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Writing your life into fiction

Emily Phillips, the author of new release TRYING pitched the story of trying for a baby and failing in the pub – here she dissects injecting real life into fiction.

The moment I typed THE END, I cried. I was bereft. No matter that I had been channeling parts of my life into the themes and situations in TRYING – in those intense five months of writing, it had <become> my life.

Writing it had been in equal parts a cathartic outpouring of the fertility challenges we had been facing and a really great distraction. I had allowed myself to vent through creating ridiculous situations, drawing up any bitterness and twisting it into dark humour, and injecting real pain and tears into medical tests and let downs I had been going through.

And it worked. For those months, I was so fertility obsessed that I didn’t obsess over our real lack of progress in having a baby. I banked on the fact that in not having a conventional ending, that we might get our happy ending at home. That by the end of the first draft, no, the second, still no, the final draft, we would be on the way to having a baby that would neatly pop out at the same time as the book. But no.

The book is out this week and I’m still not pregnant. And, like some characters in the book, we’re now undergoing IVF. I didn’t want that to be the journey for Olivia and Felix in those pages – I wanted them to really consider their family in an open-ended unexplained situation as we did at the beginning – to know what it is to really want something.

But now, we’re letting science take over and I have such a better understanding of what I was writing in some of those sections. The research for the book also armed me for some of the obstacles ahead – both physically and mentally, so in a way it is now life, imitating art, imitating life.

Probably the hardest thing to do is write sex scenes. Simply attempting to keep them from being toe-curling in their rendering I hope helped me separate it from reality – I had to be thinking outside of individual experience and focusing on universal crap sex. And I’ve had plenty of comments from people who have said it rings true!

It’s tricky blurring the boundaries when you’re writing something with a personal bent, but the characters and situations are all far from reality. I’ve been through some of those medical probes, and I think we’ve all had some of those let downs, but it was important for me to throw in some real curve balls for the characters to battle against. Temptation, dissatisfaction, anger – those are things I’ve managed to steer clear of so far. It’s definitely the extreme bits where you can stretch the creative muscles that are the most fun to write.

TRYING by Emily Phillips is published in hardback, ebook and audio on 25th January.