Photo by Laura Hart.
Francesca Segal is a local Hampstead writer, who lives in NW3 with her husband and identical twin toddlers. Her first novel, The Innocents, was set in Hampstead and won numerous prizes including the Costa First Novel Award. The Awkward Age is a novel about love and second chances; about blended families; about motherhood, and about standing by the ones we love, even as they make mistakes. The Independent calls it, “A painful delight to read…In Francesca Segal’s magnificent new novel, romantic and parental love go head to head, stress-testing loyalties and bonds with heartbreaking consequences.’
Describe a typical day for you?
My twin daughters wake me at five am – I can’t remember the last time I needed an alarm clock. With them I’ll have the first of several breakfasts, and the first of innumerable, essential coffees. The day is so protracted by children that I have what feels like 42 meals a day.
I like to be at my desk by 8am, and find I do my most creative work either in the morning or very late at night – I’ve learned the hard way that afternoons are almost entirely a washout, and not to torture myself by trying to write. Afternoons are for the girls, or for completing tax returns, and any other tedious household administration. After my daughters go to bed my husband and I are usually back at work – parenthood makes the day feel very short, and also very long.
What do you feel is your biggest achievement?
I think my biggest achievement is making the career I’d always longed for into a reality. All I’ve ever wanted is to write, and it feels an extraordinary stroke of good fortune that I’ve found publishers and readers. It is hard and lonely and intermittently dementing, but I do my dream job nonetheless.
What’s in your handbag/ satchel?
I like to be prepared for all eventualities and have all my worldly possessions about my person – perhaps in a former life I was a snail. My friend Susannah once made me turn out my handbag to count the lip balms and I think we got to 11 before I drew the exercise to a shameful close. Now, I also never go anywhere without a sheet of stickers and two (uninflated) balloons. They are the smallest toys I can think of, for emergency situations. And I am never without a paperback – reading time is so precious, I snatch it where I can.
What advice do you know now, you wish you had pre-kids?
Luxuriate in a life with no plastic. I wish I could go back into my former life with the efficiency I have now developed – I used to think I needed a clear run of two hours to achieve anything, and now I know that I could pretty much negotiate world peace in twenty minutes.
What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career you now know?
That the self-doubt and anxiety never go away, and so to try and metabolise and understand them as part of the process. I think a first novel, a third novel and probably a thirtieth novel are just as hard, and just as frightening. That’s okay – it’s how it goes.
What advice would you give a budding writer?
Aspiring writers never want to hear this but I am really a firm believer in keeping the day job. There are SO many hours in the day (I didn’t know this until I had children but really there are) and a day job is also an engagement with the real world which is valuable for material, perspective, financial security, and life experience. Having a day job is not an index of success or failure – it’s a sensible insurance policy while you fight to get your book out there.
Finally, happiness is…
a white chocolate Magnum and a novel, in a very hot bath (and a locked door).
The Awkward Age by Francesca Segal (Vintage) is out now.