With 3.5 million followers, teamwork is everything for novelist Giovanna Fletcher and her McFly singer and children’s author husband Tom – from vlogs about family life to their new co-written book. Kerry Potter chats with the ultimate modern power couple.
For most of us, the thought of working with our partners is an alarming prospect. But it’s just another day in the (his ’n’ hers) office for novelist Giovanna Fletcher, 33, and her husband Tom, the 32-year-old McFly and McBusted singer/songwriter/guitarist and children’s author.
The perennially perky couple, who met aged 13 at the Sylvia Young Theatre School, have written a Hunger Games-esque novel for young adults. The first of a planned trilogy, Eve Of Man is set in a dystopian future where no baby girls have been born for 50 years, until the arrival of Eve – who at the age of 16 is charged with ensuring the continuation of the human race. The story is told from the perspective of Eve, whose chapters Giovanna wrote, and her love interest Bram, authored by Tom. It’s a compelling read, and its creators have form: Giovanna has seven romance novels and a motherhood memoir under her belt, while Tom is currently working on the animated movie version of his bestselling book The Christmasaurus.
The couple live in the London suburb of Northwood with their sons Buzz, four, and Buddy, two, with a third baby due in September. But you’ll know that already if you’re one of their 3.5 million followers on social media – they’re big sharers when it comes to their lives and famed for cutesy baby announcement vlogs (the latest one featured a snowman with an ultrasound photo). In the flesh, they’re less twee than you might expect, with a nice line in spiky banter that stays just the right side of bickering. And they’re not live-streaming every move – they don’t look at their phones for the entire two hours that we chat. Giovanna is gregarious and warm, while Tom is intense and worldly-wise, as is often the way with ex-boy-band members who have grown up fast. ‘We talk a lot,’ she warns. She’s not kidding…
The idea for Eve Of Man had been bubbling under for five years. When a friend mentioned that everyone in her NCT group had had boys, Tom and I wondered: what if only boys were born? We made notes on our phones and, by coincidence, went on to have two boys ourselves. Over lunch one day my editor asked if Tom and I had ever thought about writing together. I told her about our idea and here we are.
Our home offices are across the hallway from each other. Mine is decorated in pastel shades, with inspirational quotes on the wall. Tom’s is overflowing with stuff. We need separate offices because I can’t bear the sound of his typing. He writes so quickly. At lunchtime, he’ll say, ‘I’ve done 2,000 words already,’ and I’m, like, ‘What? I’ve done 250!’
We work from 9am until 3.30pm while the children are at nursery, then again from their bedtime at 7pm, sometimes until midnight. Then they get up at 5.30am. Recently we said, ‘Something has to give, and we’ve got better at saying no to things. My dad worked his socks off because he wanted to get us to the point where we were comfortable. And when he got there – I was 16 – my parents divorced. The work/life balance was so off.
I enjoy being pregnant. Before my first pregnancy, I’d hated my body – I’d always seen the faults in it, as women are trained to do, but when I was pregnant it was the best I’d ever felt. Then I had a miscarriage before Buzz and that made me feel more hatred towards it. Second time round, the bump grew quickly, so I got comments: ‘Is it only one?’ That made me feel self-conscious again. After Buddy was born I thought, ‘My body is amazing and I should embrace that.’ Now I’m trying to channel that feeling again.
I spent Mother’s Day crying uncontrollably. I had too much going on. I was meant to finish my next solo book and the second Eve Of Man book before the new baby comes, but I was struggling. I was on the brink of going down a very dark path, mentally, that day. I’ve since pushed back on my solo projects.
I don’t understand why people see being comfortable in a long-term relationship as a negative thing. I love the fact that we’re secure. I never worry, ‘Oh no, what is Tom going to think?’ Having children has made us more of a unit. And I don’t feel we need to have time alone together without the kids – our family time counts as quality time for me.
I find social media a positive, supportive environment so when I got trolled recently it caught me off guard. Tom posted a video of us at home and there were comments about me looking a mess because I wasn’t wearing make-up, about my weight and the size of my bump. I cried a lot that night. Why do people think they have the right to comment on how other people look?
When it comes to sharing things on social media, we sometimes get it wrong. One Halloween, we surprised Buzz with a party. I dressed up as a witch and Tom filmed him catching sight of me and bursting into tears. Seconds later he switched moods, as toddlers do, and was happily having his face painted. But we posted a clip on Facebook that didn’t show that bit. People said, ‘How can you scare your child like that?’ I misjudged
it. We should have shown people the bigger picture.
My Happy Mum, Happy Baby book is definitely not a parenting guide or advice book. I don’t know what I’m doing, quite frankly! I’m just sharing my own experiences. I talk about everything from my miscarriage to having a newborn and wondering if I’ve made the right decision because it’s all so overwhelming. It turns out there are so many women who feel that way.
‘I cried over comments about me looking a mess’
The idea for my Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast came from the book. Every guest has revealed something about motherhood that has made me think, ‘I can’t believe you said that, but thank you for sharing!’ Frankie Bridge talked about slut-dropping while dancing with The Saturdays when she was pregnant and being worried that the baby would fall out!
Emma Willis [TV presenter and wife of Matt Willis, Tom’s McBusted bandmate] is a big support. She’s a great sounding board. We’ll have coffee and cake together or do a play date with the kids. She makes a point of asking, ‘How are you, Gi?’ Sometimes I’ll be fine and other times I’ll burst into tears. She’ll say, ‘Why are you crying?’ I’ll be, like, ‘I don’t know!’ I’m a very emotional person.
When you’re in a couple and the other person is really successful, you shouldn’t really be making a comparison. You should be focusing on what you are going to achieve. There have been periods when it has been quite quiet for me, but that has shifted over the years. You just have to support each other throughout.
We were always the first couple among our friends to hit the milestones – to get engaged, to move in, to have kids – because we’ve been together the longest. Our relationship has always been the one thing in life we don’t worry about. It’s just easy. I look at other people who are single or going through break-ups and it looks so stressful.
When I was in McFly Gi was always understanding of how it consumed my life. It was a tough period for us. I was away constantly. I would say to her, ‘In three months’ time, we have an afternoon off – but we’ll be in Jersey.’ However, my absence also meant a focus of her own, which was healthy for our relationship. She had her own ambitions. We’ve both always been very supportive of each other’s work, so writing together felt like a natural step.
Growing up in theatre school meant I always had discipline. I was the founding member of McFly and worked hard to make it a success – it was a one-in-a-million chance and I didn’t want to ruin it. The other guys did everything naughty that guys in bands do; not me, though. I was a dictator – the annoying one who set the rules. But it worked.
It’s bizarre but I get more privacy now by sharing our life on social media. Before it existed, the only way people could find out what we were up to was to hack our email accounts or steal photos from our private Facebook accounts. Or there would be paps hanging out at the supermarket to get photos of us looking scruffy. Now we put it out there ourselves and none of that happens. We are in control.
We’re not constantly filming ourselves and our kids. We don’t do any more of that than anyone else – let’s face it, when you’re in a park, you see every parent taking selfies with their kids. Our kids don’t have iPads and the only thing they use on our phones is the toothbrush timer. I hate seeing kids watching an iPad on a car journey instead of looking out of the window.
People forget about the positives to social media. When I was growing up there weren’t any other kids who liked singing, dancing and acting. Now you can find people who share your interests online. I prefer to be in my own environment rather than talking to people face to face – that’s why I like communicating via YouTube. We probably do overshare. But if I’ve had a problem, there are likely to be millions of others going through the same thing. If one person talks about that and everyone connects, that’s a huge thing.
‘I get more privacy now by sharing our life on social media. We are in control’
I had bad problems with depression from my early teens until my mid-20s. The turning point came when I saw Stephen Fry talking about being bipolar in a documentary and I thought, ‘He is describing me and my mind.’ I cried when I saw it. That’s what made me seek help.
I was the fat one in the band with these three good-looking, skinny guys. We ate rubbish all day and I put on two stone in a year. Then we had to do a naked photoshoot with a magazine and I stopped eating. I lost loads of weight but felt terrible mentally and became really depressed. Eventually I realised that my mental health, diet and fitness were all linked.
Impending fatherhood gave me a real kick up the bum. I’ve grown up, l’ve learnt how to communicate my feelings, I look after my health and fitness and I haven’t taken any medication for about four years. When my children are older I will make sure they know that mental health problems are nothing to be ashamed of. It can feel so isolating but in reality there’s always someone else who’s gone through the same thing.
We get raised eyebrows all the time about our sons’ names. When you tell the midwife after the birth, it’s the first time you’ve shared the name with anyone. Both times they’ve been, like, ‘Um…’ For the next baby, all the suggestions from family and friends start with ‘B’ but it wasn’t a conscious thing to have the names all beginning with B so we don’t feel restricted by that. And we’re genuinely not fussed whether we have another boy or a girl.
There was sniping when I started writing children’s books – it took me two years to find a publisher. Everyone assumes that when you have a public profile you have an easy ride into anything you want to do. To some extent that’s true, but you’ll never have longevity unless you’re good. I was confident I could do it. I have ridiculous dreams that sound insane – I want to do theme parks, I want to do more movies. I’m very ambitious.
Married Life Unfiltered
Last thing you argued about
Tom: Me getting ready this morning. Gi gets ready first – taking about two hours – and then, finally, it’s my turn.
Giovanna: I take half an hour! For me, it’s always about whose turn it is to get up in the morning with the kids. When it was Tom’s go yesterday, he slept through. It’s like he mysteriously can’t hear our children.
When did you realise it was love?
G: We met at 13 and dated on and off. But it was when we got back together at 18 that something really clicked.
T: For me it was straight away. It took me five minutes, it took her five years.
G: Well, you did kiss all my friends in that time!
What annoys you about each other?
G: The amount of time it takes him to get ready.
T: She has very irritating sneezes. They’re like earthquakes.
Most romantic thing you’ve ever done
G: He wrote [the McFly song] ‘All About You’ for me.
T: She made me a crown from lollipop sticks and toilet rolls for our wedding anniversary once. I was quite surprised when I opened it.
G: [sheepishly] He’d bought me a Mulberry handbag.
What would make your life together better?
Both: More time.
Who is the best writer?
G: He’s sold more books but I’ve written most words – so, me!
T: But it’s quality that counts, not quantity, right?
In three words, my spouse is…
G: Funny, loyal, grumpy.
T: Fun, caring, emotional. Very emotional.
Tom & Gi On Working Together
Have proper meetings. Carve out time dedicated to talking about the project rather than discussing it over dinner. Casual conversations don’t move things forward – sit down, write things out, plan and focus.
Don’t be too proud. Even if your efforts aren’t polished, it’s vital to share your work as you go along. And try not to take criticism personally.
Change the scenery. We write in our separate home offices then go for walks together to discuss changes. Moving around boosts creativity.
Designate responsibilities. Make sure you both have defined tasks so you don’t bicker about who’s in charge or who’s working hardest.
Eve Of Man by Giovanna and Tom Fletcher is published by Michael Joseph, price £12.99