A day in the life…Jenny McLachlan  

Our daughters wake us early – often demanding stories or posing a profound question (Mum, why is your face like that?) – then we run round the house trying to get ready and out of the house by 7.20. After dropping the girls off at my parents’, my husband and I drive the forty minutes to school. This journey is important planning time. In November, when I secured my exciting four-book deal with Bloomsbury, I confidently claimed I could write the second book in six months. So that I can meet deadlines, I use every available minute in the day. In the car, I’ll listen to music that matches the scene I’m working on and run through events as though I’m rehearsing a play; if I’m on my own, I speak the dialogue aloud.
My books are all romantic comedies for teenagers, written in the first person so I might drive along the A27 saying things like, ‘He’s cutesome, Betty… He’s beautilicious… totally beautimus maximus!’ Which is really quite a funny thing for a 38-year-old woman to do.
My first hour at school is spent answering emails, planning, marking and generally fighting the panic caused by my behemoth ‘to-do-list’. I’m head of department so there are always issues to resolve before lessons start. I love the mad variety that comes from teaching at a large school. Today I taught the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene to my year 9s (with a balcony), started a GCSE exam, went to two meetings, ran a detention and rescued a boy’s shoe. It’s an inspiring environment for a writer. I often notice something – perhaps just a look between two students or an eccentric rucksack – that will eventually find its way into a book.
Like most teachers, break is a cup of tea and a couple of minutes of staffroom camaraderie and then back to teaching. At some point during the day, I check my personal emails. I might have messages from my agent, my editor or publicist at Bloomsbury, or from a foreign publisher. I was between lessons when I found out I’d sold the series to the US, and one lunchtime the book cover for Flirty Dancing appeared in my inbox. That was exciting, and perhaps the moment when my students believed I was writing a real book.
After a long day at school, I find it hard to give my two daughters the attention they need, but I try to get back from work in time for dinner. This is when I catch up with the girls and find out what they’ve done with my wonderful mum and dad. My husband always cooks, making everything from scratch – ice-cream, pies, pizzas, curries, and he even grows all our vegetables on the allotment. Dinner’s a real treat.
Having English teachers as parents, our girls get a lot of bedtime stories. This is a favourite time in the day for us – totally peaceful.
As soon as the girls are in the bed, I get out my laptop and start writing. I write or edit most evenings, including weekends unless I need to mark. I’ve just finished working through my UK editor’s notes for book two, and I’m planning book three while I wait for my US editor’s notes. I stop writing at some point to watch an episode of something brilliant like Game of Thrones and to have a cuddle with my neglected husband, but if I’m very into a particular scene, I will keep going until it’s late. Writing is very addictive.
No matter what time I go to bed, I always end the day by reading in a hot bath. I’ve had a few eureka moments just before I drop off to sleep and had to drag myself downstairs to find a pen and paper. In Flirty Dancing, there’s a moment when Bea says, ‘Really?’ to Ollie and he replies, ‘Really.’ Those two lines appeared in my mind in the middle of the night.
At the moment, my days are a chaotic melee of children, reading and writing. A few weeks after the book is published, I’ll stop teaching to write full time; having taught at the same school for fourteen years, it’s hard to imagine what life will be like. Hopefully, it will involve a lot more time with my children and perhaps some doing nothing. One thing I’m looking forward to is being asked what I do. ‘I’m a writer,’ I’ll say. I can’t wait.