Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of the inspiration behind her latest novel Prime Time, is brought to you by novelist, speaker, journalist, tutor, presenter and writing guru Jane Wenham-Jones. This is part 1 of 2, part 2 will appear next Sunday evening.
Never work with animals or children…
On The Wright Stuff they did my make-up but I wished I’d done it myself. Comments from friends ranged from “Did you have a hangover?” to “Did you need a doctor?” to “How come they made you look like Esther Rantzen? (I wish! Frankly I would much rather have resembled the fragrant Esther than the hatchet-faced crone I appeared).
Heavy purple eyeliner never helps and once again it was the sort of lighting that left one appearing rather raddled. Or as Lyn-Marie put it this time: “Yes love, you looked like the sort of woman who’d leave her kids on their own while you went off to Turkey for three weeks.”
I was on the programme as a result of the newspaper article I’d written about longing to escape from the family, and, against my better judgement, had taken my son with me. He was going to be in London with me anyway, and the researcher thought it would add something to the proceedings if he were sitting in the audience to witness my diatribe about the current media trend to make one feel guilty if skipping round making fairy cakes and having baby princess manicures wasn’t one’s idea of total fulfilment.
To my surprise, he was quite keen. So despite my misgivings – I did not want my little soldier traumatised if my opinion that playing shops was mind-numbingly dull and infinitely inferior to going out with one’s girlfriends and getting slaughtered*, proved so controversial with the stay-at-home-I-simply-love-wearing-a-pinny brigade that I was subjected to a whole lot more Kilroy-style berating from the back rows – off we went.
And as it turned out, I sounded a veritable earth mother compared to the phone-ins.
Sharon from Essex called to say she had seven kids and didn’t like any of them (why go on breeding like a rabbit, then dear?) and the lines got jammed with an assortment of parents attesting to the crushing tedium of child-rearing in general.
Beginning to worry about the effect this might be having on these unfortunate children – nobody really wants to hear one’s mother telling the whole country how boring one is – I felt moved to mount an impassioned declaration of my adoration for my son, who went white. “Did you have to say you loved me?” he demanded afterwards, when he’d been given sweet tea and had a blanket put round him. “My friends might have been watching that.”
He claims to be scarred by the experience still and has refused to get involved with any sort of publicity I have ever done since.
*I should like to make it clear that I have loved being a mother even if I was never the gluing and sticking sort and still feel an immense gratitude towards the inventor of PlayStation. The Yummy Mummy however, is an important role-model and has a vital part to play for those of us who are writers. May I suggest that you pal up with one who spends school holidays so overcome with joy that she’s got her little darlings 24/7 that she won’t notice if yours go round there too.
Remember The Salon? The “reality” show where members of the public could go and get their hair done in a TV studio converted into a hairdresser’s where a lot of juveniles spent all day prodding each other and sniggering?
I’d never seen the programme when I had the brilliant idea of appearing on it. Others told me it was dreadful bilge but I had my eye on the viewing figures –which were huge.
For the last eighteen months I’d sported fetching purple and turquoise hair extensions to match the cover of my first novel. So wot a laugh, I thought, to have my whole head a mass of pink, cappuccino, orange and black in the shades of the second one. The Salon would have a wacky hairstyle to create and I’d get to witter on about my new book to an eager nation.
I spent some considerable time tracking down direct email addresses / phone numbers for the producers who weren’t as immediately thrilled by the prospect as I’d hoped. We had protracted discussions over whether I could show the book (I couldn’t) and whether it was OK to say what it was about (it was), what constituted ”plugging” and if I could be trusted not to do it every two minutes.
I had to spend hours making a colour card by – rather artistically I thought – chopping a book cover into tiny pieces and creating a mosaic on the back of a postcard so that nothing remained that could vaguely identify it having come from a book by anyone, least of all me.
Despite all the negotiations, it was still confiscated the moment I arrived at the studio in Balham High Street (somewhat hot and flustered having run up it the wrong way), by a tall skinny bloke of about sixteen who sighed, scratched his head and disappeared to “check with legals”.
Someone else of fourteen arrived. “You can say you’ve written a book, but you won’t mention the title, will you?” she asked anxiously. What should I do if Mel (she who was supposed to be doing my hair) asked what it was, I enquired. The fourteen-year old looked stricken. She didn’t know.
After I’d made a lot of promises I didn’t mean a word of, I was eventually allowed into the studio, where “Mel” examined the colours on the card that had been grudgingly returned, and went into a huddle with John-have-I-told-you-I’m-gay-for-the-fourteenth-time who made a show of mincing over to inspect my head.
“Nah,” he said, “we can’t do em. Not wiv ‘enna on it.”
I tried arguing the toss until he got petulant. Having bleach on top of henna, he insisted, would make my hair go green and fall out. This would make gripping television, I suggested. “NO!” he squealed.
With no colours there was no story and although I made a point of droning on about the book while Mel did things to my hair that basically left it the same as it had been before, and gave her a lot of hot tips on how to find someone more interesting once she’d been married to her fiancé – another adolescent – for ten years and he’d started grunting, I knew very well they wouldn’t show it.
So I amused myself by watching Frankie Detorri being peroxided in the next chair along, and the “staff” alternately sulking and giggling over the weirder of my fellow clients (on the other side of me was a 72 year old bloke in a skirt having his nails done and boasting about where he had piercings) (trust me– you don’t want to know) and made mental notes in case there was an article in the whole experience.
Which, as I later wrote, was like a cross between being in a group of thirteen year-olds in the school toilets and finding yourself unexpectedly in a transvestite club.
But all in all, I walked out of The Salon looking much the same as when I went in. I was on air for about three nano seconds having my hair dried. Friends loyally watching, blinked and missed it.
All was not entirely lost. I did get an article out of it – with a book plug at the end – and the girl who washed my hair emailed me later to tell me she’d bought a copy of Perfect Alibis. A lot of trouble to go to for one sale maybe but hey – it’s filled a page or two now.
Thank you, Jane! A little more about ‘Prime Time’…
Laura Meredith never imagined herself appearing on TV, she’s too old, too flabby, too downright hormonal, and much too busy holding things together for her son, Stanley, after her husband left her for a younger, thinner replacement. But best friend Charlotte is a determined woman and when Laura is persuaded on to a daytime show to talk about her PMT, everything changes. Suddenly there’s a camera crew tracking her every move and Laura finds herself an unlikely star. But as things hot up between her and gorgeous TV director, Cal, they’re going downhill elsewhere.
While Laura’s caught up in a heady whirlwind of beauty treatments, makeovers and glamorous film locations, Charlotte’s husband, Roger, is concealing a guilty secret, Stanley’s got problems at school, work’s piling up, and when Laura turns detective to protect Charlotte’s marriage, things go horribly wrong. The champagne’s flowing as Laura’s prime time TV debut looks set to be a hit. But in every month, there’s a “Day Ten” …
And now about Jane…
Jane is the author of four novels and two non-fiction books – Wannabe a Writer? – a humorous look at becoming a scribe – and Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard Of? a guide to the art of book and self promotion.
As a freelance journalist she has appeared in a wide range of women’s magazines and national newspapers and writes regular columns for Woman’s Weekly and Writing Magazine, where she is the agony aunt.
Jane is an experienced tutor who is regularly booked by writing conferences and literary festivals to run workshops and give talks on all aspects of the writing process. She is also a member of Equity, has presented for the BBC on both TV and radio and has done her fair share of daytime TV, particularly when promoting her controversial second novel Perfect Alibis (subtitled ‘How to have an affair and get away with it…’) It was those – sometimes hair-raising – TV experiences that inspired Prime Time, her new novel. For more information see http://www.janewenham-jones.com and http://janewenhamjones.wordpress.com. Prime Time is available as a paperback and eBook. Jane returns next Sunday with more about her eventful life.
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