Interview with Blogger, Doctor & Novelist Isabella Davidson
Isabella Davidson is the author of the popular blog, Notting Hill Yummy Mummy, chronicling the entertaining lives of west London residents.
She has written features for the Saturday Times Magazine, The Times, Corner Magazine and more. Prior to becoming a writer she worked as a doctor for the NHS.
She lives in west London with her husband and their two small children.
Her fist novel The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land is her first novel and follows a young mum, Sophie, who moves from a quiet suburb of Toronto to glitzy west London. With a twist of good luck, her daughter Kaya attends the most exclusive nursery in London, Cherry Blossoms. There, she is faced with a sea of super mums: super rich, super beautiful, super competitive and sometimes super mean. When she starts a blog about the super mums out of loneliness, she gets more than she bargained for when her blog goes viral.
I cannot put the novel down! It’s a joy to welcome Isabella to the blog!
Describe a typical day for you?
On most days, I wake up, have breakfast with my children, take them to school or nursery and then focus on my book promotion. Lately, my book, The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land, has taken over my life! The amount of book promotion you can do is enormous. So, I am replying to book reviewers or bloggers who are featuring my book on their website, I am in touch with my publishers, or with the Notting Hill Bookshop who is hosting my book launch party. The other day, I went to the design studios of Patricia Gomez Gracia, who is ‘dressing’ me for the launch party which was quite fun! It’s quite an outfit – let’s just say it’s not your typical writer outfit. And then there have been lots of interviews. It is all so time consuming.
After, I either pick up my children at school or nursery and take them to activities, do homework with them or go on play dates. I try to fit a lot in my day while my children are at nursery or school and then I return to normal-mum-duties: dinner, bath, play, read a book and bedtime routine. Then, if my husband comes home at a reasonable time, we have dinner and then watch our favourite series of the moment. Right now, we’ve really been into House of Cards on Netflix, and I’ve really been into Little Big Lies, the HBO adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s novel.
I am also volunteering for a humanitarian organization two days a week helping them write a handbook for humanitarian agencies so I am at work for most of those two days. This is completely different work and I get to speak to all these amazing people, which include academics from Harvard and health advisers from UNICEF or Save The Children. It’s really inspiring stuff.
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
One of my greatest achievements was when I qualified as a doctor. That had pretty much been what I wanted to do ever since I was 15 years old, so that was great. I couldn’t wait to be able to sign my name with a ‘Dr.’. in front of it! It is such a wonderful and noble profession, I have so much respect for doctors who give up so much of their life for their profession. I gave up medicine when I had my children because I didn’t feel like I could be a great mother and a great doctor at the same time, so felt that I had to give up one of the two.
Which comes to my next greatest two achievements: my two daughters. I am so proud that they are funny, loving, kind, creative and clever girls. I see them growing up to be these wonderful girls and I remember that this is the greatest job I could ever have. Being their mother and hopefully being a good role model!
Of course, publishing my book, The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land, is my most recent biggest achievement. Writing a book has always been something I wanted to do, ever since I was young. During my holidays, I would always start stories and I also took a creative writing course in university – on top of organic chemistry and biology classes. When my youngest started nursery, that’s when I took a writing class at The Faber Academy in London and really committed to writing the book. It has been a long journey – lots of tears, but also a lot of happiness. For those who don’t realise, it is so hard to write a book, even a light, mum-lit book like mine!
What’s in your handbag/ satchel?
I have to look! A shopkins… the last airline ticket from our last holidays…a wallet…keys…my phone and some leftover snacks for my children.
What are your ambitions in life?
Well, finishing my book was my big ambition for the past two years, so now that I am finished, I think I will bask in that glory for a while! Not sure what’s next, but of course, if this book does well, there may be a sequel. I will keep you posted…
What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career you now know?
In terms of my writing career, I wish I had known that the publishing industry follows trends. Right now, in fiction, psychological thrillers with a female protagonist are really popular (Girl Gone, Girl on the train etc…) and Young Adult is really popular (Hunger Games, Harry Potter). This means that no matter how great your book is, if it isn’t what the publishers are looking for, your chances of getting a publishing contract in one of the big 5 (the big 5 publishing houses) is really difficult and you shouldn’t take it personally. They just want the next big bestseller. It’s a numbers game and they think about it financially. You’d think they would choose a book purely on merit, but actually, the bottom line is making money. It’s sad but true. They are now competing with very successful self-publishers as well so it hasn’t been easy for them recently.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I hope that I will either be working for a non-profit or writing another book. Either would make me very happy.
What advice would you give a budding author and blogger?
Advice for bloggers: you need to find a niche or offer something different because right now the internet is full of bloggers. My blog is a very niche blog and appeals to a smaller audience, but it was interesting enough that I have been regularly interviewed by newspapers and magazines. But when you write a novel, you have to try to appeal to a wide audience, which is what I tried to do with my book.
For budding authors: Having a blog will always be useful as an author, so starting a blog is a great first step both to have a platform and also to practice your writing. Then, accumulating a following is so important to sell your books. You immediately have a fan base that will be interested in your books.
If you are serious about writing a book, you need persistence, perseverance and determination. You will need to build up a thick skin and be prepared for a lot of rejection. That usually comes with the territory as a debut novelist. Even Stephen King had a lot of rejection when he first started. My writing tutor told us that it wasn’t talent that got you published, it was tenacity. That says a lot. You have to keep writing and with time your writing will improve and hopefully one day you will write a book that is publishable. Now, of course it helps if you have talent. Sometimes, it’s just not enough though. Writing is a road full of obstacles; writing the book, finding an agent, finding a publisher, selling the book. Each step is really hard and you can have so many setbacks along the way, but you have to keep going if you really want to do it. Don’t give up.
What advice do you wish you’d known pre-kids you now know?
I wish I’d known how time – consuming and exhausting children were! But at the same time, how wonderful and so rewarding it is that you would give your life up for them.
Finally, happiness is…
…having a view of the sea, sipping a cappuccino, a cocktail or a coconut while watching my children playing in the sand or jumping in the waves, listening to their squeals of laughter and joy. Nothing really beats that these days.