Kirsten Hesketh couldn’t believe her luck when she received an email from her literary agent that her very first novel she had ever written was going to be published. Her novel, Another Us will be out as an e-book tomorrow (Thursday 14 May) and will hopefully be published in paperback later this year (the coronavirus crisis put this on temporary hold).
Another Us tells the story of Emma whose younger son has been diagnosed with autism, she’s accidentally quit her job and the marriage she was dedicated to suddenly seems like a sham plus she’s pretty sure that’s she’s going to have an affair with a hot new Dad at school!
Kirsten previously worked in advertising and now runs her own consultancy specialising in psychological interviewing and focus groups. Over the past 25 years, she has interviewed the Great British public on everything from Rolos to razors. She’s a keen amateur archaeologist and a staunch supporter of Wycombe Wanderers.
The inspiration behind the book came after Kirsten saw a statistic a year or so after one of Kirsten’s family members was diagnosed with mild Asperger Syndrome that 80% of marriages with a child on the spectrum break down. Kirsten commented, “Whilst that wasn’t at all the case with the families that I knew in this situation, it did inspire me to ask ‘what if?’ and the idea behind Another Us was born.”
Kirsten started writing the book about 5 years ago. She said, “I’ve always wanted to write a novel or, at least, I’ve always said I wanted to write a novel but years went by and I didn’t do anything at all about it. Running my own marketing consultancy it has always been feast and famine, and, once during a quiet period, a friend challenged me to put my words into action and to start writing. That was quite scary – it’s one thing to say intend to do something and quite another to actually do it!”
The book is based in a fictional town called Hambley, a town similar to Henley, Kirsten explains, “I wanted to set Another Us in a town that could really be anywhere – in striking distance of London and a little bigger than Henley. To suit my story, it had to have its own trampoline park! One of my friends came up with the name of Hambley as a joke and it kind of stuck. I rather like it.”
Kirsten wrote the novel in her spare time around her family, her business and when she was “feeling suitably inspired”. She sent the first three chapters to 5-10 agents and then was asked to send the whole book to four of them. Kirsten found out at the end of November that Canelo wanted to publish it in May “which was very quick.”
What has been the biggest challenge? Kirsten replied “There have been loads of challenges – I’m sure it’s the same for everyone – and once you’ve overcome one, there always seems to be another waiting in the wings. Writing the first page, the first chapter, the first draft, getting an agent, getting a publisher, the publication date being in the middle of a global pandemic …. I feel very lucky that my first book is being published.”
Kirsten loves to write, she comments, “It’s my release, my relaxation, my sanity. Although I only started writing fairly recently. I can’t imagine stopping now.” Kirsten has already been signed to write another two books set in London in WW1. She’s learnt a lot of things after writing Another Us. She explains, “It’s definitely to follow the mantra ‘don’t get it right, get it written’ when writing the first draft. With Another Us, I spent ages wordsmithing passages which didn’t even make it into the final draft and I’ve certainly learned from that mistake.”
Book launch day on Thursday was due to be a big event for Kirsten but sadly because of the coronavirus pandemic Kirsten will now be hosting just a Zoom party with friends and family. A few weeks ago she thought she would challenge herself to raise £200 for Mind. Kirsten said, “I said if I manage to raise £200 I would dye my hair the same colour as the book cover (red) and I got to that target really quickly! Mental health is such a big issue whilst we are in lockdown.”