Saturday, March 24, 2012

What a Week! What a six months!

It's been a bit of a week all round. Last week a piece I wrote for the magazine Mature Times appeared online. The editor of our local paper spotted it and asked if he could use it, too. Not being mercenary, and knowing that all our local papers are teetering on the brink, I agreed. The chief reporter told me he'd already nicked it! Surprisingly, it appeared in full with a rather old picture of me (they have quite a library of pictures of me at our local paper) on Thursday. Yesterday, Friday, a friend with whom I was having a text conversation told me it was in another Kent paper, so I have been syndicated. Gosh.

Then, also yesterday, simultaneously on Twitter and Facebook, two friends told me I had a Full Page Ad in The Bookseller, which is THE industry publication. The one that does the REAL best seller lists and we all want to keep on the best side of. (How's that for bad grammar?) Anyway, without me knowing, my wonderful publishers, Accent Press, had taken this full page ad to promote the re-jacketing and the publication of the tenth book in the series. Cue huge reaction from friends both in and out of the business. Children thrilled, but rather surprised. As for me, well, I spent the evening - alone, naturally - fizzing with happiness, especially as I suddenly saw the way to finish the current epic.

To crown it all, my copy of Romance Matters, the beautifully produced magazine of the Romantic Novelists' Association, arrived on the mat this morning. A very special issue, as it not only had coverage of the RoNA awards, in which four (count them, four) of my friends were winners, but the obituaries for the very wonderful Penny Jordan, who died on December 31st and was a dear and generous friend. What I had forgotten was the editor had interviewed me for this issue some time ago, and turning a page, there I was. In wonderful technicolour across a double page spread.

So in the last six months my public profile has, as another novelist friend, Elizabeth Chadwick, says "reached the tipping point". I've been featured in a double page spread in the Daily Express, in Kent Life magazine and Writers' Forum, appeared on The One Show and The Alan Titchmarsh Show and now - everything that's happened this week. I appeal to my nearest and dearest to make sure I don't get above myself. Which is unlikely, because in Real Life, here in sunny Whitstabubble, nobody is impressed. I do not make a dent in their lives, I'm simply that woman who occasionally appears on stage and the mother of four hugely talented children who are far more visible than I. Of course my friends know what I do for a living, but it doesn't come up much.

So, in conclusion, I'd like to say thank you to everybody who has encouraged and exposed (!) me. And most of all, of course, Hazel Cushion and Accent Press, without whom, as they say... Oh, and as a cheerful post script, I finally found a hairdresser to replace Caroline. That'll impress you all.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My first guest on the blog - Dominic Goodwin

With some trepidation, I present my first guest on this blog. And it isn't a writer, but someone whom regular readers of my books and old friends will realise is relevant! I hope I haven't done him any damage by inviting him on here. Thanks, Dom for agreeing to appear on the blog. Can you tell us how you started your life upon the wicked stage?

I was 13 and my best friend Warren was cast in the school play; “The Dracula Spectacular”, (as the vicar) and I thought “Well if he is in it, why not me”, so I auditioned and was cast as Genghis, the deformed manservant. As soon as I took the first tentative steps onto the stage on that first memorable night I was hooked. And have never stopped acting. Since then I have appeared in about 100 amateur productions, about 30 professional ones, 1 radio series, 1 feature film and enjoyed numerous radio interviews. What larks!!

You have a very important association with one of the most beautiful theatres in England, the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond, Yorkshire. Will you tell us about that?

When I turned professional in 2006 I already had a relationship at the Georgian as I knew the then chief executive. In the same year he offered to stage a couple of performances of my first tour; “The Long Mirror” by J B Priestley. Since then I have taken about 10 shows to the theatre and happily box office sales have increased for each show, and in 2010 I was approached to be The Dame in the first in-house pantomime in the venue for over 200 years; “Mother Goose”. The show went well with 46 performances from early December to the first week of January 2011. The following year the theatre decided on “The Adventures of Sinbad” and happily I was invited back to don frocks once again. “Sinbad” was a huge success, gaining 5 star reviews and turned a loss for “Mother Goose” into a profit. 2012 sees “Babes in the Wood” take to the stage for the Christmas and New Year season. It is a huge honour to be asked to work in one of the oldest theatres in the UK.

The Angus and Ross Theatre Company are far more serious. How do you find the two halves of your performing life fit together?

Very well. Angus and Ross Theatre Company was originally set-up to do one play: “Holmes and Watson: The Farewell Tour”, a comedy by Leeds playwright Stuart Fortey. Four tours later we are going to tour the show again – it has been so successful. It appears that theatre audiences like to laugh and this show fits that bill. It is pure farce. And audiences have always enjoyed the show. We decided to keep the company going after the end of the first tour and enjoy doing a wide variety of shows. We have also staged “The Mystery of Irma Vep” by Charles Ludlam. A quick-change penny dreadful for two actors; we had 30 changes and four characters each to play, pure madness but a delight.
I was in my dressing room last year at the Georgian – sitting in tights and a frock, and reading the next play “Frankenstein live” by BAFTA nominated Tom Needham. I was to be cast as The Monster in a serious piece, totally at odds with “Irma” or “Holmes and Watson”, an exciting prospect. I sat reading thinking I can’t possibly do this. But we did and it was very exciting trying to scale the heights of a truly monstrous character – especially after donning tights and a frock as Dame. Variety being the spice of life!

How do you feel about community theatre? (Bearing in mind, of course, that I now do community theatre! Oh - and so does Libby Sarjeant.)

I have always done it. It is to be celebrated. I spent some years, even after turning pro directing a local company, (probably as they had no-one else to do it), and it was a good way to put something back. Also the thrill of not learning lines is a real treat. Last summer I worked with 1812 Theatre Company in Helmsley and directed “Oh Clarence”, based on “The Blandings Castle” stories by P G Wodehouse. It was lovely to sit at the back of the house and watch the audience in fits of laughter and to help inexperienced actors grasp the notion of comedy, character and rhythm.
Community Arts brings everyone together like nothing else. You will go to a show in your local village hall / theatre / memorial hall / community centre (delete as appropriate) and sit with every class, every colour, every age. It is the total leveller.

If you hadn’t become an actor, do you think there’s any other career you would have liked to pursue?

Probably Director, if not I would go back and run a venue.

If you have any time off, what do you like to do? Apart from collapse in a heap and sleep, of course!

In no particular order:
Watch British movies of the 50’s and 60’s.
Listen to Audio Books
Visit Scotland
Listen and watch vintage comedy such as Les Dawson, Arthur Marsahll,Radio Comedy of the 40s, 50s and 60s and of course dear old Hinge and Bracket.

And of course read the Libby Sarjeant books! Thanks, Dom, for being my first and surely most interesting guest.