Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Last Days of Bended Knee

It's over. The Days of Bended Knee. This is what I am calling telemark or free-heel skiing which is how I spend my winters to avoid depression, writer's butt and a bad neck and shoulders. I think physical activity is essential to writing. Not only for the obvious aesthetic reasons when one must present a book in a stylish London independent bookshop (are you sure about the silver heels Averil? What if it's cold?) but for strength of mind and character. If I am curled up with my laptop for five damp foggy months where I can barely see the cherry tree at the bottom of the yard, I become a pretty toxic person. I need movement (read beer-stops, some night-time dancing and man-hunting into that) and good mates talking about everything under the sun other that writing. Sometimes I ban myself from talking about The Novel because I don't want to sound like that whacky Australian who also thinks she can ski. Not everybody reads, not everybody will even half-like this book, but I was very very chuffed in the local bar trying to explain my storyline to a bunch of dishevelled male ski mates at the end of a sunny slushy day. Miles away from my target market, but wanting to know if there were any ski instructors or mountain lust. Well, there IS a chapter set in my beloved Dolomites, and there IS a sculptor (my mate M has the most amazingly creative hands).

Gosh this disco babe even made it to the local dancefloor some time on Sunday morning to show those youngsters what three decades of wild dancing can bring about. My first real discos were dives in 80s Paris before these kids were even on the chart.

For Downith, my meme. I'm going to use this book, not my WIP, which doesn't even have page numbers on the print-out and is quite far from my daily thoughts. So here goes:
P77, line 7, 7 lines of 'The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy.'

'wagging his shaving brush. He started a long monologue which I presumed included his thoughts upon Italian cinema, given I caught a couple of key words: Sophia Loren and seno (breast). My question had unleashed a torrent, but I couldn't understand a thing.
'A te piace il sesso, scommetto?' He leant forward and said this in a sly intimate tone. I was beginning to figure out that he'

Et voilĂ !

Monday, 19 March 2012

The Book Launch

As much as I want to climb a mountain and hide in a cave for the next six months, I should rather be bellowing from one. 'The Divorced Lady's Companion to Italy' is about to join the realm of living, breathing books. It may now be pressed to the bosom of a sighing 40-odd woman reflecting over the sex, or turfed to the floor by a reader incensed by my loopy words. It may sit on your bookshelf, absorb coffee on your desk, or its cover may be peered at by other passengers on your train. It might be read by your anxious sister, or your mother who is helping you over the leg you broke while skiing. It might be stolen by your grandmother who chats on dating sites to intercontinental lovers before dawn. It might be read by your brother-in-law, who wishes he could bed you, or your daughter, who suspects you've been having fun in the dark. It might turn up at the dentist's, or at the bottom of that trash-can-on-wheels you call your car. It might turn up at the chalet your lover books and while the rain pummels outside, and he snores, you might sneak a read in bed. It might be in the seat pocket of the plane you catch to Moscow, where you will try not to buy another pair of boots, or in a little book exchange place you find in Nairobi, thinking What the Heck. It might be given to you, left to you, lent to you, borrowed from you.

I hope it will become dog-eared and coffee-loved and scribbled over, and may cause some of you to laugh out loud, thinking of Italy - and your 40s - in a kinky new light.

You're invited to the beginning of all this. Wear a chic dress. There will be prosecco in the air.

Monday, 12 March 2012

DLC and the rise of Mummy Porn

One of my protagonist’s main obstacles in her new Italian life is how to handle the language. She is fortunate enough to fall into the arms of a virile young agronomist, and begins to learn Italian in the oldest way know to woman – in bed. I won’t speak of specifics, but suffice to say that the young grammar teacher’s methods are so effective our heroine learns the lingo almost faster than you can say, Basta! Mi stai facendo male! – Stop! You’re hurting me!

This week I read of the runaway success of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, a bondage novel that has American ladies hot between the thighs. Not having read the 1200 page book, I can only guess that there is a lot of titillating and punishment going on, some blindfolding and leatherwear, steep heels and coolly sweating brows. Apparently women are rushing out to buy grey ties, and rushing home to tie their husbands to their beds.

So what is it about suffering in the name of erotic pleasure? Does it make the crux sweeter? More deserved? My prim protagonist Marilyn Wade, a woman who knew how to park a family car and prune roses, meets an immaculate man from Hong Kong on a dating site. At the end of their date the man pushes his tongue into her mouth and she skitters off up a Soho Street. Chapters later, our heroine is living under this man’s roof in Milan, wearing a catsuit with cheeky leather cut-outs as she swishes a riding crop in front of a mirror, about to go to her first kinky party upstairs. How did this happen?

As I was writing this novel I had no clear intentions whatsoever. Every day was an adventure for me. Haphazardly dragging Marilyn – my protagonist – from one scene to another, from one compartment of her life to another. There was pitiful Marilyn, abandoned by her philandering husband, Marilyn-the-mother, whose teens come the full circle and end up protective of her; Marilyn-the-best-friend, whose clairvoyant BFF predicts her future; and Marilyn-the-sexually-revitalised-woman, given the right to climax and howl that had been robbed of her. But I didn’t set out to write about steamy nightclubs or scalding grammar lessons. I wanted humour, I wanted a giggle. But I also wanted to point a finger at the botoxed dummies forty-year-old women become. I wanted to show a woman living beyond her boundaries, a woman recalibrating her senses, her expectations, her evolution.

This is what became my story.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Solare e passionale

I need some help. In two areas. Firstly, as the Beloved of the Day is not treating me right (same old, same old) I've taken my young brother's advice and gone online. My younger brother lives in a hip city and owns a yacht and rakes in chicks by the dozens. He just can't decide. But here in the countryside where tractor collections and apricot exterior house paint are signs of prowess or success or both, the gents who crop up on my screen are rather frightening. How can a 40-50 year old man describe himself in terms of a lovesick sixteen year old? Or show a photograph wearing Blues Brothers sunglasses and bare summer holiday shoulders while clutching a mobile phone? Hellup!

I was stunned by the amount of men who are married and make no bones of the fact, their serial-killer faces there for all to see. I know I'm not game enough to show my face, but shopping around made me wish I lived in a huge city where the profiles might vary a little. If I read another Sono solare e passionale - I am of sunny disposition and passionate..., well I did and I shutdown. Back to book promotion for me. Heels and prosecco, my affair with Scarlatti, they will have to do.

But the book is promo is where I really need some help. Bookmarks or postcards? Publisher and I cannot decide, or writer cannot decide is more like, and friends and family are vague and vaguer. What do you think? I realise a bookmark is more practical and sets out some clue information. But the postcard would be so snappy.

What do you think? Please assist this solare and passionale writer.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

In Verona, a divorce

Have you ever been blown away by the timing of events in your life? Last week it was as though the director had shouted through his funnel from his slung canvas chairs, 'Divorce! I said Divorce!'

It seems divorce is the flavour of the day. I am no way advocating it, but seeing as I have a novel coming out dealing with the kinky aftermath of middle age divorce (no sobbing here - just religion, the politics of aging and some well-heeled sex), around the same time that the Italian state has called me up before a judge to nudge along my own divorce, one does wonder about who could be behind this unbidden timeliness.

So just how did my book - 'The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy' - arrive in my lap a week before we were up before a kindly judge who asked if there were any hope of reconciliation??

The ex and I had excellent Franciacorta in a nearby bar and then spaghetti con le vongole at his mother's. It's paperwork now. Being older has a type of grace and conclusions can feel neat and warming.

* * *

It goes without saying that Carnivale came and went. After two weeks of diesel-freezing minus twenty degrees we had many beery days of kinder weather on the slopes, faces tanned and beanies left in the car. It's almost beachy up there now and the season has quickly frazzled. Though not for these nameless eighties swingers.