Hi, thanks for having me here! I’m Janet Mullany and I write funny historical romance for Little Black Dress (UK). My latest, A Most Lamentable Comedy, doesn’t have US distribution but you can buy it from bookdepository.com which offers free shipping worldwide, and find out more about me at my website www.janetmullany.com.
When I was first invited to mamawriters.com, my first reaction was that I’m not really a writing mother, since my daughter is grown up and I started writing when she was a teenager. I have the greatest admiration for writers who have small children—I certainly couldn’t have done it. In fact I credit menopause with the urge to write (another way of reproducing, perish the thought?). But I thought I’d ask my daughter Alison about what it was like as the daughter of a writer, so we got on a chat together and here’s the result.
Janet: I think I started writing when you were about 15 or 16. How did that change things at home? Burned dinners? Benign neglect?
Alison: Oh, benign neglect, to be sure. More than usual. I don’t really remember much about it. You started off in short stories, I know, and you were so excited when you got stories accepted. I think I brought in one of the journals that had a story in it in to school to show off to my friends. And you started going to writers groups in the Border’s cafe. That was good times, really–it gave me an excuse to go chill out and read books for free. I don’t remember any great upsets in household life, though.
Janet: I remember quite a few burnt dinners.
Alison: None stick out in my memory, at least not in the beginning. Obviously they weren’t much more burnt that usual–no, the really spectacularly charred ones started when you started writing actual books. I did get quite cross, though, when you started writing romance–I used to have to go rescue meals
Janet: So short stories = fewer culinary disasters. Make a note of that, kids. Better living through short fiction.
Alison: Quite! Something they don’t tell you in critique groups, I think.
Janet: But you learned how to cook. Or at least how to not burn.
Alison: I got very good at catching things RIGHT before they caught on fire.
Janet: If it’s brown it’s cooking, if it’s black it’s done.
Alison: YOU KEEP SAYING THAT BUT IT IS NOT AT ALL TRUE. Although the one time the stove caught fire, that was all me. I don’t think it was something you forgot about. Although you could have been the one who forgot to clean out the broiler.
Janet: It’s such an easy thing to forget. Let’s talk about books. Which of mine have you read?
Alison: I’ve only read the one: The Rules of Gentility, which was excellent good times.
Janet: But you’ve pimped them all to others for which I’m very grateful, even if the S. E. X. business in them scares you off.
Alison: It really does.
Janet: What’s your friends’ reaction when you tell them your mother writes romance?
Alison: It’s not much of an issue, really. Mostly, their responses are in the lines of “oh, cool, okay,” and then I explain what kinds you write. I try to hedge around the “and she also writes porn!” parts. Sorry, “finely crafted erotica,” not porn.
Janet : As in, yo mama writes porn.
Alison: Yes. Yes she does. And she keeps bringing it up.
Janet: Excuse me, YOU brought it up this time.
Alison: You started it.
Janet: Let’s move on. You’ve always read a lot (we lived without TV for a time and fortunately lived near a library) and we’ve read books together and now we exchange books which I think is really cool. What do you read now? What are the two last great books you read?
Alison: Ooooooooh, difficult. I’m reading Great Expectations right now–I somehow managed to get through all my years of schooling without having read any Dickens, so my roommate shamed me into rectifying that situation; it’s AMAZING, oh man. And I just finished re-reading The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon.
Janet: I couldn’t get into Chabon but I love Great Expectations too.
Alison: No Chabon? Weirdo.
Janet: It’s a generational thing, I think. Any fave romance writers?
Alison: Oh, yes. I love Jennifer Crusie–Bet Me is one of my all-time favourite books. I like your friend Pam Rosenthal’s books; The Edge of Impropriety is amazing, I keep meaning to re-read it. I’m also a fan of Dierdre Martin’s hockey-player romance series. I picked up a copy of Fair Play at a Walmart as kind of a joke, but really enjoyed it.
Janet: I like Deirdre Martin too (in fact you were the one who recommended her books to me), and I’m really indifferent to sports. Odd.
Alison: Me too. But the characters were good, and it was a nice change from the usual type of hero.
Janet: Any advice for the writing moms out there from the offsprings’ point of view?
Alison: Advice? None off the top of my head. I mostly tried to stay out of your way when you were writing.
Janet: Maybe I should ask you for advice for the children of writing moms.
Alison: Make sure the smoke detector has batteries in it? But seriously, I don’t know–to be honest, I’ve never given much thought to “how to manage” with your career. Because it is a career. And sometimes I was a bit annoyed at how it ate up “home” time. But that’s life and it makes you happy (most of the time). Besides, when you’re locked in your office, it means I can bring in the booze and hookers
Janet: And that’s why you had to leave home.
Alison: Yeah, once the pimps found out where we lived, it got a little hot….
Janet: Were those male or female hookers?
Alison: ………. (Why does it have to be an either/or?) But we digress. Anyway. Maybe it’s because you’ve always worked–both in AND out of the house–and so it didn’t seem so weird that you were suddenly working on novels.
Janet: I agree. And it all comes back to my parenting philosophy of benign neglect. Or benign neglect and much reading material to hand.
Thanks for having us visit, mamawriters!
Bio: Janet Mullany was raised in England by half of an amateur string quartet and now lives near Washington, DC. Persecuted from an early age for reading too long in the bathroom, she still loves books and is an avid and eclectic reader. She has worked as an archaeologist, classical music radio announcer, arts administrator, and for a small press. Visit her website at http://www.janetmullany.com.