Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Who is speaking here? Will someone tell me who's in charge?

A friend asked me this the other day. Who is speaking on your blog? Is it you or your book character? Or are they quite alike?

Well, er, it's me talking on the blog, it's not her. Her name is Marilyn and she's invented. And of course we're not alike. I mean, I'm just not her, I mean how can I be? She is tall, half-Hungarian with knockers and big cheek bones, divorced from a television executive with a couple of unflinching British teens. She's done the subordinate wife thing for too long, the woman behind the man, the madre in a cardigan, the food shopper, the woman sipping cups of tea. I can't say how much I enjoyed creating a woman so DIFFERENT from myself.

Whereas myself, argh, let's leave that. I just live here, wrote the book, write this blog. Suffice to say that I do love story-telling, creating an entire world that you can enter and even smell when you lay your thoughts to rest at night. And Marilyn's new Italian world was created from the many elements I thought would make a cracking read for a woman as demanding and fortified as myself. Someone who likes sex, men, teenagers, architecture and good wine, and not always in that order.

I started writing 'The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy' at a time when I began to realise that thirty-year-old (traditional chick lit market) and forty-year-old women have very different needs. There is so much that a woman has/is striving to/still wishes to accomplish over those dense pre-50 years. And yet these are the years when women begin to fade away. When we may be dumped/betrayed/jaded. When our clothes are advertised on girls younger than our daughters; when we appear most often (on Italian tv) in ads about dust, hygiene or bloated stomachs!! I just wanted to shift a few deck chairs and stir up some arresting humour around an older lass who learns how to get crude again, to perk up and work out which hat she could be wearing.

So Marilyn, my book character, is not me. She is just the vehicle for a rant, a laugh, a vent for my espresso fixation and a reason to hang around Venice and Milan.

Although that Australian character, Fiona, that saucy red-head who grabs the ball and runs with it, now she's the one you should probably cross-examine...

+ + +

ps GRAZIE MILLE to poet JOHN SIDDIQUE who is hosting my 'Culture Diary' on his blog this week I am reading his sexy and sensitive poems in Full Blood.

pps wonderful news from Ether Books who have a selection of my stories online - stories based on the cusp between European and African ways of thinking! Do take a look there are amazing writers present!


  1. (I'm hoping this comment goes through. My comments this past week on your posts have rejected and kicked me out.)

    Cheering here regarding your comment about the needs/interests of the 30-something vs. the 40-something woman. About time someone filled that gap, and I'm so excited it's you!

    Not knowing you in real life, yet feeling you are a dear friend, it never occured to me the voice here wasn't your own. That would be an exhausting task to continue in character I would think.

    I cannot wait to read about Fiona...
    and do you have a link to the Ether stories or am I missing it...

  2. Dear Lyra,
    Sorry I don't know why there are comment problems, and will try to adjust. Yes dear friend, I do love this loose blog circle, very reassuring and warming on those dull difficult days.
    But the blog is me! Sono io Caterina! It's the book that is home to my crazy characters. We are almost there now. Quasi!

  3. No one needs an excuse to hang out in Milan or Venice. :0)

  4. Okay, a justification for all those books and shoes then?
    I just love arriving at Milano Stazione Centrale or Venezia Santa Lucia!

  5. It is a bugger that women are supposed to just disappear once we reach a certain age like bitter old lemons. Hurrah for you shining the light.

  6. Fiona sounds like my favorite kind of friend. The shifty kind. . .

    I'm thrilled that you've given me reading material for the weekend, Cat. Thanks!

  7. Looking forward to meeting Marilyn and Fiona! As one just about to hit 40 I definitely feel I've moved beyond Chicklit, but the next genre up seems far too 'twin set & pearls' for me... maybe you're inventing Cougar-lit (although I really don't like that term. There'll be a better one somewhere... xxx

  8. Hi Averil,

    Yes I had fun with Fiona, with all of them really. I am still laughing as I do revisions, is that normal? Hope you enjoy the other stuff. The stories in Ether are very different, very sweaty and African. See what you think.

    Ciao Cat

  9. This reminds me of a line I wrote down from A Visit From The Goon Squad:

    "Mildred and Fiona were already there or have just slipped in; being old and female, they're easily missed."

    Here's to not fading away.

  10. Hello Claire,
    Thanks for stopping by. Not sure about the title Cougar lit either - makes me think of tight leopard-skin pants! And the pearls and twinset look - I don't think I'll ever go down that road. I'm not sure how to classify this book I realise, a thinking woman's comedy? We'll see.
    Ciao cat

    Dear Downith,
    I don't think we'll be fading any time soon! I'll drink to that.
    Ciao cat

  11. Sometimes this 40 year old thinks we're not really disappearing. We just don't give a damn about the approval anymore! I love my friends and the fact that we've learned to love and live big. (And I thank goodness every day for expensive bras and anti-aging creams.)

  12. Um, 40 something. More toward something.

  13. Here's to feeling good in your skin and not giving a damn!