50 Shades of Distraction

I LOVED Fifty Shades of Grey. Boom. There I said it. Yes, the ‘inner goddess’ thing is a bit yawn and I can sort of see why all the feminists are up in arms but it’s got that clever little spark that always reels me in. I like to call it the ‘love hook’. I’m sure there’s some fabulously technical term for it in the publishing world but that’s what works for me.

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It’s more than the initial ‘grab’ that us writers are told to inflate our first chapter with. It’s that WHAM BAM moment, usually about a third in, when you know you’re in big trouble. The book becomes an obsession. Your baby’s screaming for a feed but you Can’t. Quite. Put. It. Down. It’s the realization that you’re going to be in mourning for these characters long after the book (fingers crossed a trilogy) has ended…

It’s there in the little things. Not the big set pieces. It’s an emerging connection between the two lead characters that goes way beyond the sizzling sex and ridiculous sub-plots. With Dirty Dancing it’s the scene in the lake when the music goes all mushy but you know that Baby’s in far deeper stuff than the water. With Fifty Shades it’s the texts and emails. It’s the development of a relationship. It’s the flirting… god the flirting. It’s sooo good. Bravo, E.L. James. You deserve the squillions and Jamie Dornan just for that.

Still I wonder if E.L. could have created the same intense magic if she’d had a toddler flinging breadsticks at her. Or if she’d felt Mother’s Guilt wagging her bony little finger in her face for playing the same Paw Patrol episode four times in a row in a bid to keep her kids amused whilst she finished.

I was in Sainsbury’s last week sans kids (it’s amazing how pleasurable food shopping becomes when you don’t have rowdy children in tow trying to capsize the trolley), and I indulged myself with a quick flick though a well-known writer’s magazine. Inside was an article about how some pro organised his day. I skim-read the blurb in bewilderment. It went something like this: Awake at 7am. Coffee at 8am. An hour of social media, and then three solid hours of writing before lunch, and so on and so forth…

Huh??

You mean no tetchy, drawn-out breakfasts featuring ‘the wrong cereal’, despite the little buggers specifically requesting it? No tears because i’ve used the Frozen lunchbox instead of the Cinderella one, followed by the endless school drop-offs which have to be timed Just So otherwise the youngest will sit down in the middle of the road and refuse to budge. Then it’s home for the washing-up, answering work emails, yadda yadda yadda until FINALLY I can kick-start the writing. ‘Bastard,’ I muttered resentfully (no offence intended.) I felt like puking with envy all over the petit filous.

But such is the lot of writers who are juggling mummyhood, or indeed daddyhood, whilst pursuing their dreams. ‘Prioritise!’ I hear you howl. ‘Feck off…’ I growl. Because despite my love of writing my kids will always come first. But by the time evening rolls around I’m often too shattered and traumatised by the ‘bedtime routine’ to fire up the creativity. I hold my hands up to you, Stephanie Meyer, you of Twilight Fame, who supposedly wrote your books when your children were asleep. I leave it to the weekend when my husband can deal with the nighttime howlers and early starts, and I can really get stuck in. What a legend he is. He deserves his very own blog for outstanding contributions to the cause.

And then there’s the ultimate distraction… Writing a blog when I should be finishing my latest book.

xx

“I had nothing to lose and sometimes that makes you brave enough to try.”

There are two things that unite all writers regardless of genre – crippling self-doubt and rejection. And it doesn’t matter how brilliant you are, you WILL be rejected by someone. Perhaps by agents and publishers, followed by critics and then the ones who really matter – the readers. But what if rejection starts before then?

Writing is hard. It takes courage, resolve and a bucket of determination. I find inspiration in the fact that JK Rowling (how great is her quote) and Stephen King were knocked back numerous times before success came bounding up to them like an excitable puppy, knocking them sideways into their multi-million pound mansions. In all honesty I wouldn’t want that kind of success. The money would be nice but the intrusion? The celebrity stuff? No thanks. I’ve been around enough A-Listers in my time to know how well that turns out (hint: not very).

Still, I’ve always loved writing stories. Started when I was five and developed from there. Then I had an awful English teacher in my early teens. She didn’t like me. I was too quiet, too ‘Wallflower’ for her liking. She couldn’t stop herself doling out the ‘As’ to me but she knocked my confidence in other ways. Like when she chose her teaching group for GCSE English. Naturally she chose the crème de la crème of our year, the ones guaranteed to give her a dazzling array of ‘A*s’. I wasn’t one of them and that stung. Still hurts now. In the aftermath I faltered. I lost confidence and I ended up with a ‘B’, proving her right all along.

As I grew older I learnt to absorb rejection more graciously. Relationships came and went, jobs too, but I always kept my imagination in check because that was the one area I couldn’t handle criticism. When I finally plucked up the courage to send my first book out into the harsh, harsh world of publishing my worst fears were realized. The rejections came thick and fast. All but two.

It gave me hope.

I knuckled down and learnt my craft. I edited and edited until my eyes blurred. I discovered how to compose the perfect covering letter and synopsis. I was short-listed for writing competitions and received lovely, encouraging feedback from publishing reader panels and freelance editors alike. If anything it serves as a lesson in perseverance and a middle finger salute to that horrible English teacher all those years ago.

And what happened to her? Oh she’s still out there. Probably undermining a whole new generation of writers. I know it’s silly and puerile but I have a secret fantasy of one day sending her one of my books with a note inscribed, ‘From the pupil you forgot.’

Then I remember that I’m thirty-eight and far too mature for such things.

Or am I…?

xx

(Header quote from JK Rowling.)

‘Mummy Porn’: Why I Push The Barriers Of ‘Happily Ever After’

I hate the term ‘Mummy Porn’… It belittles what I do. It somehow implies that I spend my days and evenings sweating over my laptop like some dirty old man and his stash of magazines. Nor am I a sex maniac who uses her writing as an outlay from some serious frustration (although I’m sure Matt would be delighted if I was.)

It feels funny venting about this on my parenting blog. It’s not often that my two worlds collide, more out of respect for my children than anything. I’d hate for them to be teased in the playground because of something I did for a living. Kids are cruel. Parents are judgmental.

But what I write isn’t porn… Not by a long shot. I’m just pushing the boundaries of ‘happily ever after.’ And it shouldn’t be denigrated as ‘mummy’ or ‘mumsy’ either. To me, that feels like another dismissive, misogynistic put-down. Oh look, there’s goes mummy with her naughty books again, a silly hobby to amuse her in between the washing and the ironing and cleaning up puke.

For god’s sake, what’s wrong with a bit of spice?? I tried writing the cutesie romances, the Little Cake Shop On The Riviera With Lots Of Hunky-But-Conflicted Men ones, but they didn’t do it for me. They certainly didn’t do it for the publishing world. I needed to write something harder (no pun intended) and, hey presto, the words flowed and the interest grew.

Whilst I LOVE what EL James did for our industry, I hate the derision that has followed us ‘contemporary erotic’ authors around ever since.

It might come as a revelation to some but us women like sex too…….

xx