The Two Week Wait is about the journey that women go through to have a child. It focuses on two characters: Lou and Cath. The two women are different – Lou is gay and in her 30s, she lives in Brighton; Cath is straight, married and a bit older. She lives in Leeds. Both women, for different health reasons, find themselves having to try for a child within a short time frame. So it’s about an issue that will resonate for many women and their partners – the biological ticking clock.
But actually, The Two Week Wait is as much about not having children as it is about having them. I don’t wish to give away the plot, but the journey Lou and Cath go on means they both have to look deep into themselves and discover what makes them who they are – not just as mothers but as women in the wider world.
I also wanted to show the impact of their circumstances on their loved ones, so I write from several perspectives in the novel – as well as Lou and Cath’s, we see things through their partners’ eyes, so there are men – dads – in it too.
Inspired by a website
The initial idea for the book came from my ‘other’ job: until last year, alongside being an author I worked as an advertising copywriter. Often I had to direct my creative energies into promoting pretty mundane products – butter, ballpoint pens and banks, for instance. But just over a year ago I was invited to work on something more unusual: to write the copy for the website of a fertility clinic. I had a steep learning curve, but it proved to be fascinating.
Soon I found myself immersed in patient case histories and was incredibly moved by the stories I read – many brought a lump to my throat. I learned that egg donation had given women who otherwise could not have had children the chance to do so. What an honour that is, I thought – what greater gift to another person? Moreover, as I did my research, it made me question my own assumptions. I’d presumed all those using donor eggs would be older women, who had left having children until too late to use their own eggs, but instead I learned egg donation often gives hope to younger women who’ve been left infertile as a result of treatment for cancer, or who’ve suffered a premature menopause.
I also learned that a high percentage of the women donating eggs were gay, and were doing it to subsidise their own IVF treatment. I was in an open plan office at the time, and the subject sparked a heated debate: would a child you’d carried, but which was not genetically yours, feel like your baby? How would you feel during pregnancy, and after? Did gay couples have the same ‘right’ to have children as straight couples?
A Eureka moment
It was at this point one of my colleagues, who’d just finished reading One Moment, One Morning, muttered something about it being a great subject for a novel, and I shrieked, ‘Woah! Hold that thought!’
So having decided it would be a nice meaty subject, I put a request on Facebook for anyone who’d been through IVF, or in some way had a child against the odds, to chat to me and tell me their story. I interviewed a good many people, and listened to their experiences. Some had happy endings that resulted in a successful pregnancy, so I met a good many babies. But some were not, because IVF does not always work by any means. I heard about miscarriages, and about people deciding to stop trying for a baby because they’d run out of money and emotional energy.
All this I added into my web of background material, and I drew on bits here and there. I feel very indebted to those people who shared their stories, and it is really important to me that my book does justice to the journeys they have been on.
The chance to meet old friends again
I was also conscious One Moment, One Morning has a number of fans, and I didn’t want them to be disappointed. But now the new book is done, I’m proud as well relieved. It’s not a sequel as such, it’s a complete standalone tale – I like to think of it as a sister story. So there’s no need for readers to be familiar with One Moment, One Morning to enjoy this book.
Nonetheless if people do know that novel, I hope they will take pleasure from meeting Lou again, and from seeing Brighton residents Anna and Karen in passing too. Yet in The Two Week Wait there’s also Yorkshire-based Cath and her husband, Rich – and with luck readers will feel as fond of them by the end of the book as I now do.
There’s one final link between the books. I know from readers’ feedback that they loved the distinctive cover of One Moment, One Morning, with its stack of teacups in the rain. So the folk at Picador and I worked long and hard to make sure The Two Week Wait looks equally appealing and attractive. The result is the beautiful cover you see here, featuring two tea cups on two chairs, to reflect the parallel journeys my two women embark upon together.