In the run up to Christmas, the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency will be posting an entry from one of our authors each day, offering anything from writing tips and their inspiration, to Christmas memories and their wishes for the year to come – anything that fans or budding authors might like to read.
I so looked forward to my son’s first Christmas but, if I’m totally honest, I can barely remember it. I can remember him wailing in the car when we went to visit relatives. I can remember sitting on the sofa at my parents’ house wearing an enormous, unwieldy breastfeeding cape as I tried to hide my modesty from Great-Uncle Derek and Great-Auntie Margaret. And I can definitely remember my son crying inconsolably from 3am until 5am on Boxing Day morning and feeling like nothing, nothing would ever get him to stop. But, other than that. Nothing.
I thought I knew what sleep deprivation was like. I’d been a student, studying through the night for my exams. I’d gone into work on four hours sleep after a post-work drink had gone on into the wee small hours. I’d taken transatlantic flights that had left me jet lagged for days. Oh yes, I was perfectly prepared for the sleep deprivation that comes hand in tiny hand with having a newborn.
*insert the sound of hollow laughter here*
When my son was first born he had day and night round the wrong way so, for the first 10 days of his life, he woke me every 45 minutes at night for a feed. I was dead on my feet but grew excited as the weekend drew nearer – finally, I’d get a break and some sleep. Oh, hang on a minute. Motherhood doesn’t work like that does it? I could have cried. And probably did.
Although the 45 minute phase passed my son continued to wake me up every 2 or 3 hours – every night – for seven months. I was so tired I hallucinated. I’d see the pavement shift under my feet as I pushed him round and round the block in his pram. I tried to sleep in the day, as advised by my health visitor but my son only slept in 45 minute blocks and it took me 30 minutes to drop off. Being woken after 15 minutes sleep was crueler than not sleeping at all so I stopped bothering.
I started writing instead. I’d had the first chapter of ‘The Accident’, a psychological suspense novel about a woman whose teenaged daughter steps in front of a bus and ends up in a coma, written since the summer and I needed to finish it. Not just because I needed an avenue to explore the fears I had for my own child, but also because I needed to feel like me again. I adored my son but the constant round of feeding, changing, feeding, changing had me feeling like an automaton, a sleep-deprived shell of the woman I used to be. I’d moved to a new town a few months before my son’s birth and knew no one other than my partner and an old friend from University (who was busy with her own job and three children) and I was lonely. Writing ‘The Accident’ helped with that. Every day, in two or three hurried 45 minute slots, I lost myself in Susan’s world and Susan’s fears. I cheered her on as she struggled alone to unravel the mystery of her daughter’s ‘accident’ and I held my breath as dark secrets from her past resurfaced to threaten her health and her sanity. Writing about Susan helped keep me sane.
This year will be my son’s third Christmas. As if by magic he suddenly knows what the word ‘present’ means. He gets excited by twinkling lights in living room windows and I just know he’ll say ‘Wow!’ and jump up and down a lot when we decorate the tree.
This year I’m not sleep deprived, I’m not sheltering under a breastfeeding tent and the rewrite of my second psychological suspense novel can wait until January.
This is one Christmas I don’t want to forget.
C.L. Taylor’s psychological suspense debut THE ACCIDENT will be published in 2014 by HarperCollins/Avon in the United Kingdom and Sourcebooks in America. To date, translation rights have been sold in Germany, Italy, Poland, Brazil, Turkey and Russia.