Brighton based writer of “One Morning, One Moment” discusses the role of gender in writing and how women are represented in literature.
Words by Molly Openshaw
Sarah Rayner is the author of both non-fiction and fiction books including “The Two Week Wait” and “Making Friends with Anxiety”. Based in Brighton, Sarah is a member of The Beach Hut Writers- a group of writers in Brighton who meet up regularly to discuss writing. Her novels focus on women’s issues and Sarah has previously written for Women’s Own Magazine.
Sarah got into writing when she was very young and has always had a passion for writing and drawing.
“I’ve written stories since I was a girl. As far back as I can remember, I was writing stories and illustrating them. I still have some of the books I wrote then, as I am a terrible hoarder and never throw anything away. My mother, Mary Rayner, who is 87 and lives near me and my husband Tom in Hove, is an author too. She is best known for a series of picture books, which she wrote and illustrated.”
Sarah described that one of her main role models is her mother, Mary Rayner, because of their shared passion for reading and writing. Other role models include Laura Ingalls Wilder and LM Montgomery.
“I would read and reread the Little House and Anne books every school holiday. But my first literary love affair was with Mrs Tiggy Winkle, the hedgehog washwoman in Beatrix Potter’s classic children’s book. When I was very small indeed, I went through our copy scribbling ‘dear’ at every mention of her name. Only I spelt it ‘daer’ as I was only about three at the time.”
Sarah’s biggest selling novel has been One Moment, One Morning. This book was published in 2010 and is still being translated into languages and being read around the world. Sarah has written five novels in total as well as some non-fiction books. Her book Making Friends With Anxiety has sold lots of copies despite Sarah publishing it independently meaning it has not had the same presence in bookstores like her other novels.
When discussing gender and writing Sarah explains that she does not believe that we have reached gender equality yet. This is reflected in her writing, she explains, both consciously and unconsciously. Sarah has written books that reflect her experiences, with titles aiming very explicitly at female readers for example Making Friends with the Menopause. In this book Sarah tries to demystify and inform others about a subject many women find hard to speak about.
“I was spurred to write this because I’d experienced horrible anxiety in the run-up to menopause and had noticed other women I knew personally had suffered similarly. When I tried to find a pithy, informed book that that explored the physiological and psychological impact of ceasing menstruation, I simply could not find one. I worked for many years in advertising, and spotted a gap in the market, so decided to write that book myself. Maybe this is why people often say, ‘Write the sort of book you want to read,’ and there is truth in this. That said, I’m not convinced ‘There is a novel in everyone’, or if there is, it’s as I have often retorted, ‘Yup, there might be, but it could be a dreadful novel.’ Being a passionate reader does not make a good writer, just as being an avid music fan does not make a good musician. Writing is a skill, and it takes practice and discipline to hone that craft.”
At the moment, Sarah is making some final edits on her new novel, with her deadline approaching on the 15th March she is working closely with her agent to finish.
“Readers who have enjoyed my other novels will find plenty of ‘Sarah Rayner’ touches in this one. It’s an emotive storyline which I believe will widely resonate and, like One Moment, One Morning, prompt readers to shed a tear or two. Yet this one is quite different from my other novels, and without wanting to tempt fate, I have a good feeling about it. To say more would risk spoilers, so I’ll finish with the words, watch this space and ask readers of the Badger to send positive vibes into the ether.”