Does anyone remember the episode of ‘Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads’ when Bob and Terry spend the day trying to avoid learning the result of the England vs Bulgaria match?
In desperation they give blood, they do flower arranging with the Women’s Institute, they go to church in their frantic attempt to spend eight hours away from the result… I was reminded of their predicament when I realised that for next week’s, 90 minute, edge of seat, nail biting, final episode of ‘Line of Duty’ I shall be at my book group. I couldn’t quite overcome my readerly conscience to abandon the group, stay home and settle down on the sofa for a telly programme. I shall have to record it. ‘Line of Duty’ is the best thing on telly right now, bar none. It is one of those perfect fusions of great writing by Jed Mercurio and a great ensemble performance by the cast – all of whom give sterling performances and pull together – Keely Hawes brings a chill to our bones, Martin Compston and Vicky McLure counter the chill with their intense sense of honour, Craig Parkinson is the most wonderful baddie – like a creeping Scarpia – but they are just part of a cracking mix of acting talent that is so good you forget they are all acting. And the women come out very well – even Steely Keely who is honourable if damaged. In this Police team you don’t ask a male superior to investigate something corrupt within the Force that might be critical – you ask a woman. Why? Because she can’t be a Mason.
So – next week is the final – 90 minutes of nail chewing, edge of seat stuff – and I shall be somewhere else discussing ‘The Help’ with my book mates. So there will be no radio in the car on the way home that night, no radio or newspaper during Friday while I try to concentrate on being a writer and working on my book until evening arrives and I can settle down to the recording. Personally I’d prefer to give blood, do flower arranging with the WI and go to church but I’m quite sure that at each place the only talk would be ‘Line of Duty’ – even in church the brass cleaners would probably be whispering about it. Can’t wait. But wait I must.
And talking of Book Groups – you can join mine online – I’d love to see you there. Join in for the freebies now and in the future, and be the first to have access to new editions of old favourites. And be Welcome to my World.
I was thinking about my new e-book covers and how pleased I am with them. At last someone has got it right. They are unmistakably feminine designs but bold enough and colourful enough to knock away any thoughts of those floppy, flowery, soft focus, pastel-hued watercolour images so favoured by many publishers for their ‘Women’s Fiction’ and so laughably what women are not really about at all.
The last thing any of my heroines embrace is floppy, flowery or soft focus and if they are involved with pastel-hued watercolour it’s probably because they are attempting to paint with it, probably to grab a little time out of their packed lives for themselves, and probably failing. (NB. Watercolour is the hardest of all painting skills along with fresco. I know, I know, JMWTurner made it look easy but it isn’t…)
The situations I write about (and which many so-called Women’s Fiction authors write about) are simply called life and getting through it in the best way you can. We mostly do not wear floral frocks when we are getting through our women’s lives, we mostly wear things like tee-shirts and leggings and jeans and we might crave a red carpet dress but we’d probably look a bit lumpy in it and feel terrible guilt at not spending the money more practically. And if we live in idyllic little cottages with roses round the door, the roses probably have sharp thorns. Possibly deliberately. So, if you are looking for heroines who swoon into the arms of sun-tanned blokes with white teeth and large cheque books who need to be cured of their pain you probably don’t want to read Mrs Cheek’s oeuvre. If, on the other hand, you want to read about women who apply humour and intelligence and pragmatism to their lives – Oh – and sexiness,too, if they can squeeze that in (pardon the pun) – then you might find what you are looking for in my novels.
The first of these new covers is on ‘Three Men on a Plane’ – I hope both jacket and book will make you smile.
The only drawback to e-books is that – unlike print books – an author cannot sit opposite a reader of one of her books, recognise it from the cover and watch the reader’s every facial tick, smile, head shake, stony stillness, ear twitch. So, I tend to sit on the tube and imagine that any reader with an e-book who appears to be enjoying themselves is reading one of mine. It’s not an entirely convincing leap of imagination but it gets you through the Piccadilly Line.
Would, for instance, the handsome young man with his earring and his designer trainers sitting in the seat opposite really be reading M.Cheek’s finest? Well – why not? I was once teaching an Arvon course and one of the participants was a tough looking youngster in his early ‘twenties – leather jacket, hair shaved at the sides, quite a lot of tattoos, reflective shades and a four day growth… He had been fairly silent in the workshop so far. I was talking about the art of combining emotion with autobiographical detail while keeping control of the text – and – looking the young man straight in the sunglasses – I took a deep breath and quoted one of my all-time favourite books – J G Ballard’s gentle, perfect hymn to the women he had loved and had been loved by – ‘The Kindness of Women’ – of which there is nothing of the Elmore Leonard or Irvine Welsh – and, given the softness of the title, expected a curled lip from my hip young student. Instead he removed his sunglasses and said ‘It’s one of my favourite books – it’s just so beautiful and so touching…’ Lesson learned, Mrs Cheek. And it’s legacy is that I can imagine whomsoever I like reading a novel of mine – the more unlikely, the better.
I’d like to send you a short story, for free – you just need to tell me where to send it