International Women's Day 2018
How are you planning to celebrate International Women’s Day?
I have three young daughters. Like all moms, I wish the best for them and want them to have happy lives. I am very proud of them and glad they are still young enough not to have experienced limitations. I will remember to tell them how much I love them, and how much I believe in them.
Was there a woman who helped you get where you are today?
My mother grew up on a farm in Wisconsin, and she was the first woman in her family to go to university. She was, and still is, my biggest supporter. Sometimes she worries that she pushed me too hard at an early age. As a mom myself, I understand this fear. But no one gets to the end of their life and says, ‘I’ve done too much.’ My mom always made sure I had opportunities, and it was up to me to make something of them. The work ethic she instilled in me helped make sure I did so. Without her, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
What are your thoughts on the role of the media in shaping young female minds?
I do worry about the impact of media on girls from a very young age – for example, my daughters all love Disney Princesses. It’s interesting how these princesses have changed over time – from kind, simpering Snow White, to the more plucky Princess Anna from Frozen. I think that’s a positive trend, but they do still give an unrealistic view of life. Now that my oldest daughter is beginning to realise that life is not all pretty dresses, wedding bells, and happily ever after, I think it’s a bit of a shock.
In my women’s fiction, I like to write about intelligent women who find creative ways to overcome the obstacles in their lives. They may not always do the smart thing in life and love, but they are all searching for fulfilment, and tend to find it, in their own unique ways. I also write children’s fiction for girls. I try to promote positive values – friendship, believing in yourself, the value of hard work, and strengthening the relationship between children and their parents. I believe that fiction can have a big impact on today’s generation of young women, and I am very committed to trying to help girls become happy, fulfilled and self-assured adults
Tell us about your newest book.
My newest book, Finding Dreams, was published on 1st March 2018. It is the story of Lizzie Greene, a widowed mum of 2 kids who discovers that her husband philandered away all their money. To make ends meet, she opens up her old house, Tanglewild, to a film crew to make a movie based on a best-selling romance novel. Finding Dreams is a book-within a book, and a film-within a book. There are all manner of fun and quirky characters, and of course, handsome hero prospects.
Lizzie is a strong, independent woman who wants the best for her children, despite going through great difficulties. I think that she’s a good role model for modern women (and hope that readers will be rooting for her to find new love).
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I think I would say that I should have been more confident and not so afraid of what people think of me. Maybe to have taken more risks, but also have been more forgiving of myself. That said, I’m happy with the person I am now, and where I’ve got to. So maybe I would say not to be so stressed all the time and try to just enjoy things more.
And on a practical note, I’d say – if you’re going to have 3 kids, make sure you live close to grandma, not halfway around the world.
What book do you go back to again and again for inspiration?
Given the sheer number of books out there that I want to read, I normally don’t read a book more than once. However, I have recently gone back to some of the books I read as a teenager in the early ‘80s. Writers like Elizabeth Peters and Victoria Holt were very good at writing likeable, readable books with good plots, interesting female characters, and a good mystery woven through. I like these books because they are less ‘dark’ than many of the books published today. I’d love to see this sort of ‘mystery/romance’ genre resurrected, because I have such fond memories of these books.
How do you define feminism? What do you say to people who claim they aren’t feminists?
I’m not a big fan of ‘isms’ or labels. But I strongly subscribe to the view that people are people, and that it’s what’s inside that matters. I am an educated professional working as a solicitor, as well as a writer. I am used to feeling like a fish out of water in a so-called ‘man’s world.’ I do my job as well or better than many male colleagues. And I can tell you that being a mother is another full time job in itself. So if someone claims they aren’t a feminist, I’d say, ‘fine’ – but if someone doesn’t appreciate the extra stress and burden placed on women at home and in the workplace, I’d say, ‘so long.’
What would you say to a young woman questioning her worth, value, or place in the world?
I’d say, the hard truth is that the world is a difficult place, and it’s up to you to forge your own place, and be your own best friend. In order to do that, you have to focus on you – what do you want? What are your goals? What do you want to achieve? Then come up with a plan for doing it. I wish when I was younger I’d been less afraid – of what people thought or me, or that I didn’t measure up. These feelings are common, but it’s up to you to push through them. It’s your life, and at the end of the day, it’s up to you to make something of it.
I’d also say, take help when you can get it. Find someone to talk to, someone who can listen and help you come up with positive steps going forward. This could be a teacher, or a counsellor, or a friend. It does help to get the feelings out and ‘share a worry’. Don’t isolate yourself – you don’t have to suffer alone.
Finally, I’d say that no matter what the past has been, there’s always a chance for a new start. Forgive yourself, forgive others, and move forward.
Probably JK Rowling. I’ve recently taken a new job in central London (UK), and am commuting by train. I know that she wrote part of Harry Potter while commuting. I try to emulate this when I’m tired after a long day and would rather be reading the newspaper or surfing my phone, like all the other commuters. Instead, I pull out my laptop and soldier on. I also love the rejection letters she’s posted, so that other writers know that it isn’t just them that can paper a room with these soul-destroying things. And, on a more shallow note, I wouldn’t mind her fame and fortune either!
Lauren Westwood is a writer of women’s fiction and a solicitor for a renewable energy company. Her debut women’s fiction book Finding Home was inspired by her family’s three-year long search for a house that made them the bane of home county estate agents. Her follow-up novel, Finding Secrets was similarly inspired by her love of old houses, history, and, of course, handsome romantic heroes! Her new book, Finding Dreams is out now.