The phrase I would like to put in Room 101 after ‘You’re on mute’, is ‘Shall we go for a walk?’ It is like a red rag to a bull in our house. My children’s eyes roll into the back of their heads the moment the suggestion is raised. You would think they were being asked to walk over broken glass then bathe in a tub of lemon juice, the fuss they make. I’ve tried other tactics, mainly enticing them with junk food, but it’s still a royal pain in the arse to get going.
The thing is, once we’re out in the countryside, something shifts. A lungful of clean air and we all just seem to relax a bit. Everyone’s shoulders drop by a couple of inches. Living in Brighton, we are lucky to have the South Downs on our doorstep, miles and miles of rolling hills. It’s proper get-your-walking-boots-on-and-tackle-a-bloody-great-mound territory.
And that is often where some of my best ideas happen. As the kids run off, my brain starts to unwind, and I can begin to think through a conversation that might be happening with my characters, or unpick a particularly knotty plot line.
Nailing It intertwines the stories of three female friends, brought together through motherhood and bound by a fierce love for each other. The women are all very different, and their life challenges vary greatly, from negotiating single parenting, to living with ageing parents, to attempting to get to grips with the heady world of online dating.
Navigating three central strong characters is like living with three opinionated flatmates who are all desperate to tell you something at the same time. Getting to know their likes, their irritations, thinking constantly about how they may react to a situation, can be very noisy, so stomping in the countryside is often the best antidote to blocking out all the other life distractions.
To write about the power of female friendship, how we hold each other up when things are tough, and celebrate each other’s successes was a wholly enjoyable process. I think that when women support women, incredible things can be achieved. The book is dedicated ‘To Friendship,’ and that feels entirely fitting.
As we start to emerge from lockdown and transition into a new way of living again, one of the absolute joys will be being able to see friends more easily. To go for a pint, or a coffee in a café. To reconnect to those we love.
But, in the meantime, anyone fancy a walk? Anyone? No?
Nailing It by Anna Jefferson is published by Orion, £8.99 is out now
If you’d told me six months ago that I’d be getting into the sea in October in just a swimsuit, and swimming, not just yelping, but fully immersing myself in the icy cold water and, more to the point, enjoying it, I’d say you were having a laugh. But then, if you’d told me six months ago that we’d be wearing masks as standard to drop our kids off at school and queuing up outside shops to get a pint of milk, I’d equally have thought you were pulling my leg, so stranger things have happened.