I’m giving birth to a book (and a baby!)

I’m giving birth to a book (and a baby!) Winner of the Daily Mail’s First Novel Competition reveals how she balances motherhood with writing her second tome

  • Author Lizzy Barber, 32, won the Daily Mail First Novel Competition in 2017 
  • She spoke about the thrill of publishing her first novel and becoming a mother 
  • She says the ending of her book My Name Is Anna has divided readers
  • Lizzy claims being conscious of readers makes writing her second book hard

A cold and alcohol-free January may be cheerless for most people but, for Lizzy Barber, it’s turning into the most exciting month of her life.

Yesterday, her first novel, My Name Is Anna, was published and, in the next couple of weeks she’ll give birth to her first baby, a boy.

When Lizzy, 32, won the Daily Mail First Novel Competition in 2017, she was working as a marketing manager for her brother’s restaurant business. She lived the life of a busy and successful young Londoner, socialising with friends along with her husband George, whom she met while they were at Cambridge University.

She simply couldn’t have imagined that, just over a year later, she’d be a published author and about to become a mother — and she is clearly thrilled by both roles.

‘Being pregnant has changed my life completely — it has given it a lot more purpose. And having my novel published at the same time is so exciting: I now have two new jobs!

Lizzy Barber, 32, (pictured) won the Daily Mail First Novel Competition in 2017 for her thriller My Name Is Anna

‘Finishing my novel and going through the editing process with the brilliant people at Century has been fascinating.

‘I’ve always enjoyed working with my brother in the restaurant trade, but now I realise I should always have been writing. It’s what I enjoy most, so maybe this year will bring about a complete shift.

‘I have to start thinking of myself as an author now. Some people have asked me why I’m writing a second novel, as if you stop after the first one.

‘George is also working on a book about modern British food and it’s lovely to have that creative outlet together.’

My Name Is Anna is a dark psychological thriller in which Emily, a British toddler on holiday with her family in Florida, is abducted from a theme park by a religious fanatic who raises Emily — now named Anna — as her own daughter.


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In a parallel storyline, we see the lasting effect on her grieving birth family back home in London, especially on her younger sister, Rosie. It’s a complex and emotional story with no simple resolution.

But the ending has a twist. ‘I know it’s a bit “Marmite” — some people love it and some hate it — but I like the fact it’s a bit controversial,’ says Lizzy.

‘I read a lot about previous kidnapping cases and how complex the emotions involved are for both the victim and the families. I was also influenced by Emma Donoghue’s book Room, which shows how hard it is to get back into the life that has been left behind.’

The narrative is written from the perspectives of the two siblings: Emily/Anna in Florida and Rosie, in Islington, North London.

Lizzy spent time researching kidnapping cases while writing My Name Is Anna 

‘Initially, Rosie seems to be the character with greater strength but, actually, Anna is the one who progresses through her awful experiences and learns so much about emotions and human behaviour,’ says Lizzy.

Early reviews have been excellent, but now, Lizzy must find time to finish her second book, which is set in Florence.

‘I’m finding the second novel harder. The first one you write for yourself, but with the second, you are conscious of writing for the reader. You are better educated about the nature of publishing a book and start second-guessing what the reader wants.

‘I know I have to finish it but, like most writers, I need a strict deadline. With the baby due any minute, the deadline has been delayed, so I have to be careful I don’t let it drift.’

Lizzy is full of optimism, however, that life as a new mother will allow her to spend time on her laptop and immerse herself in her story once again. ‘I’m hoping that once he’s born and I’m not working full- time, I’ll have the headspace to finish the book.’

Well, we wish her all the luck — and hope that little baby is a sleeper!


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