To celebrate the publication day of My Husband Next Door by Catherine Alliott, Catherine has written a guest post for you lovely lot telling us about her inspiration for the subject of this book and how the characters came to life. And if that wasn't exciting enough - can you tell we're massive Catherine Alliott fans – her publishers, Penguin, are also giving away five copies of My Husband Next Door to five lucky Novelicious readers (UK only) – please leave a comment below. Over to Catherine…
When I'm asked where the inspiration for a book comes from, the
truth is, I don't know! I don't go out looking for a story, and I don't make any
sort of concrete plans: I have no detailed notes, no skeleton, no synopsis of each
chapter, no family trees. It just sort of arrives, which sounds terribly fortuitous,
like a cheque landing on the doormat, but it's much vaguer than that; like little
torn bits of the cheque arriving, which have to be stuck together. I'm tempted to
call it osmosis.
The characters creep up on me first – or more particularly the
heroine, since I write in the first person – who is sometimes spookily and unnervingly
like me. Not entirely of course because that would be embarrassing, she needs a
few standards, but certain traits of her character are definitely recognisasble.
And I can't help it if my heroines age with me, can I? I can't be the only one with
the crows feet and the alarming brown spots on the backs of my hands and the tendency
to crisis manage and the buckets of indecision. So there we have it: first up, a
chaotic and vascilating heroine – mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend – someone
who tries to be all things to all people and fails miserably, but who, if you look
closely, still has that j-u-s-t discernable – I wouldn't say streak, waterline perhaps
– of steel, crying out to be utilised.
Which is where the plot comes in. Just as in life, in fiction
the unexpected is always lurking unpleasantly around the corner, ready to burst
in and chop us off at the ankles: ready to demand we show what we're made of – remember
that waterline? In Ella's case it's a rather nasty secret in her past: one she thought
she'd moved on from and covered her tracks about. Everyone's unexpected is different.
But then there's the current and more familiar: a broken marriage, a brace of moody
teenagers, some challenging elderly parents, a persistent and very attractive lover
– OK, I agree, the last is not familiar at all and is one of the perks of being
a writer. But the rest are the stuff of life. Oh, and did I mention that for financial
reasons, the estranged husband is living in a barn in the back garden? Wait: it's
all coming back to me. I WAS handed this little nugget, at a drinks party, when
chatting to a friend who's sister is in a similar predicament. Her ex-husband (unemployed
and no stranger to the whisky bottle) currently resides in a caravan beside the
vegetable patch, where he drives her up the pole. I couldn't quite cope with the
caravan – also, my fictitious husband is a painter and needs space and light – so
I upgraded him to a barn. A granary to be more precise. But the point is I WAS given
the idea, at a party. So it is important to have a proper life and get out and talk
to people. To have time between books to think, and socialise, and recharge the
batteries, and not just write constantly, or spend all day at a screen promoting
your books as my publishers would – anyway. Where was I.
Oh yes, heroine first, then a kernel of a plot idea – hopefully
handed on a plate with smoked salmon nibbles at a party – and then obviously…the
love interest. One particularly friend always jokingly asks if I mold my romantic
heroes on him, to which I reply – "Yes, Julian." He beams. Puffs out his
chest. Almost, sort of believes it as he struts away, delighted. The truth is men like that do appear in my books
and are quite easy and fun to do. The other sort, the sort you'd fall in love with,
are more difficult. But I do so love trying. And that's the delicious thing about
writing – you invent the ideal man. It's a wonder more girls don't do it actually,
it's so much more satisfying than the real thing, and it whiles away eons of time
when one really should be watering the plants on the terrace, or sorting through
the sock basket, or spraying cheap perfume on the boots in the boot room so that
the puppy doesn't chew them again. (The only thing that works, incidentally, is
Chanel No 5 and I simply can't bring myself to do that.)
So I'm not sure you're any the wiser. This is the
one that always comes up and has me furrowing my brow and scrabbling around in the
back of what passes for my mind as I look blank, and a bit wild about the eyes,
and stutter….um…..I don't really know.
Check out Novel Kicks tomorrow for more Catherine Alliot content.
Here's a clip of Catherine talking about her life and writing!