Around one in seven couples experiences difficulties trying to conceive*. The odds of becoming a published author are even lower. The two might not seem linked, but for the fact they were the two dreams of author Tracy Buchanan. Tracy’s journey of infertility inspired her to write The Atlas of Us , which not only helped her to make sense of her experiences but also secured her a two-year book deal with Harper Collins. Just a few years later, and her latest book Her Last Breath has hit the shelves in time for Summer. Here’s Tracy’s story of how writing helped her through infertility, and how infertility helped her to realise her dream of becoming an author.
Over to Tracy…
“My husband and I recently celebrated our ten-year anniversary, and it got me thinking of another vow I made all those years ago: to get pregnant and published within a year.
However, that was one vow that proved particularly difficult.
“A year into trying to conceive, it became clear something was up with no luck month after month. As for getting a novel published, I couldn’t even get a new agent after parting ways with my first, rejection after rejection emails piling into my inbox.
“More months passed, more years, negative pregnancy tests, two failed IVF rounds and
rejection letters piling up.
“Enough was enough. I decided to give up on both. Who needed a baby and a book deal? I could be happy without both of them, couldn’t I?
“But I was still contending with all those emotions associated with infertility. I had to get some release. So I started writing all those feelings down. And then something happened while I was on holiday in Exmoor, a kernel of an idea came to me for a novel. In the notepad I’d brought with me to write my feelings down, I also began to store ideas for the novel.
“When I returned from holiday, I couldn’t help myself, I started writing that novel. As I mourned the fact I might never have children, that writing became a form of therapy for me. By making the main character in the novel infertile too, I was able to explore all those complicated emotions. And by getting to grips with them, I began to find myself wanting to fight one last time to get pregnant and published.
“So as I wrote the novel – called The Atlas of Us – I decided to embark on one last round of IVF. And you know what? I got pregnant! I also got a new agent, and as I worked with her on edits for my novel, it took my mind off the fear that comes to all those getting pregnant via IVF: the fear it will slip from your hands, too good to be true. Once again, writing was saving me, a way of distracting my mind from negative thoughts.
“Finally, I gave birth to a beautiful perfect little girl. One ambition achieved. What of the other, to get published?
“A few weeks after having my little girl, as I dealt with an explosion in her nappy (!), I got an email from my agent: HarperCollins wanted to offer me a two-book deal. I couldn’t respond right away, instead clearing my daughter up and putting her down for a nap. Once she was asleep, I ran out into the garden and screamed in happiness. Finally, those vows I’d made all those years ago had come true.
“Now as I celebrate my wedding anniversary, and my daughter’s fourth birthday, I’m also delighted to be celebrating the release of my fourth novel with HarperCollins, HER LAST BREATH. And I am sure without the infertility, I would never have written that novel, and without that novel, I would never have got pregnant.
“One could not exist without the other!”
Tracy shared her top three tips for how to use life’s challenges in your writing:
1. Make notes: Writers are often told to carry notepads around with them. But I find the Notes function in my trusty iPhone is fine too. This allows me to quickly jot down any thoughts and feelings as I’m contending with something difficult.
2. Draw on other people’s feelings: We each experience difficult times differently. While struggling to conceive, I was a member of a great online forum. By discussing and reading other people’s experiences, I was able to get a well-rounded view of how people deal with infertility and use this.
3. Use it as an incentive: One of the most amazing emails I’ve received was from a woman who told me reading The Atlas of Us had really pulled her back from the brink of a nervous breakdown when dealing with infertility, to first see her feelings on the page and then to read the author had gone through the same. Writers should use this as an incentive when writing, and imagine how it will feel to get messages like this from readers.
* Source: NHS Choices