• Natasha Boydell

Real life events that inspired moments in my books

Have you ever wondered how much of an author’s novel is based on their own, real-life experiences? I know I have.

Fiction is like an open door; you walk through it and anything is possible. Dragons. Ancient queens. Men who put the toilet seat back down.

That’s what makes this genre so special, and so fun. Whether you’re the reader or the author, the possibilities are endless and you can embark on one of millions of journeys. You can, for a short while at least, be anyone you want to be.

However, there’s a reason why the saying write what you know is so famous and it’s something I always think about. On one hand, if I adhere rigidly to this, my books will get pretty boring, pretty quickly. On the other, if I write about things I don’t know, then I run the risk of getting something wrong or not doing it justice.

The truth lies in between. We learn through our own life experiences, research and knowledge. My books have a bit of me in them, but they have lots of other people too – people I’ve met, people I’ve read about, people I’ve made up, people I’d like to be in another life. That’s the beauty of fiction.

However, like many authors, there are moments or themes in my books that are inspired by my own experiences, and I wanted to share some of these with you.

1/ Kate’s struggle with motherhood in The Missing Husband

When I was pregnant, I was pretty sure that my baby was going to be in a perfect routine five minutes after it was born and that if I worked hard enough, I would be on track for an A in parenting. I was, dare I say it, almost smug. Naïve, to put it more gently.

I was soon put in my place. Becoming a mother was one of the most challenging times of my life and I’ve never felt more alone. I was sleep-deprived, overwhelmed, paranoid and anxious about everything and I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

For a while, I was trapped in a scary world and I didn’t think I would ever escape it.

I did though. With help and support, I found my way out of the tunnel. Now those early days feel like a distant memory, gone but not forgotten. Each challenge and experience leaves a small scar that makes us who we are and that’s okay.

Parenting is not an Instagram grid. It’s messy, frustrating, exhausting and sometimes downright ugly. In The Missing Husband, I wanted to acknowledge how hard it is to become a parent for the first time and the danger of other people’s assumptions that you should be happy and joyful – that, in fact, you’re being ungrateful if you’re not.

We should never be ashamed of our struggles, nor should we be ashamed to ask for help when we need it. If only Kate had done…

2/ The broken fence in The Woman Next Door

In The Woman Next Door, a storm blows down a garden fence, marking the beginning of a friendship between two families who live next door to each other.

This happened to us in a storm a few years ago and while we did replace the fence, it got me thinking about the relationships and dynamics between neighbours.

With the exception of a brief five-year hiatus, I’ve lived in London for all of my forty years and people often assume that neighbours in the capital barely know each other’s names let alone acknowledge each other. That hasn’t been my experience.

During covid lockdowns, my neighbours were my lifeline. Whether it was a Friday evening glass of wine and a chat over the fence, food and cake being left on doorsteps or offers to pick up groceries, I felt the importance of a local community more than ever.

We even created a ‘chat flap’ between us and our neighbours at the bottom of the garden so that we could open and close it when we needed or wanted to talk.

Now lockdowns are (hopefully) in the past and the fence has since been replaced, the chat flap is no more…. but the friendships have endured.

3/ The runaway pram in The Legacy of Eve

In my next novel, due out in September, there’s a scene where a new mum forgets to put the lock on her pram and it rolls down a hill and into a pond. Fortunately, the baby is absolutely fine, but the mum is mortified and spirals further into despair, hating herself and believing that she is a monster.

When I had my second child, something similar happened to me. I was distracted by my toddler and when I turned round, the pram with my baby was rolling down a grassy hill. Luckily there was no pond at the bottom and my baby was strapped in and safe, but I still remember the horror I felt at my negligence. People came rushing to help and I was so embarrassed and ashamed.

As mums, we are our harshest critics, but we must remember that we all make mistakes and it doesn’t make us terrible people. We love our children, we want to keep them safe and happy, but we are not perfect – because no one is.

4/ Losing a mother in The Legacy of Eve

In The Legacy of Eve, the main character’s mum dies giving birth to her and she is raised by her father. I lost my mum when I was a child and I wanted to explore the process of grief as a child and how this is different to adult grief.

When I became a mother myself, I experienced grief for my mum all over again, this time as a grown up. I didn’t realise this was what was happening at first, and it wasn’t until someone mentioned it that it all made sense to me.

Grief comes and goes in waves and in certain periods of our life. But we find ways to move on, to laugh and to enjoy life again. To make the most of our time on this planet before it’s our turn to say goodbye.

I miss my mum every day still. However, I always like to think she’s up there somewhere, looking over me, laughing at my silliness, tutting at my bad habits (sorry, Mum). Our lost loved ones may no longer walk beside us, but they are always with us.

5/ Horses, horses and more horses!

Phew, I think it’s time to end on a fun one! I was pony-mad from the age of five. As a teenager I was that kid who was mucking out horses by seven o’clock in the morning for a free riding lesson. I later went on to compete in show-jumping for a while before life and my career got in the way. But I kept riding for years afterwards and ended up working for a charity that rescues and rehomes horses, as well as other animals.

So, you can imagine my shock and horror when I realised that I hadn’t mentioned a single animal in any of my novels to date! After hastily (and humanely) chucking a pet cat or two into The Legacy of Eve, I decided to have a bit of fun with my fourth novel (title TBC). I’m delighted to say that there are horses and even a proper, actual show-jumper. I’m channelling my inner Jilly Cooper, darling!

That’s not the only thing I’m channelling either. The main character is a journalist, like I used to be, but life has taken her in a very different direction to mine.

Perhaps she’s me if I’d taken a slightly different path? Perhaps she’s nothing like me? Who knows? The main thing is that I’m having a lot of fun writing her.

So, whether you read and write about what you know or what you don’t, it doesn’t matter as long as you enjoy it. Open that door and walk through it into a new world and who knows what you will discover about yourself and about life.

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