24 May 2012
Author Guest Post: Carole Matthews
"I think the process of becoming a writer starts very early in life. If you’re an only child, painfully shy and are blessed with some sort of affliction that means your peers at school can tease the buggery out of you morning, noon and night - terrible buck teeth in my case - then you are, quite frankly, off to a flying start. If your parents divorce in a hideous manner when you’re still young and, on top of that, you’re taught by nuns in an all-girl convent school, then you’re really starting to hit pay dirt. Not going on to achieve your full potential, dropping out of education to get engaged at seventeen because you think it’s ‘true lurrrve’ and then going on to suffer wide-ranging romantic loss, humiliation and, preferably two divorces of your own under your belt by the time you’re thirty, is all grist to the mill. If you wander in and out of a series of unchallenging jobs where you spend most of your time looking out of the window, thinking what might have been, I have a lot of hope for you. And, finally, if you write all this on scraps of paper, secreted round your house and your person as if your life depends on it - yet it’s never to be seen by anyone else - or tell your tales of woe to your girlfriends at every possibly opportunity and never let the facts stand in the way of a good story, then the chances are that you are destined to become a writer.
If you use humour to deal with difficult situations, often inappropriately, then you could well become a chicklit writer. You don’t want to be too tortured throughout your life or you’ll end up writing misery stories and that’s well... miserable.
The bad news is, if you’ve had a idyllic childhood, perfectly well-balanced parents, a satisfying and successful career and lovely homelife with your first boyfriend, Steady Eddy from down the street, then I’m sorry to say that, in the writer stakes, you are a complete loser.
I think it helps if to ease all this suffering that you don’t go to counselling or invest of years of expensive therapy, instead you let it brew to a lovely stew inside you whilst, at the same time, pretending everything’s fine if you just stick your nose in a book. To escape into the fantasy world of novels, I have found, is a marvellous coping mechanism. Though it does sometimes result in a lot of burned dinners.
I have Little Women and Black Beauty to thank for getting me through primary school and Holden Cauldfield from Catcher in the Rye for letting me know I was not alone. Jackie Collins and Sidney Sheldon helped considerably with my teenage angst - or possibly gave me a lot more things to worry about. I read my way through my working day and, when I was a beauty therapist, had a book group before book groups were invented where we all swapped reading matter and my taste became more eclectic. Through the long nights of loneliness after yet another failed relationship I turned to Stephen King and Dean Koontz to make absolutely sure I was wide-eyed and terrified until dawn.
Then with all the turmoil of angst, glamour, romance, loss and horror swirling to boiling point in my brain, along came Bridget Jones. She was funny, flawed and wore big pants. And seemed an awful lot like me. Women instantly fell in love with her and her quirky diary. For the first time in my life, I could read about someone I could relate to. Someone who wasn’t called Blaze Champagne and had diamonds dangling from every appendage. Also, for the first time, it felt as if someone might actually be interested in what I too had to say. I had an ordinary life. Now, ordinary could be funny. Now it wasn’t just women who lived in penthouse apartments and spent their weekends on yachts that filled books. It was women like me.
Suddenly all my years of sitting on the sidelines watching, all the troubled relationships, all the hurts and disappointment, all the dodgy jobs became very useful indeed! I poured it all out onto the page at breakneck speed. And haven’t really stopped since.
I had a very quick route to publishing and within a year, my first book, Let’s Meet on Platform 8 came out. Now my twentieth book - Summer Daydreams - is about to be published. The shy little girl they called ‘Bugs Bunny’ has come quite a long way.
I feel as if my whole life, including all the wrong turns, led up to me being a writer and I believe I’ve found my proper place in the world. How many people are lucky enough to say that? Still, every day, I thank God for Bridget Jones and for orthodontics. "