Karen Osman talks about motherhood, research and her online book club.
1. I wasn’t always an author
I first started writing stories when I was around six years old, but I didn’t get my first book published until I was 38. During the seventeen years between graduation and becoming a published author in 2017, I was a teacher in Japan teaching English as a foreign language, an international rights assistant in publishing, and a marketing manager for a luxury hospitality company.
I was also an entrepreneur running my own content writing business. I became an author when I won the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature Montegrappa Novel Writing Competition for The Good Mother, which led to my agent securing me a three-book deal. The Home is my second novel, and my third book, The Perfect Lie, will be published August 8th, 2019.
2. I’ve been an expat for almost 20 years
I was born and grew up in the Lake District in the North West of England. However, not even the beautiful scenery could keep me there and since leaving in 2000, I have lived in Japan, Italy, and the UAE. Life as an expat is incredibly interesting, and I love discovering new cultures and languages. I do miss the UK though, especially family, so I make regular trips back home. I believe that having such a variety of experiences in different parts of the world has contributed to my ability as a writer.
3. Research is one of my favourite parts of the job
While I enjoy the act of writing, I particularly love the research element. I like interviewing people, experiencing places where the book is set, sifting through old footage, and making sure I’ve got all my facts right.
The Home has two main themes which required a lot of research. One of the settings in the novel is a children’s home. There was a series of scandals in the UK concerning children’s home before the Children Act of 1989. I started doing some research about the reported events in children’s homes during the ’60s and ’70s, much of which only came to light many years later. It’s incredibly disturbing that such events could have happened in places which are supposed to protect children and I struggled to understand how such horrifying things could happen.
The second area of research was women in the workplace in the 1980s. The main character in The Home, Angela, is ambitious and career driven and the 1980s were an interesting time for such women. On the one hand, Margaret Thatcher was a powerful example of what could be achieved, but on the other hand, sexism was very much present. And while it continues to be a problem today, back then, there wasn’t the same sort of awareness. During the research process for The Home, I interviewed many women who were working during this decade in London and I have tried to reflect some of their experiences in The Home. While I’m sure I don’t always get it right, it’s important for me as an author to try and present a realistic and credible story.
4. Motherhood continues to be my biggest inspiration
Becoming a mother was one of the most intense periods of my life. I wrote my debut novel, The Good Mother, when I was pregnant with my second child and looking after a toddler. It’s strange that a joyful event such as the arrival of children could reveal such dark thoughts. But it’s true.
Like many new mothers, during the day, I used to be in a state of constant vigilance as I watched over my new-born, while at night I had half-baked nightmares about the unspeakable. On the flip side, I also remember the profound sense of joy and happiness as I held my son and the primal urge to protect was overwhelming. These emotions have fuelled my writing and motherhood is a major theme in The Good Mother, The Home, and The Perfect Lie.
5. I run an online book club called Karen’s Bookshelf
I love book clubs but with young children I sometimes struggle to attend a physical meeting which is why I set up Karen’s Bookshelf. Every week on social media, I release a short video all about books, including a monthly book club pick (this month it’s The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker – a brilliant book!), author interviews, the latest book news, and book giveaways. I always discover something new and love sharing my book finds with my online community.
It was the one place she should have been safe.
Angela was just a baby when she was abandoned, and a children’s home is no place to grow up. When manager Ray takes girls off to his ‘den’ in the garden, they always come back crying…. So, when wealthy couple James and Rosemary come to choose a child to adopt, Angela is desperate to escape.
Years later, Angela starts to search for her birth mother, Evelyn, hoping to heal the scars of her childhood. But strange and sinister events start to unfold. And Evelyn fears she may not survive her daughter’s return.
Originally from the UK, Karen Osman won the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature Montegrappa Novel Writing Award 2016 with her crime-thriller novel, the bestselling The Good Mother. When she’s not writing novels, Karen is busy bringing up her two young children and running her communication business Travel Ink.