That Time I Wrote a Novel
That might be a fairly bold title as the ‘novel’ is much more of a short story at 14,000 words and was my final year English Studies dissertation, but bear with me. I’m back at the ol’ mac and I’m here to tell you about my writing.
I’ve always had to be difficult and different. Not in an emo kid way, just that I always looked at what everyone was doing and thought ‘How boring and same-y’. I never followed fashion trends, I always liked to question and challenge what was happening and if there was a more interesting way of doing something, I’d find it.
It carried on at University. During my final year I did a photography portfolio for my Children’s Literature class titled ‘Alice in Wonderless Land’. Photos of my friend Tammy in a tacky Alice dress up outfit sitting in my stairwell with a bottle of Jack Daniels, spelling out ‘Eat Me’ with ketchup and falling down the rabbit hole…to find the bins. I got a 1A for it and my tutor was in raptures over it. I hadn’t written a thing and I’d still smashed it. Being different worked.
So when it came to my dissertation I knew I was never writing about poetry or slaving over literature theories. I wanted to do what I did best, creative writing. Luckily for me, it was an option that was offered and my dissertation supervisor (I still dedicate the odd shot to him, what a legend) was very supportive. After reading the first few chapters he called me in for a meeting and said he not only loved it, but was excited about it, calling me ‘an experiment’. I wasn’t sure how to take that, but I got a 2:1 for it and I think that’s pretty damn good for a story. Below is a bit of the ‘critical analysis’ part of my dissertation, where I explained what I wanted to do and how I did it.
I wanted to write a dissertation that allowed me to explore my own personal tastes. A piece of work that successfully portrayed everything I had learnt from my four years of English Studies combined with my own preferences in literature and in life. I chose a creative writing dissertation as prose has always been my strong point. However, I didn’t choose to write a historical re-telling of a heroic battle or a gothic horror laced with mystery. I chose to write about what I know. And what I know well is women, high heels and revenge. I approached the subject with caution as I didn’t want my writing to fall into what I would term, ‘a trashy beach novel’. I didn’t want my characters to become sad, single, thirty something’s with a part-time love interest and a cat. I wanted to write about powerful women and I wanted to write in a popular fiction style, so what better place to look than the world of celebrity. The general aesthetics I wanted to invoke in this short story were that of the extremes – power hungry women, image obsessed and out to seek revenge. I wanted to parody this celebrity obsessed world, where we can’t get enough of the next glossy magazine or headline and we seem to be overly influenced by these figures that more than likely have less of a moral standing than your average Joe (or Jane) I wanted to explore the difference between reality and representation, i.e. how these women appear versus their actual sense of self.
My short story winds around 5 women, all of which perceive power in different ways. Mandy Hunt, the protagonist and her Scottish P.A. Kerry Abercrombie (named after a friend from University actually!). Charlotte Blake, a model and designer, and ‘leader of the pack’. Alexandra Wright-Phillips, a stony, cold magazine editor. Georgiana Silva, a naive Brazilian actress. In my research I explored many different aspects of the kind of lives these women would lead. From contacting exclusive nightclubs in New York City directly, to applying to be a pupil at the school I use. I immersed myself in the world of these fictional women by exploring New York’s elite through television, film and other similar novels.
It’s never been one to shout about what I’m good at, unless you count being at my desk and functioning at 9am after a night on the Gordon’s, but I realised that you lovely people who read my blog are reading my writing anyway. So why not share something with you that I actually worked hard on? Ok ok, I wrote the thing in three weeks, half drunk and pumped full of black coffee but still, I was passionate about it.
Enough excuses, here’s an excerpt of it for you to (hopefully) enjoy. I’m going to spend some time this summer editing it and looking at ways to extend it, who knows what I could do with it.
Welcome to New York.
“Watch yersel!” I grabbed at the back of Mandy’s coat as she nearly stepped out in front of a taxi, now a speeding yellow blur with an angry fist shaking from the window. We were standing in Times Square, the press had gathered and were all hankering after interviews and vox pops for their respective publications on the announcement of Poil. Mandy turned to me as she slipped out of her fur coat to reveal a skin-tight, acid pink dress and whispered, “Showtime!” The camera flashes nearly blinded me as she strutted to her podium on the traffic island we had all squeezed onto. Where better to hold a press conference about a new gasoline but right in the middle of the road? I watched as Mandy nailed her speech, delivered through her brand new, pearly white teeth. Her skin was glowing and her newly defined cheekbones, held high by her completely fake smile, were highlighted to perfection to catch the cameras. Even her hair seemed to light up the smoggy air around her. The media were lapping it up. Standing behind the tangle of cables and tripod legs I thought about the fakery of it all, not just her teeth but the all trickery behind successful marketing. We were here for a month to promote Poil; we had a rented apartment in the Upper East Side and the public appearance requests had come in thick and fast. Mandy returned to my side through the throng of reporters, “Let’s get out of here, my hair is starting to stink.” I motioned to the driver and we made our get away into the mid morning traffic.
The next few weeks were a blur; Regis & Kelly, Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show. Jay Leno gave her a nickname heavier with irony than he could ever realise, ‘Poilson Ivy’, after her long red hair and feisty attitude. Mandy cut pink ribbons with pink scissors to new pink petrol pumps all over town. There wasn’t even a backlash from the feminists. Who can say anything against environmentally friendly gasoline? They even loved that it was pink! A moment of clarity came in the form of a lavishly thick, silver envelope, delivered by hand to the apartment. It was an invitation to a film premiere, but not just any film. Georgiana Silva’s new self-penned, self-directed, self-starring movie ‘Silvastra’, about a young Brazilian dancer trying to make it in New York. I read the invitation and almost yawned at the plot before handing it over to Mandy. “This should be interesting….” she chewed her lip as she examined the embossed paper. “It looks pretty shite to be honest” I muttered.
“I wasn’t talking about the film…”