I love books about sisters and big families – especially The Pursuit Of Love, Pride and Prejudice and Ballet Shoes – and then I realised I had a ready-made story.
I think relationships between girls and women are fascinating. Every relationship in my life has been influenced with my friendship, and occasional love/hate relationship with my five sisters.
Sisterhood is a memoir with a wider reach – it’s the story of girlhood and womanhood, and also about the expectations that are placed upon us as women, and how we can survive and form bonds in a world that isn’t designed to work for women.
It’s also about how we make each other laugh, and how my life felt like an odd Jane Austen book written as a Simpsons episode!
How did you find writing about your sisters?
Joyous, but really intense.
The subtitle is ‘a love letter to the women who shaped me’ and I wanted this to be a real tribute to them, I didn’t want to get anything wrong.
Families are made from unreliable narrators – I will remember a story one way, and my sisters will contradict me – but it was also a pleasure to remember so many happy times, and so much silliness. I cried as I wrote, but they were mostly happy tears.
What does sisterhood mean to you?
It’s about all of us loving each other, even when we don’t particularly like each other.
It’s an outward-looking feminism, and knowing that celebrating womanhood and finding strength in it isn’t just about finding what feminism can do for you as an individual.
It’s about lifting people up and amplifying as many voices as we can.
A marker in my career
When I was writing this book, it felt like a significant marker in my ten-year writing career.
I’m really proud of it, and to me it feels like the product of a decade of being a professional writer, and writing every single day.
I think it’s really important for new writers to wait and practise their skills before they start telling personal stories.
I get many messages from new writers who want to write memoir straight away – you need distance from your own stories before you tell them, and you need to learn the discipline of writing for readers, not writing for yourself.
I couldn’t have written this book any earlier – it felt like a celebration of a decade of learning on the job.
Do you think it is important for girls to forge strong relationships in their teens?
If it happens, it’s wonderful, but it’s a lot like falling in love.
We romanticise our teen friendships, and if you meet your people in your teens, they will probably be in your life forever.
But lots of people don’t meet their people until they’re well into their twenties, thirties and beyond.
So for me, it’s more important to tell girls that they aren’t failing if they haven’t forged those relationships yet.
We live such eclectic and connected lives that we have so many more opportunities to find our tribe than our parents and grandparents.
As I say in the book, your moment will come.