motherhood + creativity: lauren sams

If you’ve picked up a copy of any Australian women’s mag, chances are you’ve read something written by Lauren Sams. If you haven’t, it’s not too late. She is brutally honest, funny and we’re obsessed. We love her so much that we reviewed her debut novel She’s Having Her Baby, in our December/January issue, and equally enjoyed the sequel Crazy Busy Guilty (out now)!

We chatted to Lauren about her career highlights and obstacles, inspirations and how becoming a mother has motivated her creativity.

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How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. And I’ve been reading for longer. My mum was a big reader and really encouraged me to read a lot of classics, especially as an early reader. Books were always a part of our house. I used to think it was really strange when I went to friends’ houses and they didn’t have any books anywhere.

What inspires your writing? 

I’m mainly inspired by people. I’m a terribly nosy observer – ask my husband who has to put up with me staring at people on trains or eavesdropping on strangers’ conversations. I’m fascinated by what makes people tick. So many creative women inspire me too. I love Rainbow Rowell for her ability to transcend YA and adult genres; Shonda Rhimes for being a boss and making seven zillion TV shows; Reese Witherspoon and her former producing partner Bruna Papandrea for championing female voices on the screen; Nora Ephron for making everything funny; Liane Moriarty for knowing exactly how women talk and think; Lionel Shriver for her intensely researched books…I could go on!

What keeps you motivated creatively?

Being a mum has made me more motivated than ever before. Truly. After I had my daughter, I was toying with the idea of writing a book, and one day I just thought, sod it. If not now, when?

One thing kids do to you is make you realise that you’ll never have more free time. You just have to use the time you have. Every nap time, every morning I woke earlier than her, every lunchtime at work, I wrote. And little by little, that became a book.

How would you describe your writing style?

My writing style is observant and funny. It’s probably never going to be described as literary. I like to observe people’s foibles and quirks, and put a mirror up to them. Including my own, obviously.

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What have been some of your career obstacles?

When I was 26, I almost had a YA novel published. I was picturing Hunger Games-level of success (not even kidding). Before the acquisitions meeting (where the publisher decides whether they’ll publish the book), my contact rang to ask me what my full name was for the contract. I WAS IN. After the meeting, she called to let me know that they loved the book…and would not be publishing it. It was similar to another book they’d published, which hadn’t sold well.

It was crushing but it taught me that publishing is a business. It taught me that you have to find the balance between what you like to write, and what people like to read, and go from there.

My favourite thing about being a writer is the big fat paychecks.

I kid! I love creating worlds and characters. I suppose at the heart of it, every writer is full of questions, and in writing, they try to wrestle with the answers. That’s what I do, anyway. I love being able to write out the world as I see it. There’s something really special about it.

Sometimes it can be tough. My first priority is my freelance work. Writing novels comes after that. Part of going freelance was knowing I had the freedom to take a day here and there to work on my novels, and so I force myself to take them. So far, it’s working out OK.

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How do you find being a woman in the writing space? What challenges have you come up against?

As a female writer, I’m not sure if I’ve come up against challenges, but I do feel the need to prove myself.

Last year I was on a panel with some very distinguished writers, whom I admired greatly. It was my first time doing something like that, and I was pretty nervous. It took weeks for me to write my piece very carefully and edit it and edit it and edit it. I wore a nice skirt and a nice shirt and got my hair blow-dried.

As the panel started, I noticed this other guy, around my age, who’d just published his first book. So he was at the same career level as me. He was dressed in baggy jeans, a singlet and thongs. His piece was handwritten on a scrap of paper. It was great, but I couldn’t help noticing the difference in our approaches: he felt he had nothing to prove, and I felt I had everything to prove.

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What aspirations do you have for the future?

I would love to write a YA novel someday, and I’d love to write a TV series. I feel like working on TV would be quite similar to working in mags. I loved that collaborative team environment, where everyone is working against the clock to make something amazing…and then when it’s done, you just start all over again.

To me, that’s thrilling.

Lauren Sams is a mother, freelancer writer and author. You can find more of Lauren’s work via her blog, newsletter and on social media at @laurenssams.

Words: Daisy Chein / Images: (of Lauren, her daughter and their dogs): Jade Warne