap and didn’t want to hurt my feelings) and they suggested a number of different titles. When they put forward Up and In, I was sold! Being such a common phrase along the netball court sidelines, and playing on the themes of social hierarchy, I thought it was perfect for my story.
Are any of your characters based on real people?
I think this all comes down to your interpretation of ‘based on’. A lot of people have thought that the main character, Maria, is based on me. I knew that by having a main character with two netball-playing daughters, there was a risk that people would think that. And she definitely has my sense of humour … But, Maria has a lot of neuroses going on during this story, and I would like to think I would not make a lot of the decisions that she did. Her sister-in-law, Susannah, is often the voice of reason, and I think her character has certain traits that are like mine. And then there is the spreadsheet-loving Sonya – I certainly love a good spreadsheet – so I think it is fair to say there a little bits of me in most of my characters. I have also had people thinking that some of the other characters must be based on people I know – whether they be school mums I know, or netball mums I know. Some people seem to find it hard to believe that I have made these characters up. Which when I think about it, is pretty insulting to me and my creative abilities, but I guess it is natural for people who know you to try to find themselves in your story. Through life (including life outside of my children’s school and outside of their netball club) I have met a lot of people like these characters, and I have friends who have children at other schools who have told me about people they know who are like these characters, so to some extent my characters are ‘based on’ people I have met or heard about – but there is no one character who is my fictionalised version of any one person I have met. They are all recognisable ‘types’ of character, and I think the fact that I have had feedback from readers all around Australia, and even in different countries, who recognise my characters from their own lives, shows that they are not simply recreations of people I know. And really, that would be too easy wouldn’t it, to just write real-life people?
Pick one series and tell us why – Harry Potter, Twilight or The Hunger Games?
Twilight – except for the whole Jacob turning into a wolf bit. Now that was just plain ridiculous. Mansion-dwelling vampires with diamond-like skin – totally on board with that.
Do you take negative reviews of your book personally or do you shrug them off?
Unless your skin is thick enough to withstand someone telling you that you have an ugly baby, I think it’s almost impossible not to take it personally. That said, I realise that different readers will interpret what you have written differently. The other night I was involved in a discussion about my book with a group of friends, and I found myself starting a sentence with the words, ‘Well, my take on my book, the book I wrote is …’ The fact is, just because you wrote it with a certain meaning, does not mean that that is how someone else will take it. Sure it’s frustrating when a reader has missed the point, but any author who thinks they are going to be able to please everyone with what they write, probably hasn’t encountered a wide enough cross-section of the population ...
What is your all time favourite movie?
Life is Beautiful. It’s the Italian film starring (and directed by) Roberto Benigni about a father who is able to help his son through their time in a Nazi concentration camp by convincing him they are involved in a game. An amazing lesson in how perception can be your reality.
Chocolate or cheese?
Leave it with me ;-)
For more about Deborah, visit her on Facebook