Archive for the ‘Dear Thing’ Category




Filed under: contests, Dear Thing, free book

16118443DEAR THING is out in hardback today! And to celebrate, I’ll be giving away two signed hardback copies of the book, along with a copy of Claire’s lemon drizzle cake recipe. (Which is seriously yummy. Claire makes good cakes.)

One giveaway is on Twitter. All you have to do is tweet who your dearest thing is…the person you love the most right at this very moment…with the hash tag #dearthing. I’ll choose a winner at end of day today.

The other giveaway is for my newsletter subscribers. If you’re a newsletter subscriber, you don’t have to do a thing. I’ll choose a winner and email them tomorrow. If you’re not a newsletter subscriber, all you have to do is sign up for the newsletter today, by filling in the handy form on the right of this page here. —————–>

Both contests end at midnight tonight, 11 April 2013. Winners will be chosen at random.

Here’s what the novel is about, and one or two early reviews:

This is the story of Claire and Ben, who are perfectly in love – in fact, who are seemingly perfect in almost every way. Except one. They can’t have a baby.

It’s also the story of Ben’s best friend Romily, who after years of watching Ben and Claire suffer, offers to have a baby for them.

But being pregnant stirs up all kinds of feelings in Romily – feelings she’d rather keep buried, but can’t. Now there are two mothers – and one baby who belongs to both of them, and which only one of them can keep.

Thought-provoking, heart-rending but ultimately uplifting, Dear Thing is a book you won’t be able to put down, until you pass it on to your best friends.


Dear Thing is an emotional read, as it covers guilt, love, hidden feelings, jealously, sorrow and hope among many others. It is a complex novel with many layers to unravel and devour, and it is a truly gripping read that will have you turning the pages desperate to know what is going to happen next. —Reading in the Sunshine

I loved the writing style, the plot and the characters and would recommend this to fans of Jojo Moyes and Lisa Jewell. —Random Things Through My Letterbox

‘A compelling, fascinating and deeply affecting tale of two mothers, and a baby that only one of them can keep. Julie Cohen is an expert at making you care about her characters, and feel every nuance of emotion as they do. A truly brilliant writer who kept me gripped until the end.’ —Rowan Coleman

‘A gripping reading experience, where one is compelled to unravel the results. The emotional reality for each character is beautifully drawn…Vivid and psychologically convincing’ —We Love This Book

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Filed under: Dear Thing, friends


Well, Dear Thing comes out on Thursday  in hardback, and I am sort of excited. Well, really excited. It’s even more exciting because Saturday is my birthday.

On Thursday evening, though, I will be celebrating with my friend and fellow Reading Writer, Claire Dyer. Claire’s first poetry collection, Eleven Rooms, is also published on Thursday the 11th by Two Rivers Press. Claire is a fantastic poet and novelist (her debut novel, The Moment, is out this autumn, in fact on the same day that Dear Thing comes out in paperback) and one of the most dedicated writers I know. It’s a privilege to share publication day with her.

Meanwhile, I’ve put up a short excerpt from Dear Thing on my website here, and I’m putting it on my blog as well.


‘Do you have children?’

Claire shifted slightly on Lacey’s sofa to face the woman who was talking to her.  She didn’t know most of the women in the room. Two of them were from school—Lacey had just started teaching geography last year, ironically to cover another teacher’s maternity leave—but the others were Lacey’s friends or family. All of the guests had been seated around the room according to birth sign; it was supposed to help break the ice and help them get to know each other.

‘No,’ she answered, doing her best to put on a gracious smile, as she always did when asked this question by someone who didn’t know. Today, it was a lot easier.

‘No wonder your skin is so gorgeous! All that sleep.’ The woman leaned forward. She had straightened hair and blue circles under her eyes. ‘Tell me—do you get to go to restaurants?’


The woman let out a long stream of a sigh. ‘Oh, I dream of restaurants. Ones that have proper cutlery. And menus that aren’t designed for children to colour in.’

‘I get excited about a bowl of chips at the soft play centre,’ added the woman on the other side of Claire.

‘Tell me about it,’ said the first one. ‘Do you know how Paul and I celebrated our wedding anniversary? Tub of Häagen-Dazs at the cinema during a Disney film.’

‘I forgot about ours,’ called another woman from across the room. ‘Harry and Abby both had the chicken pox. I remembered two days later and it hardly seemed worth it.’

‘Does your husband give you flowers?’ the first woman asked Claire.

‘Er…sometimes.’ There had been a bouquet on the table when she came downstairs this morning.

‘I got flowers for Valentine’s day last year!’ said the second woman. ‘Ellie ate them. We had to go to A&E. I didn’t get flowers this year.’

‘Were they poisonous?’

‘We were mostly worried about the cellophane wrapper. She didn’t do a poo for three days. I was terrified.’

‘Once, Alfie didn’t do a poo for two weeks. I shovelled enough puréed prunes into him to choke a horse.’

‘You have all this to come,’ said the first woman to Lacey. Lacey sat in a flowered armchair in the sunny, cramped front room of her flat, her hands laced over her protruding stomach. She smiled as if the idea of shovelling puréed prunes into a baby’s mouth was just about the best thing in the entire world.

Claire thought that probably wasn’t too far from wrong.

‘Wine?’ Lacey’s mother, who was a sweet lady with very red hair, was circulating the room with a bottle of pinot grigio. Claire shook her head and held up her glass, already full of mineral water. ‘That’s a beautiful cake you’ve made,’ Lacey’s mother said. ‘And so delicious. Aren’t you having any?’

‘Thank you. And no, I don’t really eat cake.’

‘Are you gluten-free?’ asked the first woman. ‘No wonder you’re so slim. I just look at a piece of bread and I gain half a stone.’

‘I just try to eat healthily,’ said Claire. ‘But I love making cakes, so.’

‘What’s the baby going to be called?’ someone asked Lacey.

‘We’re calling him Billy.’

There was a collective sigh of appreciation.

‘I like the simple names,’ said the first woman. ‘There are too many trendy names around. There’s a girl at Alfie’s nursery called Fairybelle.’

The women launched into a discussion of their children’s names: what they were almost called, what they were glad they weren’t called, what they would have been called if they had been born the opposite sex. The woman whose daughter had eaten the cellophane off her flowers got up to use the loo and Georgette, the other St Dominick’s teacher, slipped into the place next to Claire.

‘I’m sorry,’ she murmured. ‘It’s all baby talk.’

‘It’s okay. I’m used to it. Besides, it’s Lacey’s day. She looks wonderful, doesn’t she?’

They both looked at Lacey. She was generally the sort of person who didn’t call much attention to herself: a hiker, a camper, a good teacher.

She looked wonderful.

‘Still,’ said Georgette, ‘I think that people could be a little bit more sensitive. Not everyone wants to talk about babies all the time.’

Georgette had two children. Claire remembered when the youngest had been born; it was about the time Claire herself had gone through her third and final IVF treatment that had been allowed on the NHS, before they’d gone private. Claire had been given an invitation to the christening, but there was a little hand-written note in it: I’ll understand if you don’t want to be around babies.

She hadn’t gone to the christening, not to avoid the babies but to avoid the understanding.

The women in this room were complaining about their lives, but underneath they were happy. Claire could almost smell it, with the nose of an outsider. They exuded warm yeasty contentment. It was the same way, she noticed, whenever women with young children got together. The conversation revolved around little sacrifices or disasters, about mishaps and made-up worries, but its function wasn’t to communicate information: it was to establish relationship. To mark out common ground.

We are mothers. We do battle with nappies and Calpol. Look upon our offspring, ye mighty, and despair.

The truth was, she would give up anything to be like the women in this room.  She was tired of feeling the sharp stab of pain every time she passed a playground.  That raw drag of yearning at Christmas. She was tired of feeling like a failure, once a month, like clockwork.

But that didn’t mean she wanted to talk about it. Or to be pitied.

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coming to life

Filed under: Dear Thing

My lovely publicist at Transworld (@LynseyDalladay) has just tweeted a photograph of a proof copy of DEAR THING, which they are sending out to press and bloggers now ahead of its hardback publication in April. Looky-looky:


I’m completely blown away by this. It’s like this letter, to Dear Thing, which I wrote as part of the book, which was the first part of this book I wrote in fact (and which is on page 1 of the book by the way), has been put into handwriting and put on the cover and now it is real, a real letter, which one of my characters really wrote. I can see my character writing it, in blue ink, on white paper. It’s quite an extraordinary feeling for me. It feels as if my imagination has come to life.

It’s also pretty extraordinary to feel that this book, which has been such a journey for me, is on its way to readers. Which is how a writer’s imagination really comes to life.






Filed under: Dear Thing

2013-02-08 10.01.46

page proofs of Dear Thing


I got the page proofs for my new novel, DEAR THING, in the post yesterday. This is always an exciting moment. It’s nearly as exciting as seeing the finished book, because this is the first time I’ll see the chapter headings, the font, the way it will look on the page.

It’s the first time an author sees her book nearly as a book, as a thing out there in the world. Right now it’s still a pile of paper, but one day…






crows, always the crows

Filed under: crows, Dear Thing

Super Editor has my book. Super Editor is reading my book. Soon, Super Editor will send me edits for my book.

Any author who tells you this is not shit-scary: they are LYING.





revising (or, making a mess)

Filed under: crows, Dear Thing, writing

I’m revising my book. On the upside, I love revising. It’s the chance to take my POS (Piece of Shit) manuscript and make it into a real, coherent, reasonably well-written story. The right-brain process of creation becomes the left-brain process of analysis. And I LOVE analysis.

On the down side, if I’ve started revising a book, that means I have to give it in soon. Which means I’ll be leaving this wonderful world and people that I’ve invented behind. It also means that for the first time, this poor little story, my waking dream, is going to be subjected to the keen eyes of my agent, my editor, and the entire team at my publisher. To say nothing of the keen and critical eyes of readers. This particular manuscript is the first one for my new publisher, Transworld, and it’s a new direction for me—not a romance, but more a relationship story between two mothers and a child. It also has quite a quick turnaround time ahead of it—I’m due to give it in next month, and it’s scheduled to come out in hardback in April. Six months is a very short amount of time in publishing.

So revision, in this case at least, involves quite a bit of The Fear.

However, one of the glorious things about revision is that I get to make an enormous mess, guilt-free. Here are some photos of my process thus far:


This is my manuscript. I wrapped it up in rubber bands and cling film to transport it from the US (where I had it printed out at The Maine Press because my parents’ printer is slooooooooooow). This was a good idea, because it meant that the ms wasn’t damaged in my suitcase. But it was a bad idea, because it is very very tempting not to unwrap such a tightly-packaged thing at all. But I did.

Going through ms and changing it

This requires certain aids.

Notes, chocolate wrappers and tea

When I’ve finished entering my changes into the computer, I chuck the pages on the floor. This gives me a great feeling of accomplishment.

That's about 230 pages revised.

And I also like to spread the mess around the house. BECAUSE I CAN! THIS IS WORK!

Not far to go now.





calendar and post-it plotting

Filed under: Dear Thing, writing

One of my most popular posts on this blog is Post-It Plotting, but as one writer pointed out, my normal Post-It plots don’t include any sort of a calendar or timeline.

I’m working on Dear Thing, which is the story of two women and one pregnancy. It has two points of view, which is something I haven’t done for a while, and it has to be plotted out over the course of ten months which, because one character is a child and one is a teacher, must include three school terms and three school holidays.

My brain is far too small to process all of this, so I decided to do a bit of keeping track. I went to Staples and bought a financial year planner (I would have bought a normal year planner, but my novel just happens to start in March and finish in January, so an April to April one is much better). I coloured in the school holidays, determined what date one of my characters would have conceived, and wrote in 40 weeks’ worth of pregnancy. Then I started to plot events, from two points of view, on the calendar.

I had to cut the Post-Its into smaller strips to fit on the calendar. That is a down side.

It’s very rough as of yet, and only covers half the novel so far (because—ahem—that’s all I’ve written). But I’m finding it extremely useful.

And then some stuff happens. Yes, there's a character called Jarvis. I'm quite excited about that.





lucky 7

Filed under: Dear Thing, writing

Kate Hardy tagged me with this Lucky 7 meme.

Rules: go to p77 of your current work, 7th line down, and paste the next 7 sentences. Then tag 7 others.

I’m working on Dear Thing. It’s the story of Claire and Ben, who can’t have children, and Ben’s best friend Romily, who offers to act as a surrogate for them. Romily’s a single mum, and Posie is her daughter.

This is when Claire comes to Romily’s flat for the first time:

            ‘This is nice,’ Claire said, trying to hide the implication that she hadn’t expected it to be.

          Claire followed Romily’s gaze as it settled on the worn carpet and then glanced over two dying potted plants on the windowsill. ‘Well, it does all right for me and Pose. Cup of tea?’

            Romily scooped up Posie’s crumpled school uniform from the sofa and kicked a pair of stray trainers aside on her way to the kitchenette, which was fitted into an alcove in the main room. Posie appeared in the doorway, her face wreathed in smiles, and ran to Ben to give him a hug, and then Claire.

            ‘I didn’t know you were coming over!’ she said happily. ‘Come to my room, I need to show you my base camp—I’m in Peru today.’  

This is actually an interesting exercise. It can show you whether you’re lacking tension in your work. I’ll admit that after cutting and pasting, I did a little editing out of unnecessary sentences, so that this extract would show what I wanted it to: the contrast between Claire and Romily, how Romily feels that Claire is judging her, and Posie’s imagination and love for the other couple. I’ll probably keep the edit in the ms.

I’m rubbish at tagging people, but if you’re moved to do this on your own blog, add a link on the comments so I can come and see. Or if you don’t have a blog, put yours in the comments!


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