The inspiration behind The Secrets of Midwives
Sally Hepworth shares the inspiration behind her novel, The Secrets of Midwives.
There is a saying among writers “Write the book you want to read.” Sally Hepworth shares why for her, this was the reason she wrote her powerful novel, The Secrets of Midwives.
It was a case of art imitating life, when I wrote The Secrets of Midwives. I was three months pregnant and looking for a story idea when, like a bolt of lightning from above, I knew what I wanted to write about.
There is a saying among writers "Write the book you want to read". Being pregnant, I was finding myself drawn to novels about birth, such as The Birth House by Ami McKay and Midwives By Chris Bohjalian. I had always thought there was a certain magic to midwifery––for a while, after I left high school, I even considered becoming a midwife. When I look back, it seems obvious that I was going to write about midwives. And, once I decided that's what this book was going to be about, I was excited to get stuck in.
For me, the best plots start with a question. The question I landed on for The Secrets of Midwives was: "Why would a woman hide the identity of her baby's father". At first, I didn't know why she was hiding it (and they say if the author doesn't know, the reader will never guess!), but as I wrote, I started to figure it out.
First up, I had some research to do! I am not a midwife, but I was determined to get my facts right in this book, so research was key. So, I spent about three months reading about midwifery. Novels, memoirs, medical books. I also watched a lot of videos––was pretty terrifying for my husband at first when he'd arrive home from work to the sounds of a woman in advanced labour (keeping in mind that I was pregnant at the time). And as I researched, I became captivated, particularly by the 1950s period.
At first, I'd thought I was going to write about a mother and a daughter only––which I decided when I found out I was pregnant with a daughter––but once I fell in love with 1950s midwifery, a grandmother (Floss) was born. And I knew this was going to be a story about generations, secrets and that powerful life-changing experience of becoming a mother.
But when all is said and done, The Secrets of Midwives is a book about family. What makes a mother, what binds a family together, and the role biology places in this. In writing this book, I found answers to a whole lot of questions I never knew I had. And I suspect it is no coincidence that this book took me nine months to write. In the end, I gave birth to two babies that year––my daughter, and this book.