As part of the ongoing celebration of upcoming debut novels, I’ll be running highlights of interviews from a number of my fellow debuts through the end of 2019. The full interviews are available on DebutAuthors19.com.
Today, we’re continuing the series with a conversation with Daniela Petrova, author of Her Daughter’s Mother, a mystery/suspense releasing from Putnam Press on June 18th, 2019.
About the Book
Her Daughter’s Mother is a suspense novel about a woman in her late thirties who has it all—an apartment in Manhattan, a great job as an art curator at the Met, a long-term live-in relationship with a Columbia professor—except they haven’t been able to become pregnant after years of trying. Their last chance is a donor egg cycle they can barely afford. But when he unexpectedly leaves her three days before the precious embryo transfer, she faces the impossible choice of having to give up on her dream of having a baby or proceed without his consent.
Where did you get the idea?
I struggled with infertility for nearly ten years. I was in the middle of an anonymous egg donor cycle and thought, What if I were to run into my donor? Of course, I would recognize her—I’d seen photos of her—but she wouldn’t know who I was. Would I be tempted to follow her? To learn more about her? The possibility seemed at once exciting and frightening. I knew her health and education history, her hobbies, the eye and hair color of her grandparents. But I had no idea what she was like. Did she laugh with abandon or shyly cover her mouth? Did she sing in the shower? Did she spend her free time at the gym or curled up on the couch with a book? Hungry to find out more about her, would I be tempted to follow her? I never ran into my donor. I didn’t even get pregnant but I liked the idea of a pregnant woman encountering her donor and stalking her, unable to suppress her curiosity.
What’s the story behind the title? (e.g. who came up with it, did your publisher change it, etc.)
I’m greatly indebted to a writer friend of mine who came up with the title. I love it because it makes you stop and think, Wait what? It also draws out the special relationships in the book, the fact that there are two mothers to one baby (the woman who carries it and the woman who’s egg has been used to conceive it.)
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Somewhere in between. With this novel, I didn’t foresee many of the plot holes and issues until finishing an entire draft. Believe it or not, I only then realized that I had to start again and rewrite the entire book. For my next book, I intend to plot out as much as possible in advance, thereby resolving many of the potential problems before starting to write. But let’s see how that goes.
Can you share your writing routine?
I wish I could say that I have this amazing routine, where I get up every morning at 6 am and write for 5 hours straight, but I don’t. I’m very disorganized—I don’t recommend it—and end up writing at different times, depending on what else is going on in my life. I can spend three days working non-stop but then the rest of the week I won’t write a word. Perhaps not the most efficient process but it works for me.
What are the 2-3 most important things that you learned from writing classes that you found to be true in writing your novel?
Come in late, leave early--I might have picked it up in a screenwriting class but I find it to be true in books. That rule helped me so much with the pace of my novel.
Don’t be the protagonist of your novel because you’ll never be able to put yourself through hell. It’s very hard to make yourself look bad or to create a multi-dimensional character if you’re writing about yourself.
Conflict, conflict, conflict—scenes and conversations without conflict can be dull and slow moving.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have one completed novel that I couldn’t sell. And in retrospect, it’s pretty bad. But I don’t regret writing it because I learned so much. I see it as my dress rehearsal for the real thing.
Do you have any writing quirks?
I need snacks. All the time. I can’t work if I’m hungry, and I get hungry all the time when I’m stuck.
About the Author
Daniela Petrova grew up behind the Iron Curtain in Sofia, Bulgaria. After the fall of Communism, she moved to New York where she cleaned apartments while taking English classes at the YMCA in the evenings. She is a recipient of an Artist Fellowship in Writing from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Her work has appeared in anthologies, magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Salon, and Marie Claire among others. HER DAUGHTER’S MOTHER (Putnam, June 2019) is her first novel. She lives and writes in New York City.