Call Me Mummy: Q&A with Tina Baker

18 February 2021

Have you wondered what inspired the author, Tina Baker, to write about stealing a child? Or maybe you’ve thought about how much of her own self she poured into her characters?

Or, you’re just itching to know what Tina’s next book is? (You and us both!).

Find all the answers, and more, below.

1. Call Me Mummy is your debut novel, and previously you spent years working in TV. What made you decide to start writing?
I’ve always written. At school I’d write stories and poems for myself, not just in English lessons. I kept it secret. It didn’t do to seem soft back there, back then. I was hit on the head with a chair when I entered a Cadbury’s chocolate writing competition. To add insult to actual injury, I didn’t win. I always wanted to write a novel but couldn’t find the time or head space to write fiction when I was a journalist. When my dad died, I finally decided to go for it and did my MA in Creative Writing at City University.

2. The characters of Kim and Mummy are so vivid, both flawed and relatable. Are they based on anyone in real life? Are there parts of your own personality in there?
The three main characters are all parts of me. Don’t hate me! Obviously, I’ve exaggerated because I haven’t actually stolen a child. Honest! I empathise with both Kim and Mummy, although I’m mainly Tonya. Kim’s friend Ayesha is based on the ladies I taught to keep fit at Finsbury Park Mosque.

3. In Call Me Mummy you explore how the media can turn on women who don’t conform to the ideals of motherhood. Why did you decide to include it in the novel?
I was horrified by the treatment of Madeleine McCann’s parents. As if losing a child’s not the worst thing in the world, you’re then crucified in the press. I never did much news reporting as a journalist, but I’ve read stuff that chills my blood. Even if the story’s balanced, people remember headline quotes like ‘Scummy Mummy’ which can ruin someone’s life. Woman can’t win in the media. We’re too fat, too thin, too confident, too bolshy— slammed for being a working mum or a stay-at-home mum. A man can turn up to the school gates with coke up his nose and a hooker on his arm and it’s like, ‘Bless! He’s come to collect the kids.’

4. Which crime writers most inspire you? Is there a book that you want to recommend to everyone?
I confess, I hadn’t read much crime until I was told I was a crime writer. Not one single Agatha Christie. Please don’t stone me in the street. I’ve now read a lot of my Viper colleagues’ work. Dave Jackson makes me laugh, Janice Hallett challenges my brain, Catriona Ward hooks my emotions. Shuggie Bain is the book that most touched me recently. The working class/underclass experience is very close to my heart. Not crime? What Thatcher did to Shuggie’s community was a bloody crime.

5. Can you tell us something about your next book? No spoilers!
Nasty Little Cuts explores those small niggles, resentments and cruelties that build and build within relationships, and then in highly charged situations like Christmas can erupt into something horrific. Bridget Jones meets Jack Reacher.

Tina Baker was brought up in a caravan after her mother, a fairground traveller, fell pregnant by a window cleaner. After leaving the bright lights of Coalville, she came to London and worked as a journalist and broadcaster for thirty years. She’s probably best known as a television critic for the BBC and GMTV. Call Me Mummy is Tina’s first novel.

You can follow the brilliant Tina Baker here.

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