The Booktopia Book Guru Asks
Love Letters, Wedding Season, Going Dutch
and many more,
Five Facetious Questions
1. Every writer spends at least one afternoon going from bookshop to bookshop making sure his or her latest book is facing out and neatly arranged. How far have you gone to draw attention to your own books in a shop?
I’m terribly British and cowardly about this I’m afraid but my children and their friends used to turn my books face side out. My children still do. The first time I saw my books with my name on them in a shop I had a panic attack and had to leave. Now if I don’t see them I have a hissy fit and have to leave…
This did happen once although I was surrounded by famous writers, not film stars. There were also some other confused souls wandering about so I asked them why they thought they’d been invited to the party. None of them was sure! I met some people I knew later.
3. Some write because they feel compelled to, some are Artists and do it for the Muse, some do it for the cash (one buck twenty a book) and some do it because they think it makes them more attractive to the opposite sex – why do you do write? (NB: don’t say -‘cause I can’t sing, tap or paint!)
It took me a long time to get published so I did do it for nothing for 8 years. But now it’s because I like to communicate, I like exploring situations and I like making things up. It’s a strange way to earn a living but it suits me.
4. Have you ever come to the end of writing a particularly fine paragraph, paused momentarily, chuffed with your own genius, only to find you’ve been sitting at the computer nude or with your dress half-way over your head or shaving cream on your face or toilet paper sticking out the back of your undies or paused to find that you’re singing We are the Champions at the top of your voice, having exchanged the words ‘we are’ for ‘I am’ and dropping an ‘s’?
No? Well, what’s your most embarrassing writing moment?
Writers are always being humiliated one way or another but you do get used to it. A common one for me is having to answer the door in my dressing gown and say, ‘actually I’ve been up since six, just not dressed.’ They never believe you, even though it’s true.
5. Rodin placed his thinker on the loo – where and/or when do you seem to get your best ideas?
Walking really helps and I can quite often solve a tricky problem while on the move. But car journey’s and train travel are also good. It’s something to do with a moving landscape.
Katie, thank you for being a good sport! (Twice! – See Katie’s answers to the Ten Terrifying Questions – HERE)
Read The First Chapter Of Katie’s Soon To Be Released Novel A Perfect Proposal –
A Perfect Proposal
By: Katie Fforde
‘So, remind me, who’s this “Evil Uncle Eric” then? I’m sure you’ve told me but I can’t keep track of my own relations, let alone other people’s.’
Sophie laid her teaspoon down in her saucer and looked thoughtfully across the table at one of her two best friends. ‘He’s some relation of Dad’s, Mands, but as I’ve never met him either – or if I have, I was too young to remember – it’s hardly surprising you’ve forgotten. I’m not quite sure if he’s really an uncle or just an older cousin. There was some sort of falling out which apparently is all sorted out now.’
They were in their favourite coffee shop, at their favourite table by the window where they could watch the passers-by, and, if appropriate, comment on their clothes. Sophie, from habit, mopped up some spilled coffee with a napkin.
‘And remind me why you’re going to look after him? You’re only twenty-two. Not quite old enough to be palmed off as a spinster and sent to look after single male relatives.’ Amanda’s disapproval was evident in the way she was carving patterns on the top of her cappuccino in choppy downward movements.
Sophie narrowed her eyes in mock disapproval. ‘You read too much historical fiction, Mandy, although I must say it does sound as if the unattached daughter is being sent to live with the rich uncle in the hope that he’ll leave her all his money.’ She frowned. ‘It’s not really that at all.’
Her friend raised her eyebrows sceptically.
‘It’s not!’ protested Sophie.
‘So your family aren’t using you as a dogsbody – yet again? While this random relative’s minder goes on holiday?’
Sophie shrugged. ‘She’s not a minder! She’s a housekeeper, or a carer or something. Minder sounds awful.’
Amanda looked Sophie in the eye. ‘Why you? Why not anyone else in your family? Your mother, for example?’
‘Oh, Amanda! You know why! No one else would do it and, to be fair, I am currently between jobs.’ Sophie was aware that her friend was much more outraged by her going to look after an aged relative than she was. Maybe she did let herself get pushed around by her family. ‘I am going to make him pay me.’
‘And do you think he will? Surely if he wanted to, he could just get someone from an agency to look after him. He wouldn’t be insisting on getting a family member to do it. He must be mean. That’s why they call him “evil”.’
Sophie considered. ‘Well, as I said, I’ve never met him personally, but the family do all say he’s terribly tight-fisted. Apparently they tried to borrow some money during some financial crisis or other and he sent them out of the house uttering Shakespearean texts about borrowers and lenders and not being one.’ She laughed. She was imagining the irritation her parents must have felt. ‘It was years and years ago though.’
‘Well, he must be penny-pinching to ask you to care for him if he can afford a professional.’
Sophie bit her lip. She didn’t want to tell Amanda that her mother had offered Sophie’s services, possibly to sweeten Uncle Eric now he was so much nearer to death than he had been years before. If he wouldn’t lend them the money, he might still leave them some, given that he didn’t have many other relations. And Sophie’s family had always been desperately short of money.
But Amanda had known Sophie since primary school and was well aware of how Sophie’s family regarded its youngest member. ‘Don’t tell me, your mother said you’d do it.’
‘Well, I won’t then!’ Sophie twinkled at her friend over her coffee cup. ‘It’s OK! I know you think they all bully me dreadfully, but I do have my way more often than they think I do. Being thought stupid by people – even your family – does give you a bit of power, you know.’ She felt she had to explain her lack of indignation. ‘I know I always seem to take it on the chin, but I never do anything I really don’t want to.’
Amanda sighed. ‘Well, if you say so, but what I’ve never really got is why your family think you’re thick?’
Sophie shrugged. ‘I suppose because I’m not academic like they all are, and being the youngest and all. It’s partly habit and partly because they don’t see my strengths as useful.’ She sighed. ‘Although they do get the benefit of them. In my family if it doesn’t involve letters after your name, it doesn’t count.’
Amanda humphed. ‘Well, I’d like to hear what Milly has to say on the subject.’
Milly, the third of the trio known at school as ‘Milly-Molly-Mandy’ – unfairly, according to Sophie, who didn’t awfully like being called Molly – lived in New York. A couple of years older than the other two, she was the head of the gang and spoke her mind even more than Amanda did.
‘I haven’t bothered Mills with this, although I am due to ring her. But now I must fly. I’ve got to find some half-decent plastic glasses for the children. People are turning up at about one.’ She made a face. ‘My mother is insisting we make a children’s room upstairs in the old playroom. She says it’s because it’ll be more fun for them, but really she doesn’t want kids cluttering up her party.’
‘You see! There you are again, doing loads to help your mother have a party and they still treat you as a second-class citizen.’
Sophie giggled. ‘It’s not about class, darling, it’s about brains! I do have the former, but my exam results indicated I didn’t have many of the latter.’
‘You sound just like your mother!’
‘Do I? That’s not good!’
‘It’s inevitable. And to be fair to your mother, I think she has a point about the children’s room. Parents’ parties can be frightfully dull when you’re little. And your father is prone to demanding if people are learning Latin – if you’re a child, anyway.’
Sophie raised an eyebrow. ‘They’re quite dull when you’re five foot six, which is why you’re not coming. Unlike last year. And he doesn’t ask you about Latin any more. He knows you went to the same school as I did, and didn’t.’
Amanda obviously now felt guilty. ‘Do you really want me come? I will. We did used to have fun at your parents’ annual bash.’
‘When we three used to cover each other in face paint and play with the hose in the garden.’ They both sighed reminiscently and then Sophie went on: ‘No, you’re fine. I’ll do this one on my own. After all, I’m used to my ghastly family. I can cope with them.’ She frowned slightly. She hadn’t been entirely truthful with Amanda. Although she always appeared to accept her lot in the family pecking order it had irked her more lately. Especially during these hard times, when her skill with turning shabby into chic was particularly useful, she could have done with the occasional pat on the back.
© Katie Fforde 1995–2010
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About the Contributor
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.