Wednesday, January 15, 2014


My guest is historical fiction author, Alison McQueen. She spent twenty years in corporate advertising and now writes fascinating stories set in India. Alison's topic highlights the frustration of many writers trying to write while balancing a job and raising children.  It's never easy to find time. Recently, she discovered the bliss of writing in a quiet house sans children.

The holiday season is over, the house now empty, and I feel as though I’ve been waiting for this moment for over 20 years. Every writer out there who is also a mother, perhaps a wife too, will understand what I’m talking about.

I always knew this day would come, although I didn’t quite believe it. That’s the trouble with raising a family. When you’re right in the thick of it, it feels like it will never end. And if you’re trying to write a novel while simultaneously making the dinner and refereeing arguments about who broke the hair straighteners and why you can’t go out looking like that, then you have my deepest sympathy.

My daughters are now in their twenties. They still argue, but these days it doesn’t usually involve throwing things at each other and slamming doors so hard that the house shakes. One of them now lives an hour away with her boyfriend, so the other one has nobody to yell at most of the time anyway. From where I’m sitting, it’s bliss. I can actually hear myself think.

Right now the loudest thing in the house is the tap-tapping of my keyboard. There is a little part of me that is still in deep shock. I keep waiting for a problem to come marching in, or for someone to demand to know where their favourite jeans are, or why there’s no food in the fridge.

Friends say to me, “Don’t you miss the kids?” and “I just don’t know what I’ll do when mine grow up and leave.” And I find myself making noises which can be interpreted either way. It seems so wrong to punch the air and give a victory whoop. There were times in the past when I used to get so frustrated at not being able to write that I would shut myself in the bathroom for a cry. Those days seem far off now.

I live in a small English village with thatched cottages, narrow country lanes and an old parish church with a towering spire. Nearby are miles of canals, ancient woodlands, stately homes and historic family seats, including that of the Spencer family at Althorpe, two villages away. It’s a peaceful place, perfect for writing.

So all I have to do now is write the new novel. There is no excuse not to. No noise, no distraction, no interruptions, yet I find myself staring at the page and wondering what the next sentence is, the next word. It’s torture, and I do it to myself every time. The draft is still at an early stage which means that my house is awash with scraps of paper and cryptic messages that I will have no hope of understanding when they eventually surface.

I’d like to complain to somebody, to sit with a cup of coffee and have a good old moan about how lonely and agonizing the business of writing can be, but there ain’t nobody here but us chickens.



A breathtaking story of forbidden love and devastating consequences...

The moment Sophie steps onto India's burning soil, she realizes her return was inevitable. But this is not the India she fell in love with ten years before in a maharaja's palace. This is not the India that ripped her heart out as Partition tore the country in two. That India, a place of tigers, scorpions, and shimmering beauty, is long gone.

Drawing on her own family's heritage, acclaimed novelist Alison McQueen beautifully portrays the heart of a woman who must confront her past in order to fight for her future. Under the Jeweled Sky deftly explores the loss of innocence, the urgent connection in our stars, and how far we'll go to find our hearts. Excerpt


Born in the sixties to an Indian mother and an English jazz musician father, Alison McQueen grew up in London and worked in advertising for twenty years before retiring to write full time. In 2006 she was selected from an impressive longlist to join The Writers' Circle - a group of 8 top writers chosen to be groomed by the UK film industry as the new generation of British screenwriters. An award-winning blogger, she is also the author of a series of popular novels (published by Macmillan) under a pseudonym. Alison lives in a quiet English village with her husband and two daughters. Her novel, The Secret Children, was selected by The Independent for their alternative 2012 Booker list. You can find Alison: Website & Blog, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook


~Sia McKye~ said...

Alison, welcome to Over Coffee. I shooed away the chickens and brought you a nice cuppa and something to nibble on. I have a nice comfy chair for you to relax in.

I'm glad you're visiting. :-)

Natalie Aguirre said...

I may be able to relate to this soon, Alison. My daughter is a junior in high school and will be going away to college in less than two years and it will be very quiet at home. I'm looking forward to more time to write though I already get tortured by the blank page so I'm sure I will then too.

Thanks for sharing.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

So nice to meet you Alison!! Have a beautiful Wednesday :)

Alison McQueen said...

Thank you so much for having me. The pleasure was entirely mine.

Becca said...

I've just spent an hour writing on this same topic in my journal. I am finally blessed with free time and a room of my own, yet still find reasons to keep from writing! At least I am in good company!

I'm out here looking forward to your next novel, Alison, so keep at it :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think it's all right to be a little excited about the peace and quiet!

cleemckenzie said...

You can moan and complain to me! I totally get it. Come over. Sit down and I'll make you a coffee. It will be cathartic for both of us.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I could definitely write in that environment. Is there is kitty college I could send my cats to so I could get some peace and quiet?

Kat Sheridan said...

Fortunately, in today's world, none of us has to write alone. We can share a virtual cup of coffee and chat online with like-minded folks, then return to our nice quiet writing cacves, refreshed and renewed. And your home sounds lovely, and the book sounds fascinating!