Romance novelist Kat French on being the breadwinner

She turned her hand to novel-writing while at home with two young sons – and soon became successful enough to quit the day job. Now, Kat French is the sole earner, and her husband looks after the children and housework…

I’m a full time romantic comedy writer from the Black Country, which isn’t the most glamorous location to write romance, I know! Although the lovely thing about romance is that it happens everywhere, it doesn’t always have to be set on a lush tropical island or in a snow-capped mountain cabin. I live with my husband, our two young sons and two anti-social cats. Our boys are thirteen and ten, so as you can imagine it’s never quiet in our house.

We’re pretty fortunate with our set-up these days. When the boys were babies my husband used to work huge hours at a job he didn’t especially enjoy, and I was on maternity leave from my job in HR with the Civil Service. I started writing whilst I was off with the boys, and after a couple of false starts things were going well enough for it to make sense for us to flip roles at home.

That was back in 2012; my husband gave up that job to take over the house and the lion’s share of child-related things, and we decorated the spare room out as my brand new office. It’s pretty girly; as the only female in a house where every other room is a temple to Lego and remote control cars, I was in heaven creating a space just for me.

Discipline is something I’ve had to work hard cultivate; we’ve both had to, to be honest. Working from home is a double-edged sword – it’s brilliant in that there is no commute, no boss, and no set hours, but the work still has to get done.

I’m grateful that I have deadlines to work to; they are the framework I hang my working week around.

Parenting seems to lurch from one worry to the next as they grow older

Our flipped roles have thrown up lots of challenges at home. Just being together twenty-four seven is a challenge in itself! One of the things we’ve had to adjust to is not having individual working lives to talk about and share at the end of the day, and I know for James it’s been a huge transition from being the main earner in the house to being in charge of the washing, the cooking, the shopping and the cleaning. He’s done a pretty heroic job on the domestic front, but the most valued change for us is the amount of time he’s getting to spend with the kids as they grow up. He takes care of the school runs, the cricket matches and the assemblies now, and I still get to go in every now and then for parents evenings and sports days.

The best thing for me is the adaptability that the job affords me. I can and do work office hours up in my office, but they once the boys come home I can stop and spend time with them, then pick up again downstairs on the sofa once they’re in bed.

My biggest challenge is probably switching off. I take my laptop everywhere with me, and invariably spend time working when we are on holidays. For that reason we most often book a villa with a pool, Wi-Fi and a comfortable outside seating area; the kids can spend the days in the pool, and I can sit under a sunbrella writing with a huge G&T next to me. It’s not a bad sacrifice really, because I love writing so much it doesn’t feel like work. I make sure to do my share of sunbathing, reading and swimming too.

It took me until my late thirties to seriously write, even though I’d always known it was what I wanted to do

Our family goals going forward are really to keep things running as they are. Our youngest son starts senior school this year, so we’ll soon have two teenagers under our roof and all of the associated shenanigans that go along with that.

Parenting seems to lurch from one worry to the next as they grow older. In the beginning it used to be whether they’d sleep through and how to encourage them to be more adventurous with food, where as now it’s how to get them to do their homework, the perils of keeping them safe on-line, and which subjects to study to help them on their way later in life.

They’re not really sure what they want to do yet, although my little one is showing strong signs of wanting to follow me into writing. He’s already picked out his pseudonym, and I’m forever finding little diaries and notes he’s made. I’d encourage him all the way if he takes it more seriously when he’s older. It took me until my late thirties to seriously write, even though I’d always known it was what I wanted to do in my heart of hearts. If there’s one thing I’d like for my boys, it’s for them to work out early what they’re good at and what they enjoy; if they can find a job that combines the two, then as far as I’m concerned they’ve hit the jackpot.

Bed and Breakfast on the Beach by Kat French is out now in paperback.

Main image credit: all from Designspiration (pens by Present and Correct)