I had a radio interview today with BBC Radio Solent’s Katie Martin. We talked about my new novel This Holey Life. She was very chatty and friendly. If you’d like to listen I’m on at 1.37 into the show, after T. Rex.
I felt sad to hear of the premature death of Louise Clarke, one of the founding members of Pan’s People, the dance troupe that sashayed across our telly screens every Thursday Night during Top of the Pops.
Like most kids of the 70s, I watched TOTP religiously along with my brothers. Now I am sure that they watched Pan’s People for a different reason to me as they were boys and Pan’s People were always glamourous, usually very sexy, and often brilliantly kitsch. I watched Pan’s People because I was a dancer, doing ballet three times a week and hoping to go the Royal Ballet School (which is quite a different blog post). I thought they were amazing, the way they floated whimsically across the stage in high heels and sparkly dresses or spandex leotards. I wanted to be in Pan’s People but alas I was from Devon and a child so I could only dream. (Philippa, my narrator from ‘The Generation Game’, harbours similar feelings…)
Now, anyone that knows me, or has flicked through my blog posts, might be surprised to see me in awe of Pan’s People. I am a feminist and dancing girls are not something I approve of as a rule. But seeing this old video has brought up memories of sitting with my family watching telly, of having aspirations of stardom as a child, of flares and big hair, of a time when women were exploring the limits of what it meant to be the female of the species.
Ok, yes, looking back, the concept of Pan’s People is outdated. But actually they were of a more innocent time when, although a little sexy, they were not overtly sexual like women in the music business are expected to be now. They didn’t have to worry about shaking their booty or having Brazilians or surgically enhanced breasts. They still had a hint of that film star glamour that was passed down from Ginger Rogers with a bit of the girl-next-door Doris Day thrown in for good measure. And they were somehow quintessentially British.
Times have changed. Top of the Pops is no more. Families rarely sit down together and watch the same programme. We are living in a post-feminist society when anything goes. When young girls have the world at their feet but have somehow lost the aspirations of my generation, when anything was possible.
And then there’s the golden platforms. You’ve just got to admire a woman who can dance in golden platforms. I want some.
My latest interview from the amazing Morgen Bailey blog
Originally posted on MorgEn Bailey's Writing Blog:
Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and fourteenth, is of Sophie Duffy.
Sophie Duffy is a novelist and short story writer who lives in the seaside town of Teignmouth in Devon. She grew up there, ran away at eighteen to the wilds of Lancashire (otherwise known as Lancaster University), got an English degree, got married, moved to London, became a teacher, did an MA in Creative Writing, then eventually moved back to Devon – via Worthing – in 2005. Her three kids are now teenagers and think she spends all day on Facebook when she is actually trying to earn a precarious living. Evenings are spent ferrying them up and down the narrow Devon lanes. Her Tibetan Terrier is her constant companion and gets her out to the beach when she is going crazy.
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I write YA fiction, probably because I work with teenagers. When you spend all day in the company of 16 -18 year olds, they kind of permeate your brain, and then sift into your writing. I love them dearly – funny, heartbreakingly honest, they never fail to surprise.
Jigsaw Pieces, my first ebook, is so chockfull of personal stuff that I had to put the line “Not all the characters and events in this story are fictitious” at the beginning. The inner story tells of the suicide of a 16 year old boy, and the determination of two fellow students to unravel the events that lead up to his death.
I was on my first teaching practice when a similar event took place. I remember clearly what it was like as the news spread round the school. When you read the first few chapters of Jigsaw Pieces, you are experiencing exactly what I felt and saw. Maybe you think this is not a subject for a novel, but I have had a lot of feedback indicating that sadly, it happens far more than people realise.
The story is narrated by 18 year old Annie, a feisty, trenchant observer of life. She is a mash-up of numerous teenage girls I taught over the years. I decided to give her a Norwegian background as it resonates with the current interest in ‘Scandi- crime’, and accentuates her outsider status amongst her contemporaries – something I experienced myself, growing up in the 1950′s and 60′s as the daughter of German Jewish parents.
Finally, one of my favourite teaching topics is the First World War poets. I never fail to be moved by the tragic waste of young lives. The opportunity to turn myself into a First World War poet was therefore irresistible – and so I became (spoiler alert) Noel Clarke, the haunted young poet who dies, age 19. I wrote all the poems too.
I uploaded Jigsaw Pieces at the beginning of August. It has some 5 star reviews, and I am thoroughly enjoying meeting loads of lovely people, like you, as I go round blogging about it.
http://www.Facebook Carol Hedges
www. Shewrites.com (American).
Bio: I have a BA (Hons) in English and Archaeology. I’ve worked as a librarian, a children’s clothes designer, a dinner lady, a classroom assistant at a special needs school, and a teacher. I have published 11 novels and 1 ebook. I have a grown up daughter, a husband, a pink 2CV, 2 cats and a lot of fish.
In a run-down student residence in South London, Annelie Strandli, a beautiful but confused designer, who is disorientated after leaving her native Finland, finds herself gravitating towards Berry Walker, an insomniac and aspiring writer.
JR Crook is this year’s winner of the Luke Bitmead Bursary with his novel ‘Sleeping Patterns’. It’s a slim volume - with a tactile cover and beautiful smooth paper – so probably more accurately described as a novella. But it is packed tight with layers of textual intrigue for the reader. This is one you can’t sit back and let wash over you. You have to engage with the text. You have to work as a reader to make sense of what is going on. In these days of instant gratification and transient desires, this is an exciting, energising prospect and should be grabbed and grappled with. Questions are asked; some answers are given; some need to be pondered. What is the relationship between reader and writer? Who is narrating? Who should we trust to tell us the story? What is the story? And do we live life chronologically? Or do we live in the past, present and future all at once…?
‘Sleeping Patterns is a puzzle, a shattered narrative that urges the reader to piece it back together. It is a story of love and the complexities of colliding relationships. It slowly releases the narrative segments needed to unravel each character as you go further in. This approach to form may be unusual, but it is a pleasure to become entangled in, creating a compelling atmosphere with a sense of true realism.’ - Unit Number
I think the above quote brilliantly sums up this book. Oh, and did I mention the language? It has some very beautiful language.
‘Sleeping Patterns’ is published by Legend Press.
Had a lovely trip to Agatha Christie’s magnificent holiday home last Friday. Greenway, now owned by the National Trust, is set in stunning Devon countryside overlooking the River Dart with views down to Dartmouth and up to Dittisham. The house is elegant and huge but still feels like a family home as it is so cluttered with collections of all sorts of things. Agatha was married to archeologist Sir Max Mallowan and accompanied him on several digs in Syria and Iraq which explains the collections. (I thought I was a hoarder…)
I am very excited to have my first guest on this blog and it’s the lovely author and journalist Janey Fraser. I’ve got to know Janey (aka Jane Bidder and Sophie King) through our local branch of the Romantic Novelist Association. That sounds very formal – we are just a group of writers who meet in a pub in Exeter to encourage and support each other and to eat. Janey is a fantastic writer and I am thrilled to have her on here as she writes about the chaos and intricacies of family life, as I do. (See my previous blog post with a review of her latest novel The Au Pair.)
Check out her website and blog…
AM I THE ONLY ONE
Am I the only one who feels as though I am a parent operating on remote control? Those of you with young children, won’t have got to this stage yet. But ignore this at your peril – for your time will come!
Along with heaven knows how many other parents out there, my three offspring have sort of flown the nest. I say ‘sort of’ because as my newish husband never fails to comment on with a certain amount of bemusement, I’m on the phone to them at least twice a day.
Now I know I shouldn’t and I’m trying to wean myself off it – honestly – but it’s really difficult to bring up your children for twenty odd years and then pretend that it’s perfectly all right not to hear from them for a few weeks.
Of course psychologists will say that this is exactly what you ought to do in order to let children grow up. And I’m all for that – up to a point. But supposing your so-called adult/child is in a spot of bother and they can’t get hold of you? So that’s why I ring them or send ‘R U OK?’ text messages as well as sending food parcels (even though I’m assured that they do sell fruit cake in Elephant & Castle).
Life has changed a lot for all of us in the last year and we all seem to be in different places at different times. So in order to check up on my kids in person and do things I can’t on the phone or Skype (such as check their follicles are washed and their teeth don’t smell), we meet up once a week, usually at Paddington Station where we’ve discovered a nifty little Cornish pasty place by platform seven where you can actually sit down. (Have you noticed how difficult it is to actually sit and eat in stations nowadays instead of standing by a take away bar?)
I then have to cram all my questions in before they head off to some bar and I wend my way home. Have they eaten properly? If so, why are they looking so thin (in one case). Are they drinking too much? (All three of them). Have they rung their grandparents recently (none of them). Are they overdrawn? (Stupid question.)
Once the nagging is over, we can then sit down and enjoy each other’s company for all of a few minutes. And then it’s time to get on with our individual lives for the next week. My mother, who died when she was my age, used to say that you worried about your children until the day you went. Hang on, my mobile is going. It’s my eldest who wants to come back for a week. Fantastic. Except that I’m working……
‘AM I THE ONLY ONE’ is part of a series of articles, devised and written by Janey Fraser.
Janey Fraser’s latest novel is called THE AU PAIR. It’s published by Arrow (Random House) and is about a mum who sets up an au pair business round the kitchen table with hilarious results. The Daily Express recently gave it a four star review, describing it as ‘a hilarious romp’. The author Fay Weldon declared it to be a ‘sheer delight’.
Janey also writes novels and short stories under the name Sophie King. Look out for Tales of the Heart (Corazon Books) available as a download from Amazon. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tales-from-the-Heart-ebook/dp/B008I5CAEI
When I was a mother with three children under the age of four and a husband who worked evenings and weekends, I would have been grateful for any help I could get. And if we’d had two pennies to rub together I might have considered an au pair. However, after reading Janey Fraser’s second novel The Au Pair, I am kind of glad we were poor. This novel is a reminder that it is never easy to invite an unknown employee into one’s home, especially a homesick young person with little or no English. Why would you willingly add a teenager to your family and pay them for the privilege? I’m sure there are stories of lovely au pairs who have helped out families and been like older siblings to their host children, but what about all those horror stories we hear…?
Janey Fraser explores the complex family dynamics that come from needing an au pair and the complications when one is brought into the fray. And although there are some fun moments springing from the shenanigans of some of these young girls, she also exposes how vulnerable they are. They are staying with an English family who may have unrealistic demands on them. This may be their first time away from home. There are language barriers. Cultural clashes. Boys, men, sex. What Fraser shows is it cuts both ways. Both sides are taking a risk when they agree to this employment contract.
Fraser writes with warmth and wit and her story romps alongs. She has a whole cast of colourful characters from Marie-France who is searching for her father, to widower Matthew who is struggling to bring up his young daughter who does everything to scupper the au pairs’ chances of settling in. There are also moments of tension and emotion thrown up by the chaos of family life and darker tragedy lurking…
Janey Fraser is the pen name of journalist Jane Bidder and she has also written best-selling novels under the name of Sophie King. She writes about family life and relationships and so I particularly enjoyed this novel as that is what I write about and what I have a life-long interest in.
Now, I must read The Playgroup, Fraser’s first novel of ‘Mum Lit’. In a previous life I taught early years…
You can follow her on Twitter @janey_fraser
And on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/janeyfraserauthor
Over a year ago I blogged about Tom Daley on the day of his father’s funeral. I am so relieved and chuffed for Tom that he held his nerve, standing up there on the 10 metre platform, the country waiting with hearts beating fast, his family and friends and team watching on… and yes, he did it. In an incredibly high calibre contest, he got a medal at his home Olympics! And his elated reaction was worth the worry…
Tom’s lovely dad, known for showing his emotions, would be so proud.
Well done, Tom, from all of us here in Devon. You did it.