Although the bulk of this book was finished before my son was born, it feels like a true achievement to finally have all the stories pulled together in a collection packaged up with a cover and fully proofed and checked, ready for readers to get lost in.
There was a time not long after my baby was born when I honestly thought I'd never have the time or energy to open my laptop and work on another book. But life is fluid and thankfully those demanding early weeks with a newborn flowed into calmer times and the odd hour or half-hour stolen as he slept or as he learned to play by himself.
And finally, here it is. Over 57,000 words, 273 pages and nine individual and unique stories about nine very different women.
Here's the blurb to give you a better idea:
This book has nine lives.
Nine female lives.
Nine women at various stages of their lives, facing various problems of varying descriptions and magnitudes
See what sisterhood really means to a hopefully optimistic ten-year-old in The Girl Who Would Be King. Learn just how many times the course of true love fails to run smoothly in Together, Apart before finding out what Stephen King has to do with one young woman's summer fling. In Balloons you can lie on a beach with a heavily pregnant woman who is thinking about the men she has loved and lost and in That's What I Want to Say you hear all the things one woman wants to say but rightly or wrongly, she can't. It's Just a Smile is all about one activity many women enjoy, people watching, and Leaving Rotterdam takes you back over 130 years to a time when women were seen and not heard... at least in public. And finally you will discover how age truly strengthens a woman as a widow's heart tries to heal in The Pink Flowers and old memories are revisited in Tell Me a Story.
Because I've published extracts from each of these stories on the blog already, I wanted to share something else with you. A little explanation about how this book came to be. It's the opening half of the Author's Note I wrote to accompany the book, which is found at the end of Nine Women: Short Stories. It explains how this book began as a project I announced on this blog, why and how it became a collection of nine short stories not twelve, and how I had no control or vision that the stories I was writing were all about independent and flawed, strong and vulnerable, loving and tough women. In fact, it wasn't until all the stories were written that I realised I'd just finished my first feminist body of work, which probably makes me a lousy, passive feminist but I think it's better to be one in whatever form, rather than not at all.
Furthermore, I say first because I don't think it will be my last, mainly because this book more than any other has really made me look hard at what it means to be a woman, though of course it's no coincidence that it's creation coincided with being pregnant and giving birth, arguably the most defining life events a woman can go through.
Nine Women: Short Stories - Author's Note
"When I began work on this book, back in January 2015, I didn't set out to write a collection of short stories about women. Women, feminism, femininity, being a girl in this big world were all concepts or topics far from my mind. And yet, as a woman, they are never really that distant from my mind… and as an author, I have learned that they’re always hidden in my writing, sitting behind closed windows that my words slowly, unconsciously open and poke at until they give me something back; a wave, a smile, a frown, a cry, a middle finger raised tall and straight.
Originally, it was my intention to write twelve short stories (not nine) in 2015 and it was my specific plan to complete and then publish one, each month of that year. In what was certainly not my finest moment of inspiration, I called the project Twelve Stories. My plan was to create eBooks from these stories and to share their final versions with my newsletter readers, a small army of people I'd collected from my travel and writing blog. My goal in doing so was to increase my output that year and to keep my readers engaged with what I was working on. I also intended to upload some of the stories to Amazon and sell them as cheaply as I could. I saw the project as a challenge and an exciting opportunity to see just how quickly I could work, and naturally I had some doubt about whether I could do it, especially as I hid the fact that I was already twelve weeks pregnant when I announced this plan on my blog.
While I expected the year to take a strange and unpredictable shape, I still thought I could and would publish a short story a month, or at the very least, twelve short stories within the year. For the first five months, the project was everything I wanted it to be, proving both creatively stimulating and brilliantly efficient at increasing my output and focus, as well as being enough of a stretch to give me a real sense of achievement when I shared my latest short story in each monthly newsletter. For the most part, my pregnancy was uncomplicated, comfortable and even enjoyable so as my belly grew, so did my optimism that my writing would continue after I became a mother.
It was something of a shock, therefore, that in the weeks before my baby was born, everything ground to a halt.
I'm not sure why but almost overnight, at around 35 weeks pregnant, it became a challenge to focus on writing (or anything other than watching YouTube episodes of One Born Every Minute with wide, terrified eyes). Some people told me this was my body's way of telling me to rest, that I should enjoy those relatively calm and quiet final weeks, that I had no idea what was in store for me. And they were right.
Because of this sudden and invisible obstacle, I missed both June and July's "deadlines" but actually published a novella on 6th July that had grown out of what I thought would be July's short story. I'd been writing it since April, eager to get ahead as I anticipated falling behind in the month of my due date, but at over 20,000 words, The Wait was longer and by nature grittier, dirtier, more suspenseful, than any of the other stories I'd published, so I decided to release it as a separate story. Inspired by an idea my partner had in the shower, the book has now sparked a future series of mystery-based suspense novellas, so that was an unexpected bonus of the Twelve Stories experiment.
At some point, I also realised that that there was another reason The Wait didn't fit in with the other short stories I'd published: the main character was a man, not a woman. At the time, I sort of shrugged my shoulders, thinking that was an interesting observation, and then I got back to nursing my little boy around the clock, occasionally wondering if he would sleep for longer than half an hour so I could get some more writing done.
Building on a draft I'd already written before July, I managed to publish a new short story in August, and by some kind of miracle in the fragments of time that I could grab when he slept or played with his father, September's story materialised. It was only after I’d pressed the Send button, willing the story called It’s Just a Smile into hundreds of inboxes did I discover how reality was resembling fiction a lot more than I realised.
And this was a problem."
You can read more about this problem and effectively read its solution by downloading Nine Women: Short Stories for Kindle from Amazon. If you don't have the Kindle app or a Kindle e-reader and would still like to read the book, please email me (bird AT asthebirdfliesblog DOT com) and we'll talk!
And yes, the paperback is coming soon - sign up to the newsletter to find out when first.
Thanks for all your support. I really hope you enjoy the book.
Frances M. Thompson
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