A warm welcome to author Jon Rance

I’d like to welcome fellow comedy author Jon Rance to my blog this week in celebration of his new novel This Family Life. For anyone who is new to parenthood and in desperate need of some belly laughs, this could be just the tonic you’re after. Over to Jon…

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Firstly a HUGE thank you to Tasha for hosting what is the first stop on my ‘This Family Life Blog Tour’. Over the next few weeks I’m going to be visiting a lot of different blogs and along the way I’m hoping to write a lot of very funny, informative, and thought-provoking blogs on how my new novel ‘This Family Life’ came to be. So with the pleasantries out of the way, let’s crack on.

In this blog I want to talk about how ‘This Family Life’ evolved. If you read the first book in the series ‘This Thirtysomething Life’, you’ll know it was about the slightly useless, immature, thirtysomething Harry Spencer and his wife Emily. When Emily suddenly becomes pregnant, poor Harry has a bit of an emotional breakdown and makes some questionable choices thereafter.

Both ‘This Thirtysomething Life’ and ‘This Family Life’ evolved from my own experiences. Firstly with ‘This Thirtysomething Life’ of going through a pregnancy with my own wife and having a ‘bit of a wobble’ (as we like to call it in my house), and secondly with ‘This Family Life’, of trying to survive the first year of parenthood.

If you have children you’ll know what I’m talking about. The first year can be a proper Tim Burton style nightmare. Babies are terrifying. You’re always waiting for them to either A: Die. B: Injure themselves and then die. C: Get injured by you and then die. Or D: Lull you into a false sense of security and seem really happy and you’ll tell people at parties and friends that actually they’re an ‘easy baby’ and then die. Basically, most of the first year you’re worried they might die. If you aren’t worried about that, you’re worried about how they look. Is their head a funny shape? Why do they have a comb-over hair style? In the book Harry worries constantly about baby William, and yes it’s generally about ridiculous things like, why does his wave look like a Nazi salute? And why does he babble with a Japanese accent?

I think at the heart of the novel it’s about his fears, and I think the fears that most parents feel when they have babies, that they have a life to protect. It’s this fear that I think gives the novel its funniest scenes and also its most heartfelt – just like real parenthood. I think Harry says it best in this scene from the book.

Wednesday 27 February 9.30 p.m.

I wouldn’t class myself as a big worrier. A medium worrier maybe, but since William was born all I’ve done is worry. Maybe it’s just how parenthood is. 1% enjoyment, 99% worry. I worry about William all the time. There was a kid at my middle school who couldn’t say ‘cinema’. He pronounced it ‘swinema’. And of course, all the mean kids would make him say it as often as possible. What if William says ‘swinema’ instead of ‘cinema’? What if he breaks a leg, or both legs, and we have to push him around in a wheelchair with him saying ‘swinema’?

Then there’s the now. I wake up most nights and listen to him breathing on the baby monitor, but without fail I decide I can’t hear him, and I go in his room to check on him. Sometimes I lie in bed and tell myself to stop being silly and just go to sleep, but I can’t. I have to check on him. But even this is OK against the bigger worry of when I can’t protect him. When he’s at nursery, or primary school, or secondary school or just at the park without me, and I can’t be there if he needs me. He’s only six and a half months old and already I’m worried about the rest of his life. I just want him to be happy. I just want him to be able to say ‘cinema’ properly. Is that too much to ask?’

This Family Life Synopsis

Things that might happen during your first year of parenthood:

1. You’ll get covered in a ‘nuclear’ poo.

2. You’ll be convinced your son is talking with a Japanese accent.

3. You’ll worry that when your son waves, it looks like a Nazi salute.

Of course, this might just be Harry Spencer.

Taking up where This Thirtysomething Life left off, Harry Spencer and his wife Emily are back and trying to survive their first year of parenthood. It has its ups and downs (and a few bits in the middle), but along the way they begin to understand the true meaning of family and what it takes to be a parent.

Featuring a hilarious cast of extras including Harry’s father-in-law Derek, who has a unique problem with Scotch, Steve and Fiona, the parents from children’s entertainment hell, and a yoga instructor with a prominent camel-toe, This Family Life is the ultimate comedy for anyone who is a parent, has a parent, or is thinking about becoming one.

An interview with author Charlie Plunkett


I’d like to welcome author Charlie Plunkett to my humble blog as part of her big blog tour to celebrate her new book, 100 Little Words on Parenthood, in which Charlie and other writers contribute their experiences, anecdotes, poems and tips on parenting.

I met Charlie (above, with her son Cole) on Twitter. She’s written and self-published several books in which she shares her real-life experiences about getting married, being pregnant and being a mum. Her writing is honest and unpretentious, completely from the heart – a quality that can be elusive to many writers. It was this refreshing honesty that prompted the first of my questions to her…

You’ve done something far braver than most writers – you’ve written openly about yourself. You’ve shared your real experiences with the whole world. Weren’t you a bit worried about putting yourself out there like that?

To be honest when I wrote my first book The True Diary of a Bride-to-be I wanted to have a keepsake of my wedding preparations and had the attitude that if I was the only person to ever read it then that was fine because it was something I knew I would treasure forever. The realisation that I had shared a lot of personal information came much later when the book was stocked in every branch of Waterstones and my friends knew a lot more about my life than I did theirs! I have kept a diary pretty much all of my life and it never crossed my mind to be anything but honest. With my pregnancy and baby’s first year books the information gets even more personal. My dad, bless him, bought the books but said he couldn’t bring himself to read them as he knew there would be a little bit more information in there than he probably needed to know! I have been careful not to be too personal about other family members and have also not embellished in any way so some entries are quite mundane – my pregnancy journal has a lot about me doing D.I.Y.

What kind of feedback have you had from readers? Has there been any negativity at all?

I have been very fortunate to receive some amazing feedback from readers. As an author it means so much to hear that your book has touched someone enough to leave a lovely review. Some of my favourites have been from pregnant ladies and new mums saying how reading my books have made them feel they are not alone. With my wedding book I have some fabulous reviews from wedding magazines as well as brides-to-be who have all really enjoyed it.

When I had my first bad review for my pregnancy book I must confess it really upset me. I felt the reader had not ‘got’ me at all. She took umbrage to the fact I was a vegan and said she was sick of hearing me saying I had cravings for salad with tahini dressing. I felt so picked on as it is a well-known fact that when you are pregnant you have all manner of strange cravings and I couldn’t believe she gave me a poor review because of them. At the time I really wanted to ask her if she would have been less harsh had I been craving gherkins, steak and ice-cream. She also didn’t appreciate all the references to D.I.Y during my pregnancy but once I had stopped crying about the review I realised there was nothing I would have done differently and it wouldn’t have been a ‘true diary’ if I had omitted those things. I guess she was maybe feeling some of those grumpy pregnancy hormones when she was writing her review lol!

When you were compiling 100 Little Words on Parenthood, did any of the contributions surprise you in any way?

They all blew me away! From the day I tweeted out my request for help I received so many fabulous contributions and opening my emails became my favourite part of the day. I think the most surprising thing was the diversity of them all, some were poetic, some anecdotal and had me crying, others were so funny I was often chortling away as I read them. My husband has become quite used to me interrupting his favourite TV show to read them to him. The overwhelming feeling I got from all of the contributors is that we may be at different stages in our journey and parent in our own unique ways, but we all share the bond that is parenthood and are all trying to do it the best we can for our individual families.


What are the best and worst things about being a parent in your opinion?

There are so many best things I could write a book about them! For me the top one I guess is the immense love that me, my husband and little boy have for each other, it is simply priceless.

Worst things are the decisions you have to make! From the moment you conceive a baby you are worrying about absolutely everything from what you eat to whether it’s OK to paint the nursery and once your baby is born it continues. Are they too hot, too cold, hungry, wet, tired, should you immunise them or not, which nursery or school should you choose and so the list goes on…

If you hadn’t been able to have children, would you have pursued adoption or fostering or followed another path?

Dave and I struggled to have a baby and I did write about the two miscarriages I had in The True Dairy of a Mum-to-be. I clearly remember sitting on the beach together discussing this very topic and we both agreed that if we couldn’t have a child of our own that we would consider adopting or fostering a child. Fortunately it was a case of ‘third time lucky’ and we were blessed with our gorgeous little boy.

What mistakes have you made as a parent?

I think the one that sticks in my head the most was letting our little boy sleep on our bed and not pushing it up against the bedside drawers. He rolled over and fell off, he was fine but I felt absolutely terrible. Even now – he is four and a half – if we visit family we have to put a pile of pillows on the floor by his bed as he is still a little roller!

Are there any other books on parenting that you’ve found helpful?

When Cole was born I went through a phase of reading lots of parenting books while I was breastfeeding him. My absolute bible and one I still refer to is The Baby Book by William and Martha Sears. It’s packed full of easy-to-read great advice and the section on childhood illnesses is brilliant for reassuring you that you are doing the right thing. My GP even commented that it was a good book when I explained the advice it had given when my little boy had gastroenteritis. My other favourites are You are Your Child’s First Teacher – What parents can do with and for their children from birth to age six by Rahima Baldwin Dancy. Raising Boys – Why boys are different and how to help them become happy and well balanced men by Steve Biddulph. Growing Great Boys by Ian Grant. Baby-Led Weaning – Helping your baby to love good food by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett and How Children Learn by John Holt.

You’ve more than earned a day off on Mother’s Day this year. Any special plans?

Mother’s Day this year is going to be a triple celebration as it lands on my husband’s birthday and my lovely Mother-in-law is coming to visit in the evening. We will most likely go to a National Trust garden during in the day, have a pub lunch and then a meal in the evening with my in-laws. I’m really looking forward to it.

Check out Charlie’s website to enter a free giveaway: http://www.charlieplunkett.co.uk/