You are where you came from?

I listened to an interview with Jay-Z this morning and he said something like ‘you are where you came from.’ At first I thought, oh no, that means I’m a crumpet-eating, flat cap-wearing, pigeon admirer from Lancashire… Which isn’t actually too far off the mark, but I’d like to think I’m more than that, now I’ve had time to grow into myself as a human being.

To be honest with you I could not wait to get out of my beginnings. I left Lancashire as soon as I could be trusted to look after myself. In my teenage years I was subjected to a small town and I felt restrained and surrounded by petty mindedness and a lack of interest in ‘art’ and ‘books’.

I was probably pretty petty minded myself, looking back. And now that I’m not there and I can go to museums and art shows and libraries whenever I want, I do look back and think, I’m glad for the start I had.

The village I was born in (before we moved in my early teens) was a lovely little place with a river and friendly people that brought round casseroles and cakes if you weren’t feeling well. Had I stayed there I wonder if things would have turned out the same as they have now.

We moved from that idyllic place to a nearby town and although it was only a matter of 20 miles away, it was a different universe entirely, at least to me. I hated it. And not just because there was no river and I left behind my friends and my school and the park where you could feed the cute ducks.

To me it just felt so utterly different, like everyone was thinking entirely new thoughts and all the thoughts were depressing and mean-spirited. It didn’t help that my high school was a liability to education, or that bullying was a lifestyle.

However those years gave me a harrowing impetus to ‘get out’, to ‘move on’ and so I did. I changed schools eventually, after I finally broke down and told my mum the whole story. She quite rightly pulled me out of that school and put me in a better one, where verbal and physical abuse weren’t the daily ritual.

After that I put my head down and saw education as my vehicle to freedom. I studied and studied and studied, aced all my exams and ended up in a university half way across the country.

Looking back though, I do think that Jay-Z has a point. Those formative years really shaped how I am now, they helped me to find a toughness, a resilience and a persistence that I fall back on time and time again. So thank you Jay-Z, for making me think about this today!

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Books, Style & Growing Up

SUPERGIRL INTERVIEW: Sophia Fraser, Artist, Humanitarian, Beyonce Fangirl

I talked with Sophia Fraser about all sorts of things over a cup of coffee. We’ve been friends for years so it was fabulous to have a cuppa and chat about her top three books, her personal style, her thoughts on growing up and lots more.

Please watch the video and also subscribe to my new YouTube Channel!

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Lancashire, Oh Lancashire!

I am featured in an article in the “Lancashire Telegraph” today talking about my wattpad experience and the fact that I am currently searching for an agent to represent my new manuscript.

Lancashire is my home county in England the place where I grew up and blossomed into the adult you see before you today. In case you didn’t know Lancashire is famous for hot pot, flat caps and pigeons (see below).

Check out the article here (“Young Mum” cringe, more like “slightly above average age Mum”).

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pigeons
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flat cap
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hot pot

 

 

Jane & Charlotte

I love the way Charlotte Brontë saw Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice like this: “a carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden, with neat borders and delicate flowers; but … no open country, no fresh air, no blue hill, no bonny beck.” It says so much about both of them. I’m reading Pride and Prejudice again for the umpteenth time and noticing the absolute cruelty of Jane at times, but of course also the absolute genius.

As a seventeen year old girl I wrote some sort of fiction piece and gave it to my friend who was also an aspiring writer. I remember clearly his reaction to what I had wrote. It is one of those painful sort of things – on the one hand so seemingly mild and on the other hand as destructive as a forest fire. His reply to what I had wrote was ever so slightly derisive, ever so slightly mocking. He told me that it sounded just like Jane Austen, like I was writing in the 18th century or something.

At the time I felt completely destroyed and embarrassed and ashamed and a whole plethora of overblown reactions – as though the fact that I sounded like someone else was somehow disgraceful and the fact that there we were in 1997 sat in the depths of Blackburn, Lancashire and here I was sounding like a posh Englishwoman from another century – it was too much to bear and actually halted me in my writing efforts for quite some time, or at least kept me hiding from open view.

However now I look back in hindsight I can see that although it was said to unsettle, I can see exactly how I had sounded like someone else – of course I did. I read Jane Austen voraciously, because I enjoyed her but what that also meant, without me even knowing,  it is that I was learning from the best.

I think it was Neil Gaiman who said that at the beginning as a writer it is inevitable – and actually preferable – for imitation to take place. Of course it does, and it’s not a bad thing. Here I am all those years later, still reading Jane Austen and probably still imitating her to some slighter degree. But that’s alright, thankfully I can do that now without all those old fears.

believed to be Jane, from www.guardian.com
believed to be Jane, from http://www.guardian.com

Story in Motion

So the music video I directed a few weeks ago is now ready and released… When I came back from the shoot I talked about how much I enjoyed the process of making the video. It was quite an experience from a writer’s perspective. No longer was it just me and the page – the only real threat of alteration coming from an overeager editor. Suddenly it was a world of people, lots of them – all with their own interpretation of the script.

Instead of being a dreadful thing though it was actually a real pleasure. Each person involved brought something that I wasn’t necessarily expecting which made it really quite exciting!

The initial concept for the video was inspired by the singer herself, Catherine Kubillus. I saw somewhere, maybe on her twitter page that she described herself as a ‘muse’. I like this idea of someone whose presence is so powerful they’re able to inspire art. It got mingled in with the idea that the muse can take on all these different roles, like how a model can be different people in different photographs or paintings.

How many people could Catherine be in this short space of a few minutes? And who? This is where I turned to the song. To me it’s a beautifully sad song, sort of encapsulating those moments where the words didn’t quite come out right, or didn’t come out at all.

But whoever Catherine became had to be strong in their iconography so I picked out a number of female characters from history and literature and imagined them in their lonelier moments, each one with their own story. It didn’t need to be obvious to the viewer, so long as those echoes of history, loss and romance came through.

First of all there was Ophelia. The tragic heroine from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Always depicted in paintings as delicate and deathly. Then there was Cathy from Wuthering Heights – love torn and split from Heathcliffe. Then Cleopatra who had an incredible love life by all accounts, surely punctuated by loneliness along the way, then Artemis – the virgin Greek Goddess who created her own mythology in the woods.

Lastly came Marie Antoinette. This was Catherine’s choice and it was a great addition. Catherine is Austrian and so is Marie Antoinette – the Austrian born Queen of France. It’s up to the viewer from there really, to make of it what they will.

To create the video itself was quite an undertaking; very much in and of the real world. From laying in early autumn ponds to baths full of milk, it truly was an adventure and it amazes me when I see the video now how easy it all looks. Here it is, I hope you enjoy…