Update: Unfortunately Rosie has had to pull out of judging the Hysteria Writing Competition due to pressure of work. Rosie is a guest blogger on the Mslexia blog.
What is one thing that no-one would usually know about you?
Trouble follows me everywhere.
I’m often being told that I’m not really like other people, that there is something a bit different about me. I don’t think that’s particularly true. I bleed as much as the next woman when you cut me, I cry at sentimental movies, and I have four fantastic children.
I live in a run down farmhouse in the Cumbrian countryside with said children, numerous animals and a husband who earns his living by scaring the wits out of people with the stories that make it out of his head and onto the page.
Nothing particularly out of the ordinary there. It’s not even the day-to-day stuff that marks me out as unusual. It’s my ever-present companion I suspect that worries people most.
Trouble, it has to be said, follows me around like bad smells follow a rubbish truck. Even when I think she has deserted me, there she is, lurking in the background, playing tricks on me with narrow misses and bizarre coincidences.
On the day that Trouble made one of her finest appearances, I’d made my way towards The Green on a Sunday afternoon to hang out with my mates. I’d enough change for an ice cream and a drink and no particular time to be home. It was the hottest day I can recall in my childhood, even the coolest amongst us were letting our masks slip and submerging ourselves in the Tots paddling pool. I don’t think I got myself quite as soaked as the others but I do remember my shoes squelching as I made my way to the back of the ice cream van queue.
Having marked me out at an early age, Trouble was ready to play a blinder. Whilst contemplating the merits of Orange Maids over Funny Feet, and no doubt trying to decide whether or not Neil Jones was good for a snog, I heard a deafening bang.
Now in the movies when you hear a bang of that magnitude it is usually accompanied by screaming, people flinging themselves to the floor and a squeal of tyres as the hit man dashes from the scene. In real life none of these dramatic things happened. Instead, there was a strange kind of time warp in which everyone was frozen. There was silent confusion as people struggled to make sense of what the hell had just happened. The silence lasted an age, the spell only broken when someone finally realised that we were at the heart of a murder scene. That was when the screaming started. It seemed as though everyone cried out and ran in meaningless circles but not me. I stood frozen to the spot, my eyes firmly fixed on the empty space where the Gelatiere had been standing until, eventually, my friend, came sobbing to my side. ‘He winked at me ‘I said ‘He winked at me and then he was dead’. I was to repeat this many times.
Trouble must have been delighted with her efforts.
What is the best excuse you have ever come up with for missing a deadline?
Life has had a habit of handing me reasons for missing deadlines, I’ve never really needed to make them up but I think this one was the most impressive.
It’s a couple of days before Christmas 2011. The tree is up, the house is twinkling. There’s a log fire burning and a glass of something nice by my side as I sit down to edit a short story I’d got scheduled for delivery the next day. The phone rings. It is Mother. I can tell something is wrong because she launches straight into a conversation without asking how the children and me are.
She has a question to ask. What was the surname of that bloke I used to hang about with at college? Which bloke I wonder? John? It couldn’t be John, we dated for years, and she’d never forget his name. Was it the one who I had a fling with after I broke up from John? I have guessed correctly. I give her Shaun’s full name. She tells me to sit down and wait for e-mail from her.
Mother has sent me a blank e-mail – nothing in the body of it just an attachment. I click on it. The link takes me to a photograph of Shaun- he is blinking in the morning sunlight as he is led away by a Police Officer. They are handcuffed together. Before I even read the headlines I understand.
‘The judge remarked that this was one of the vilest crimes he had ever seen as he sentenced Mr Shaun Eliot to life imprisonment for the brutal murder of his partner”
The edits didn’t get done that night.
Are you jealous of other writers?
One in particular.
There’s a bit about being married to an increasingly popular author that’s a tiny bit uncomfortable. It seems churlish to admit it but as I’m amongst friends I’m going to say it out loud; I’m feeling a little bit jealous.
There. I said it.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the kind of jealousy that sees me holding his next manuscript to ransom unless he insists his agent gives my novel the attention it deserves. I really am genuinely happy that his book is proving popular and I’m so absolutely delighted that he’s getting wonderful reviews but really, do they HAVE to be so effusive? Don’t they know that sitting behind every successful author is another author trying desperately hard to keep their confidence up? Don’t they realise that for every article they write praising The Devil’s Detective they should also be reading extracts from his wife’s novel and remarking upon how different but equally amazing that wonderful wife’s work is? And what about showing some appreciation for all the supportive back rubs and the tireless reading and rereading of edits I’ve provided? Doesn’t anyone ever appreciate how hard the partner of a first time novelist has to work in the lead up to its publication?
What was the most important thing you learned at school?
To fall in love.
It all started with a boy called Nigel.
Nigel was my first, but by no means my only, unrequited love. He occupied the very back desk in our classroom. Whilst his location in the classroom alone elevated him to a position of uber cool, ultimately it was his refusal to speak to me in anything other than a scathing put down which had me lying awake at night.
His Addidas bag was the first thing I looked for when I arrived in the cloakroom each morning and was the last important thing I saw each evening as it disappeared off into the distance with the boy I loved.
Nigel didn’t have girlfriends. He hung out with the boys at break, kicking a ball around. They were an impenetrable bunch those boys, moving way too fast to pin down. Nigel was unaware of the girl who watched from the sidelines.
Being one of the few who lived but a two-minute walk from the school gates, and much to my frustration, Nigel would go home at 12pm each day. Lunchtime was the main event for adolescent lovers – if you weren’t there at lunch how could any meaningful flirting take place? With opportunities to impress being so few, I did what any sensible girl does in this situation. I picked an argument with him in tutor group. Quite what I choose to fight with him about has been lost in the mists of time but I do recall that it went on for several weeks. Insults were thrown across the classroom, his witty put downs, my even wittier comebacks…’ Tart’ he would call down the maths corridor, ‘ Loser ‘I would retort.
Oscar Wilde and Jane Austen we were not.
It all came to a head one-day mid- February. Being of limited abilities when it comes to fractions and equations, I was in a lower maths set to that of my teenage heartthrob. Whilst Mr Jonson was running through an elaborate maths exercise, I, as usual, was engaged in an elaborate daydream.
The tedium of the lesson was unexpectedly interrupted. A scuffling noise outside the classroom and a note slipped under the door… Mr Jonson strode over to investigate; all eyes were fixed upon this distraction. Raising an eyebrow and sighing, the teacher announced to the room with dreary resignation that ‘it seemed as though Miss Seymour had an admirer’.
I wasn’t allowed to see the note, which turned out not to be a note but a hand -made Valentine’s card, until the end of the lesson.
When I saw Nigel next I just knew.
What is the single biggest challenge you faced when writing your book?
On the day that I had an idea for a bestseller, I was so utterly convinced by the idea that I bundled my children, mid breakfast, into the car, note pad and pen at the ready and set off for what I believed would be a quasi writing retreat in an indoor play centre.
It started out well. I found a nice spot on the sofa, near a power point and as far away from the main action aka the ball pit as was physically possible. Refreshments had been selected and purchased shoes removed and I settled down JK Rowling stylie to wow the literary world with my ability to write my best seller in a common or garden environment.
I overcame the first hurdle nicely. The rising panic that comes with knowing that you are trapped in a warehouse with over a hundred screeching children was quickly abated by the soothing companionship of my iPod. The children around could have been screaming blue murder, but in my little retreat, Morrissey reigned supreme.
What’s up girls? ……. Well just go and play with someone else. They clearly aren’t very nice children
I took out my pen and notepad, removed my shoes and I began.
What? Well just tell them to go away and make their own game up if they don’t like yours.
For some reason, I was unable to concentrate. Clearly the iPod was distracting me. A prologue is perhaps best written without musical accompaniment I decided. This worked. I was excited .I could not write quickly enough to keep up with the flow of ideas.
What do you need a pound for? …. Oh, ok but just the one.
The ideas came thick and fast. At this rate I thought, I’d have a best seller by Christmas. I looked up. A woman was approaching me.
Is that your little girl in the red dress? She’s just fallen over and hurt herself.
She glanced at my notepad and her lip curled. She gave me a look of disdain. I had, selfishly, been writing when I should have been watching. I am a bad Mother.
I comforted my child. We made good and mended. She skipped off happily to play. I hoped Disdainful Mother would see how quickly my girl recovered- I hoped to show my daughter’s fortitude and for her to realise that Writing Mother wasn’t that bad after all.
Disdainful Mother failed to notice; she was far too busy judging Texting Mother to care.
I made my way back to my makeshift writing station. To the flow of ideas that had, thus far, given so freely of themselves. I picked up my notepad.
My phone chirped cheerfully. A text message from my best friend.
I picked up my pen.
My phone bleeped anxiously. A phone call from my Mother.
I settled down to write.
There’s a big boy on the slide throwing balls at everyone Mum.
I put down my notepad and my pen. I removed my glasses, gathered my children around me and shouted loudly at them. We had come to have fun. I reminded them.
‘Last one to the slide smells like a monkey’s bum’.
Finding Rosie Lee
You can also meet Rosie on the Mslexia blog here: mslexia.co.uk/author/rosies/