Shanta Everington and The Terrible Twos

Shanta Everington is a hugely talented and hardworking writer*. In celebration of her latest publication success, The Terrible Twos: A Parent’s Guide, she’s dropped by my blog so I could pick her incredible brains …

Could you please tell me a little about the book, and how you came to write it? What makes ‘The Terrible Twos’ different from other parent guides?

S: The inspiration for ‘The Terrible Twos: A Parent’s Guide’ came from my son and our trials and tribulations through the ‘terrible twos’. I found that a lot of parenting books seemed to offer very prescriptive advice with a ‘one size fits all’ mentality and that didn’t make sense to me. After all, every parent and child is different. When my son and I were struggling through the ‘terrible twos’, I found it so useful to hear from other parents about their experiences. My son threw major traffic stopping tantrums! Some parents had no problems with tantrums at all but worried themselves sick about faddy eaters. For others, the potty had become an object of much fear and hatred! Sleep regularly cropped up in the conversations. So many parents were wonderfully generous in contributing case studies and quotes for the book. There are parenting books written by non-parents (e.g. SuperNanny and Gina Ford) and parenting books written by journalists with no professional childcare training. I’m a parent and a qualified early years teacher, so hopefully I can contribute personal experience and professional expertise. The book also draws on the experiences of a wide range of other parents and every chapter includes a real life case study. My book is unique because it doesn’t tell parents ‘how to’ parent or what they ‘should’ be doing. Rather it recognises that every family is different and offers a range of strategies to help parents find their own way to transform the ‘terrible twos’ into the ‘terrific twos’!

How do you find writing non-fiction in comparison to fiction? Is either easier? Do you juggle both at the same time?

S: I really enjoy both but the process is very different. For me, writing fiction is more organic and fluid. I start with a burning idea and character(s) that I feel I just have to write about and I go with the flow. With non-fiction, the contents have to be more mapped out at the start, especially if commissioned in advance. But I was surprised to discover that the writing can still take unexpected turns.

I don’t think either is necessarily easier but non-fiction seems easier to put down and pick up again. It’s a slightly more detached process, although I did get very passionately engaged with this book! If I’m working on a novel, I really need to be able to immerse myself in the characters’ worlds and live and breathe through them. I find it very intense and I have to be in the right ‘place’. There are other challenges with writing non-fiction – for me, there was a lot more research for starters! I planned to juggle both at the same time but it was too hard! So I tend to focus on one at a time. 🙂
You’ve previously had two stunning novels published (‘Marilyn and Me’and ‘Give me a Sign’), how has the publishing process varied with ‘The Terrible Twos’?

S: (Blushing…) Thank you, Megan. With both my novels, I wrote them without a publisher in mind. I wrote them for myself, focusing on the integrity of the characters and the story and only when they were finished, redrafted and edited several times did I start to think about finding a suitable publisher.
With ‘The Terrible Twos’, I sent a proposal (synopsis, contents, sample chapter) to the publisher and was commissioned on the basis of that. It was exciting to have a publisher on board at the outset but a little scary to see the book available to pre-order on Amazon before I’d actually finished writing it!!!
It wasn’t the first proposal I sent them but it’s obviously less time consuming to work up proposals and have them ‘rejected’ than write entire books! I have (coughs) several novels that never made it to publication.

Along with being an incredible writer (of parenting guides, education resources, journalistic articles, interviews and reviews, of novels, short stories and poetry …) you’re also a tutor and a mother – do you ever sleep?

S: (Blushing again…) You are way too kind. Well, I certainly survive on a lot less sleep than I used to! It’s true that I am very busy right now but there was a long time when it seemed that many doors were closed to me so I don’t like to complain about it!

What’s next for you, Shanta?

S: Well, Need2Know have commissioned me to write a second book, ‘Baby’s First Year: A Parent’s Guide’, which will be published in 2011. So I’m just starting to gather material for that. If anyone reading this has a baby and wants to be included in the book, please do get in touch via my website (!
In terms of other writing, I have two short stories appearing in two different anthologies this year – ‘Yasmina’s Elbow’ in ‘Even More Tonto Short Stories‘ (Tonto Books) and ‘Graft’ in ‘Mosaic Open Anthology’ (Bridge House Publishing), which is really exciting too.

Thank you, Shanta!

S: No, thank you!!!
* Not only is Shanta an incredibly talented, productive and inspiring writer, she’s also completely lovely. I first met her three years ago, when I read alongside her and the fabulous Caroline Smailes at Manchester Central library. We were each reading from our debut novels and it’s been wonderful following these wonderful women’s writing journeys.

Can’t wait to see where we all go from here . . .