Author Interview: Amanda Ortlepp

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Amanda Ortlepp is the debut author of our latest book club title Claiming Noah, you can read my review and our reader comments on the stunning novel HERE.

The book explores medical technology in a way that was new to me, and is close to the hearts of many I know, so I had to find out more.

Hi Amanda, welcome to Beauty and Lace.

What made you want to be a writer?

I read voraciously as a child and was obsessed with books even before I could read them – my mother says that when I was a baby I’d throw all of the toys out of my cot as soon as she put them in there with me, but I’d always hang on to the books. Reading progressed to writing and it’s become my creative outlet. I can’t sing or paint or play a musical instrument, but I can create characters and tell stories about their worlds.

Claiming Noah is your debut novel, can you tell us a little about it?

Claiming Noah is about two women on either side of an embryo donation. Catriona and her husband, James, decide to anonymously donate an excess embryo they created through IVF. Diana and her husband, Liam, adopt and implant this embryo to raise as their own child. Catriona has a difficult pregnancy and then struggles to bond with her son after he is born. She develops postpartum psychosis and is hospitalised for her and her son’s safety. Diana on the other hand loves being a mother to her son, Noah. But when he is only two months old, Noah is kidnapped.

The story is told in alternating chapters from the viewpoints of the two women and examines how the actions of one woman affects the other. It deals with infertility, loss and betrayal, and questions what it really means to be a parent.

Where did the inspiration for this highly emotional story come from?

I hadn’t heard about embryo donation before I started writing Claiming Noah. I knew a little about IVF, but I didn’t realise it was possible to donate excess embryos to another couple. It came up in conversation with my sister one day (she knew a couple who were about to adopt a donated embryo) and the topic fascinated me immediately because of all the issues I could explore with it: legal, ethical, moral, social, religious. I was writing a different book at the time, but I knew this was the story I had to write.

How much research was required?

I did a lot of research because I wanted to make sure the story was plausible, although I really hope no-one ever has to deal with what I put my poor characters through! Majority of my research time went into making sure I had the logistics of embryo donation right and that I was correctly portraying how it felt to experience postpartum psychosis.

Do you plot first? What can you tell us about your writing process?

I’m not disciplined enough to do all my research and plotting before I start writing. I get excited about a story and want to jump straight into writing it. I do put together a high-level outline of the story early on though – I compile a spreadsheet with details of each scene and I update it as I go. As well as helping me to picture the overall story it also allows me to write scenes out of order. I generally write chronologically, but some days I don’t feel like writing the scene I’m up to so I’ll skip ahead to one that interests me more. Then on the days I’m more motivated I’ll go back and fill in the gaps.

amanda ortlepp

Did your characters in Claiming Noah at times do things that surprised you?

The characters became very real to me, so it always seemed obvious as I was writing the story what they would do next.

Being your first book can you tell us what it felt like the first time you held a finished copy in your hands?

Wonderful. Terrifying. Surreal. To be honest, I still haven’t been brave enough to read anything past the title page in case I find something I want to rewrite!

Have you got a favourite time of day to write?

I usually write during the day, but I write much better late at night. There’s something about the darkness and silence that promotes intense focus and total absorption. I come up with ideas at night that I could never think of during the day.

What is at the top of your TBR pile at the moment?

I’m torn between The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman and The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader.

Can you tell us about the 2015 release you are most looking forward to?

I’m not sure if it will come out this year, but I know Hannah Kent has been working on a second novel and after her incredible debut novel, Burial Rites, I can’t wait to read her next one.
(I can’t completely understand that, and I agree. I am looking forward to her next one too.)

What are your working on next?

I’ve finished the first draft of a manuscript set on the Eyre Peninsula, on the western side of the Spencer Gulf in South Australia. My father grew up on a farm in that area, and my grandparents lived there most of their lives. It’s a story about a woman with a history of bad relationships who moves to a small country town with her two teenage sons, intending to start a better life for all of them, but two people threaten to unravel the life she has tried so hard to rebuild. One is a man from her past; the other is her youngest son. It’s a story about making mistakes, starting over, and the danger of holding grudges.

What does being a woman mean to you?

I love being a woman, despite the many challenges that come with it. Women are powerful and resilient. We form incredibly strong emotional bonds and we support and champion each other. I don’t know what I’d do without the love and support of all the wonderful women in my life.

Thanks for your time Amanda.

You can follow Amanda on Twitter.

Claiming Noah is available now from all good booksellers and Simon & Schuster.

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