Monday, June 21, 2010

Rosy Thornton Talks About Being The Law Don Who Writes Chick Lit

Novelist Rosy Thornton tells a bit about the varied life she lives...

Like many beginner and midlist authors, I have a full-time day job alongside the writing, which pays the mortgage and keeps the children in Coco Pops. Some jobs seem to fit quite well with writing romantic fiction, others, not so much – and I’d say mine definitely falls into the ‘not so much’ category. I lecture in Law at Cambridge University.

It means that if you looked me up on Amazon you’d find I have the strangest backlist of any author I know. There are my novels, with their pastel covers in pink and baby blue, complete with hearts and, in one case, butterflies. And then there is the rather less obviously sexy Property Disrepair and Dilapidations: A Guide to the Law.

My life, as a result, divides into two bizarrely contrasting halves – or three, if you count being a mum. (Good thing it’s Law I teach, not maths!)

Take this week, for instance. The university exams are over, and I have been buried for eight hours a day in the office, and one more at home each evening when the kids are in bed, under piles of examination scripts, marking essays on the minutiae of estoppel-based easements and other incorporeal hereditaments. (Don’t ask!). Today I spent five hours in a moderating meeting, debating how much to penalise a student who had approached a question on the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 as though it were on the Housing Act 1988.

But on Wednesday I bunked off to spend two hours with the Cambridge Chapter of the RNA, gossiping over a pub lunch. And for an hour and a half each morning, before getting the children up and making the packed lunches, I have sat at the kitchen table and imagined my way back into the world of my current novel in progress – a retro rom com set in 1980.

You know how it is when you’re writing a novel. That world, those characters, inhabit a space in your subconscious, and for me, I find that they are there with me all day at work, whatever I’m doing. I might be in the middle of a lecture, or reading recent cases in the library, or at my desk supposedly writing my latest academic article, and snatches of dialogue suddenly intrude, or little twists of plot open themselves up, to be jotted down and saved for tomorrow morning’s fiction-writing time.

Actually, the schizophrenia is at its most extreme during university vacations when my day job consists of writing rather than teaching. Then there are the two files on my hard drive: one technical, turgid, thick with footnotes, and the other pure romantic escapism. It can sometimes be hard, believe me, to force myself to stick to my resolution of working only on the former during office hours, and never succumbing to temptation and flicking to the latter instead.

What do people in Cambridge think of my secret existence as a romantic novelist? Well, Cambridge is a fiercely intellectual place, and likes to take itself horribly seriously. There are plenty of colleagues who look down their noses at what I do. The Barbara Cartland jokes do wear rather thin at times, I must admit.

But my salvation is the undergraduates. Unlike my colleagues, they don’t believe that the only books worth reading – and therefore, by definition, writing – are those on the Man Booker shortlist. They think it’s great that I write novels at all, even if they’re not exactly High Art. The Law don who writes chick lit – it’s funny, it’s different. As one student said to me recently, ‘It’s actually quite cool. To be honest, it’s amazing to find a lecturer who has a life.’

I just wish that sometimes I didn’t feel as if I had two!


Rosy's next book - THE TAPESTRY OF LOVE is out on the 8th of July.

A rural idyll: that's what Catherine is seeking when she sells her house in England and moves to a tiny hamlet in the CĂ©vennes mountains. Her divorce in the past and her children grown, she is free to make a new start, and set up in business as a seamstress. But this is a harsh and lonely place when you're no longer just on holiday. There is French bureaucracy to contend with, and the mountain weather, and the reserve of her neighbours - including the intriguing Patrick Castagnol. And that's before the arrival of Catherine's forthright sister, Bryony?

THE TAPESTRY OF LOVE is the story of how a woman falls in love with a place and its people: the portrait of a landscape, a community and a fragile way of life.

For more about Rosy and her books visit http://www.rosythornton.com


14 comments:

Phillipa said...

Rosy - I love reading (and hearing) about how you manage to juggle your two, very different, worlds. And I can say, I must be one of the very few people who own a copy of your novels AND the steaming hot 'Property Disrepair and Dilapidations: A Guide to the Law.'

Lesley Cookman said...

It makes me feel tired just reading about your life, Rosy. I can just about cope with one! Congratulations on all of it.

Jan Jones said...

I'm still hoping I'll make your launch do, Rosy. But I'm labouring under a horrid cold at the moment :(

Rosy T said...

Thanks, Phillipa; thanks, Lesley. And hope your cold gets better soon, Jan!

Talli Roland said...

I am always in awe of anyone who can juggle writing with other careers! A lawyer who writes chick lit... what a brilliant combo.

elizabethashworth said...

I'm really looking forward to reading this one Rosy. You're an example to us all of what can be achieved if you get up early enough!

Sarah Duncan said...

I feel exhausted just reading about your double life, especially as I've never managed the getting-up-earlier-than-anyone-else trick.

All that, and a lovely cover too...

Debs said...

I don't know how you fit everything in.

I love the sound of your new book and that cover is beautiful.

Rosy T said...

Thanks, everyone!

Emma Darwin said...

"three halves" of your life just about sums it up, doesn't it! Great piece.

Olivia Ryan said...

I found this so interesting, Rosy -and I completely agree with your student who made the comment about 'having a life'. I worked with doctors all through my pre-retirement life - I wasn't one myself of course, I was a medical secretary (and writer!). But I heard similar comments made about doctors who also did something less scientific, more creative 'on the side' - one consultant was a talented artist, and one junior doctor was an amazing dancer and pianist. Having 'more than one string to your bow' makes you a well-rounded person. In my very humble opinion, anyway! x

Karen said...

It sounds like a good balance to me - hard to imagine how you fit it all in though!

Sarah said...

Brilliant article, Rosy - thank you! Seriously don't know how you manage it all, though; you are an inspiration.

adele said...

I've loved both your books, Rosie and can't wait to read this one! And fingers crossed, one day soon I might join you for a Cambridge RNA lunch....we're hoping to move there soon.
Don't envy you that exam marking though!