While the Baby Sleeps by Stephanie Hazeltine Genre: Thriller
Marnie is a first-time mum in a new town, paralysed by anxiety and pushing away her police-officer husband.
Peyton is a teen mum, living with her parents and longing to behave like other teenagers her age.
Fleur looks like the perfect picture of a mum who is coping and loving motherhood, but no one knows that under her beautiful dress, her body is covered in bruises caused by her husband.
Amalia, a single mum, lost her parents in tragic circumstances and will do anything to honour her mother’s dying wish and protect the family she has.
When these women meet at mothers’ group, they bond over feeding schedules and baby products, but when a local is found murdered, they discover it’s not their babies who will tie them to one another forever.
Each woman has a motive to kill and secrets to hide, but do they know who the real enemy is?
I’d only spent a short time learning his routine. I wasn’t even sure what I was hoping to achieve by following him. Maybe just confront him and tell him to leave, but I’d become more desperate. It was a chilly night. A cool change moved in late in the evening and brought with it a downpour of summer rain. I was rugged up from head to toe—black puffer jacket, black beanie and gloves. I blended into the night landscape.
He never saw me coming.
I hadn’t meant for this to happen though. It wasn’t premeditated, as they’d say on the cop shows. But as I followed him, images from my past flashed before me. A calmness took over. I knew what I had to do.
The blow was fast.
He was jogging, like he didn’t have a care in the world. As though he had no idea how many lives he was destroying. So, when he stopped for a moment to check his phone, something in me snapped.
He tapped away at his screen. He couldn’t hear me with those headphones on. Then I lifted the cricket bat and knocked him for six. He fell instantly.
Now, I look down at my gloved, shaking hands, splattered with blood. Lying at my feet is a cricket bat, a fitting weapon. Not planned as such. But the bat was lying on the backseat of the car, and I didn’t feel safe going into the parklands at this hour with nothing at all.
Next to the bat, his unblinking eyes stare up at me. A pool of crimson spreads out from underneath his head and mixes with the puddles of muddy water.
I take a deep breath to calm my shaking body. I look around. It’s hard to see far at this time of night. Only a few distant lampposts cast light on the parklands. I’d be surprised to find anyone else out here at this time or in this weather. There aren’t many people like him who mess with the normality of day and night.
I pick up the bat and leave. There is nothing else that ties me to this incident and the bat will be easy to chop up and add to the Coonara. I take one last look back at the body and then break into a jog. It’ll be okay, I keep telling myself.
Stephanie Hazeltine is a contemporary fiction author who writes about fearless females as they fall in love, navigate motherhood or tackle mysteries.
She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband, two kids and two cavoodles.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I’ve been a teacher for more than ten years. I had my first child in late 2019 and spent my maternity leave in lockdown with her. When she napped, I was so bored and one day I told a friend that I’d love to write a book but I don’t know how. She recommended some courses and two years later, here I am.
What are some of your pet peeves?
Noisy eaters and people who park in parent carparks but don’t have kids.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I was born in Melbourne, Australia and grew up in the South East suburbs of Melbourne.
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
Spending as much time as possible outside with my husband and the kids – riding bikes, swimming, kicking a ball around, dancing to music. Doing the things my kids love so that I can see them smile and laugh. Then have a good bottle of wine at the end of the day.
Who is your hero and why?
My grandma and grandie are my heroes. They are in their late eighties/early nineties and live every day to it’s fullest. They have lived, worked and helped people all around the world, including taking in several young kids in Indonesia when they were living there. Even now, when they’ve had to slow down physically, it hasn’t slowed down their desire to learn and find joy in simple things.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
A terrible one! I’m hopeless at making decisions. I can’t even decide what to eat for dinner each night.
What are you passionate about these days?
I’ve always been passionate about teaching kids. Now that I have my own young children, I love watching how their minds work and how they learn new skills. My goal as a teacher and a parent is to help children grow to love reading. It’s such an important skill for their futures as professionals but also for their wellbeing. Reading gives them knowledge and power to achieve their goals, and a place to escape when they need it.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
Read a book or go for a run.
How to find time to write as a parent?
Most of ‘While the Baby Sleeps’ was written while my daughter napped last year. Now, I write on the days both kids go to childcare or after they go to bed.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Mum, wife, runner, coffee-addict, wine-enthusiast
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I find it strange to consider myself a writer. I feel like an imposter still. At the moment, I think I’m a teacher who writes.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
‘While the Baby Sleeps’ is my debut novel and it would be incredible to see it made into a movie. Does anyone have Reese Witherspoon’s number? ?
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
My spirit animal would be a chameleon because I’m constantly changing to suit my mood and situation. If my environment requires me to be a mum, wife, writer, reader, teacher, I can shift into different roles. If I’m in the mood to create, I start a new project. But if I have a deadline, I can change to meet that too.
What inspired you to write this book?
My inspiration for this book came from my own mothers’ group. None of the characters are based on the women I met but I found the concept of a mothers’ group interesting. We live in the same area and had babies in the same month, so we’re put together and then become friends – it’s strange. The women I met are all so different and come from all over Australia and have different backgrounds and jobs, etc. I wanted to write unique female characters and give them each a distinct voice so I thought basing it around a mothers’ group would be a great way to do it.
What can we expect from you in the future?
There is a sequel to ‘While the Baby Sleeps’ coming in 2023.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in While the Baby Sleeps?
Amalia, Marnie, Peyton and Fleur are the four main characters from ‘While the Baby Sleeps’. They are all complete works of fiction.
Marnie is a first-time mum in a new town, paralysed by anxiety and pushing away her police-officer husband. She suffers from post-natal depression and is really struggling with her new identity as a mother.
Peyton is a teen mum, living with her parents and longing to behave like other teenagers her age. She has a constant internal battle because she loves her son so much but she also wants to go out drinking and meet people.
Fleur looks like the perfect picture of a mum who is coping and loving motherhood, but no one knows that under her beautiful dress, her body is covered in bruises caused by her husband. She puts so much effort into hiding her demons and comes across bubbly and happy to others.
Amalia, a single mum, lost her parents in tragic circumstances and will do anything to honour her mother’s dying wish and protect the family she has. She is recently single and has a hard time trusting others.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I really enjoyed writing as different people. Getting myself totally into the mindset of a character and trying to speak and behave in the way they would so that it’d come across authentic. It was fun to write the different women.
How did you come up with the title of the book?
One of the most annoying sayings that new parents hear is ‘Sleep while the baby sleeps’ because it just rarely happens. This is a bit of a play on that because so much happens while the babies sleep in this story.
Who designed your book covers?
Elle Maxwell Design
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learnt so much about the writing process, character development, editing, the publishing process, marketing, everything! It’s been a whirlwind and I’ve gained so much from it.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
Without giving anything away, I love the bond that develops between these mothers. They are there for one another during this new stage in their lives.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
This book isn’t just a thriller with a murder mystery, it’s so much more. It gives a real insight into motherhood – the highs and lows, the joy and fear. It’s relatable and will make you laugh, leave you shocked, make you want to shake some sense into these characters and hopefully fall in love with the them too – well some of them, some are entirely unlovable.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
I have finished the first draft of the sequel to ‘While the Baby Sleeps’ and written an unrelated YA dystopian book.
Fun Facts/Behind the Scenes/Did You Know?'-type tidbits about the author, the book or the writing process of the book.
‘While the Baby Sleeps’ was mostly written while my babies were asleep.
There is a reference to Top Gun in my book because a friend dared me to include it when we were talking about the new Top Gun movie.
The café in the book is named after the Australian rules football team I follow.
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
Some of my favourite authors are Sally Hepworth, Freida McFadden, Jane Harper and Lee Child.
How long have you been writing?
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I have to write in silence. I can’t focus with any kind of noise or music.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
I currently have three books at different stages.
Tell us about a favorite character from a book.
One of my favourite book characters is Fern from ‘The Good Sister’ by Sally Hepworth. You just want to wrap your arms around her and protect her from the world. She’s so innocent and honest, and I loved hearing her view on everything around her.
Describe your writing style.
Contemporary, fast paced and character focused.
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?
I am a pantser and just write. It means I have to go back and redraft many times but when I have an idea, I’m impatient and want to get started.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from other genders?
Understanding what they would observe around them. Comparing my husband and I, I would be able to recall the bride’s wedding dress from a recent wedding and describe it in detail. His response would be ‘it was white’. There are situations where I am more observant and prioritise things and vice versa.