The Mess Of Me Now

In 2013 I released my debut Young Adult novel, The Mess Of Me. Originally, it was part of the self-publishing platform, Autharium. I then got a publishing deal with a small press and removed it from Autharium. This did not go to plan as a whole year later the small press had done nothing and not responded to my messages, so I decided to take it back and put it back with Autharium…who then closed. Since then, it has been with Pronoun, who also closed, and with Amazon. Currently, like my other books, The Mess Of Me is self-published through the indie collective Pict Publishing, and there I hope, it will stay.

Six years though! In that time I have published eight more books, had another child and started my own Community Interest Company; Chasing Driftwood Writing Group. Life has indeed changed a lot.

But in many ways, Lou Carling, the 16-year-old narrator of The Mess Of Me, is still with me, perhaps increasingly so. I will perhaps explain in another blog post, another day, but for a while now I have not been feeling myself and in times when I am feeling down, Lou is the voice I hear the loudest.

Perhaps because she is the character most like me. They say that a grain of truth seeps into every work of fiction and I agree. They say that characters are often at least partially based on people we know, or on parts of ourselves, and again, I agree.

In fact, Lou is not just the character most like me. She pretty much is me. When I wrote that book, it was perhaps the most cathartic process for me. I had an idea for a plot, for characters, back story and so on, but more than all of that, I had a burning desire to just speak my thoughts through her. Everything Lou says, thinks and feels in The Mess Of Me comes from me. Me when I was a teenager, and me now. I still think of myself as a mess and I probably always will.

The issues with food are still there, just as I suspect they will always be there for Lou. It’s just that as you grow older, you work out ways to rationalise your irrational thoughts. Or as in my case, you have your own children and are determined to set a good example and not let them down.

But for me, The Mess Of Me is a voice in my head, and Lou’s voice is one I hear more than ever lately. I feel the strongest urge to write the sequel, which contains a storyline which is also something true from my own life, but at the moment there are too many other books in progress to focus on it.

Anyway, here are a few reasons why Lou is me and I am Lou;

  • She is obsessed with being thinner
  • she thinks her life will be better if she is thinner
  • every day she thinks and obsesses about being thinner
  • if she does not do anything to help her get thinner she feels like a failure
  • she puts all her thoughts and feelings in writing rather than actually telling people
  • she’s feels the pull of self-destructive behaviour and tries hard to resist
  • she thinks everyone else’s lives are far more interesting than her own
  • for this reason, despite not really liking humans too much, she is endlessly fascinated with them
  • she is in love with her best friend

For those of you perhaps interested in reading about Lou and Joe’s messy summer, the ebook is currently just 99p on Amazon and all other ebook platforms. Please consider leaving an honest review if you do happen to purchase the book. Many thanks!

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Character Interview; Lou Carling from The Mess Of Me

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Q1 What did you eat for breakfast?

I just had a coffee. I wasn’t really hungry. Toast is so filling in the morning and I’ve gone off milk lately on cereal. Just a coffee most days. Coffee is fine. I do have two sugars in it though, which is quite bad, so I’m gonna’ cut that down to one pretty soon.

Q2 Do you have any pets?

Yeah, we have a dog called Gremlin. God knows what he is. He has ears like a bat and a smashed in face like a pug? He’s small and fat with along tail and weird, wiry fur. My best friend Joe calls him an experiment gone wrong. Mum bought him for me and my sister when my dad left us. It was the first thing she did! Went out and got us a puppy.

Q3 How many siblings do you have and are you close to them?

I only have one sister, Sara. She’s eighteen and off to University soon. We get on pretty well, but I wouldn’t say we were close exactly. I’ve always viewed her as a bit of a blur. She rushes around, never stays still, always in and out and involved in some huge drama. She’s always arguing with my mum too. They’re terrible together.

Q4 Who is your best friend? And why?

My best friend is Joe. We’re probably only best friends by accident, to be honest. His mum Lorraine (she is absolutely terrifying!) and my mum were in the hospital at the same time having Sara and Travis, one of Joe’s older brothers and became friends. Lorraine has five sons, and Joe is the middle one. We were forced on each other, I guess. We knew each other even when we were in our mother’s wombs! Poor us. Having to sit there, forced to listen to their constant bitching and gossiping! He’s still my best friend because he gets me. More than anyone. And I get him. We basically just swear at each other and our friendship is based on insults. Joe is calm and gentle, not like the rest of his insane family. They don’t see him like I do. Which is sad. I feel sad for him a lot.

Q5 Who are you scared of?

A few people, actually. My dad scares me a bit, or at least he did when I was younger. He was always ranting and raving and slamming doors and storming off. I hated him and the way he treated my mum. She put up with it for years but then he left her for another woman. I’m not really scared of him now. I just think he’s pathetic. Joe’s mum Lorraine scares the shit out of me. She’s like a pitbull, I swear, a pitbull in red lipstick. She’d wipe the floor with anyone. She’s not frightened of anything or anyone. Christ, she’s a horrifying specimen. Her new bloke Mick is a bit scary too. Her oldest sons, Leon, Travis and Joe have a different dad. Mick is father to the youngest two boys, Will and Tommy. Of course, he dotes on them. They can do no wrong. But he seems to hate the oldest three. So it’s like a constant war zone at their house. Mick is a lot like Lorraine and they fight like cat and dog sometimes. Physically and everything. But do you want to know who scares me the most? Well, it’s Leon. Joe’s oldest brother. Leon and Travis are very close in age and always together, up to no good. Travis is okay. He’s no angel, but he has a nice smile and isn’t too mean to Joe. But Leon? There’s something about him that chills me to the bone. Something missing in his eyes. If there’s anyone to be scared of around here, it’s Leon Lawrenson.

Q6 What is your greatest fear?

Well, it will probably sound stupid to you. Stupid and shallow. But my biggest fear is getting fat again. I was such a porker until I started dieting and exercising. Now, I’m losing weight fast and lots of strange stuff has been happening. I’m more confident, which is weird, because I always just wanted to disappear before. Boys are interested in me now! Which is mental! Boys never looked at me before. I’ve had some weird little moments with Joe this summer, and Travis tried it on with me… I know, I know! But yeah, getting fat again terrifies me. I’m not joking. I never ever want to be that girl again. I hated her. I won’t be her again. I know my mum and sister think I’m taking the weight loss too far, but it’s easy for them to say. They were never fat like I was. They don’t understand.

Q7 What are your hopes and dreams?

Well, right now, I sort of hope Joe and I can get ourselves out of the mess we’re in. Since we found that stuff in his brothers’ wardrobe, everything has got a bit scary. Suddenly Travis and Leon are being nice to Joe, and I’m really worried about what he’s getting into…As for dreams? Mine are pretty basic. I want to be left alone, because most people annoy the hell out of me. I want them all to leave me alone and let me get as skinny as I want. I want to be skinny. Super skinny. I want to be skinny forever. Aside from that, I hope me and Joe are best friends forever and nothing ever comes between us, and I dream of working with animals one day. I haven’t decided what yet. Maybe just a dog walker or a dog trainer or something? I couldn’t stand being around too many people, I know that.

Q8 Do you have any hobbies?

Running. I love running these days! And listening to music, though Joe takes the piss out of my tastes as I seem to like a lot of old stuff like Bob Dylan. Joe is really into music and wants to be a drummer. He’s saving up for this drum kit and forming a band with his mates. Walking the dog? Except that’s not really a hobby, just something I always end up doing because Mum and Sara are too busy. Writing on my wall. You could call that a hobby, I guess. My mum hasn’t noticed yet, but I’ve been scrawling my thoughts and feelings on my bedroom wall for ages now. I’ve even started the ceiling. If she ever wants to know anything about me or my life, she only has to look! Smoking weed and drinking cider with Joe and my other friend Marianne? Naughty hobby, I know, but we’re teenagers, right? We’d regret it if we didn’t break the rules a bit.

Q9 Describe yourself in one sentence

Fucked up, sarcastic, nerdy mess of a girl on the verge of….something

Q10 What’s your biggest secret?

I’m not going to tell just anyone, am I? Christ, I don’t want the world to know! I don’t want anyone to know. It’s huge and it’s embarrassing and it would change everything if it ever got out…and I although I daydream about what could happen if it did, I’m too scared, too shy, too messed up to do anything about it.

The Mess Of Me

April Indie Book Of The Month; Rafferty Lincoln Loves…by Emily Williams

It’s Indie Book of The Month time again! And for April, I picked this glorious YA read by the very talented Emily Williams – Rafferty Lincoln Loves is an emotional and gripping contemporary young adult read. Both I and my 15-year-old daughter really loved this book. Having also read and enjoyed (and been slightly emotionally traumatised by!) Letters To Eloise , I couldn’t wait to read another book by this author. Rafferty Lincoln Loves was everything I look for in a YA read, which is why I picked it to highlight as my April Indie Book Of The Month.

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My Amazon review is below;

The following review is from my 15-year-old daughter. I have also read this wonderful book and will add my thoughts after hers. “I loved this book and it actually made me cry at the end. I liked how lots of normal teenage stuff went on among the unlikely friends in this book, such as trying to fit in, trying to get a girlfriend, bullying, drama at home etc, and that this was interwoven with the main storyline of the missing race horse. I was really rooting for all the characters and really want to read more YA books by this author!”
I read this book after my daughter and she described it as a must-read and one of her favourite books this year. I also enjoyed how the normal trials and tribulations of teenage life were entwined with the main drama of the missing race horse. Rafferty is a normal teenage boy who is slightly obsessed with the ultra popular Liberty Ashburn. When he comes across a missing racehorse, he sees this as a chance to get into horse-loving Liberty’s good books. Along with her younger brother Will, and Dexter, the scruffy outcast who is bullied at school, the unlikely friends secure a hiding place for Minty the horse and spend one long summer caring for him, falling in love with him and trying to hide their secret. I really liked all the characters, none of whom were perfect, but all of whom were memorable. And as my daughter mentioned, a truly emotional ending, so be warned! This is the second book I have read by Emily Williams and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

10 Songs I Can’t Sing Without Crying Like A Baby

I’m a huge music fan and music seems to creep into nearly all of my books. Danny is addicted to the grunge and Britpop of the 90’s in The Boy With The Thorn In His Side.Joe dreams of owning a drum kit and playing in a band in The Mess Of Me, Jake remembers his missing mother’s love for 60’s music This Is Nowhere and in my current WIP, Bill Robinson is a talented singer. I can’t sing myself. I can’t play any instruments either. Big regrets! But like I mentioned in my post Reasons To Be Cheerful, singing along to songs is one of my favourite things to do. I know my voice is terrible, but there is just something so uplifting and life affirming about letting rip, singing your heart out because you know every single word and because every single word means something to you!

There are, however, some songs I can never sing. Not without succumbing to genuine tears. I told my 10 year old this the other day and he demanded a demonstration. So I tried singing the first one on this list and instantly got tears in my eyes, a hitch in my throat and couldn’t get beyond the first verse. So I thought I’d share them with you. The songs I absolutely cannot ever, not even once, manage to sing without crying like a baby. (If you want to have a listen, click on the links for the Youtube videos of each song!)

  1.   The Littlest Hobo Theme TuneI can’t listen to this, let alone sing this without welling up. I loved this show when I was a dog obsessed child of the 80’s. It never failed to pull at my heartstrings every time the poor dog traipsed off on his lonesome after helping strangers in every episode. I think if I heard it for the first time now I’d be all right. It’s the way it plugs me back into my childhood in an instant that does it. Instant memories and emotions = instant tears.
  2. Slipping Through My Fingers  Abba. This is the Meryl Streep version, because it was through the movie Mama Mia that I first heard this song. I don’t like Abba one little bit, and if I didn’t have little girls slipping through my own fingers, I would also hate this song. But I took my little girls to see this at the cinema and watched this most poignant scene with unstoppable tears rolling down my face. I couldn’t even look at my two little girls while this was on. If I’d been all alone I would have indulged myself in a full on cry, with proper noise. It’s had me every since. It’s everything. Every sentence, every lyric. There’s not a mother out there who doesn’t feel like this, like every moment is slipping away from you, like you can’t ever really know these strange little people you brought into the world. And with girls…Every time I hear it I see my little girls when they had ponytails and dresses, when they were skipping out ahead of me. I wish I could have frozen the picture too. Go on. Have a listen. Have a good old cry!
  3. Bright Eyes by Art Garfunkel. I’m sniffling already just listening to this on YouTube. I still can’t watch Watership Down or hear this song without crying. I just can’t do it. Impossible. It’s another instant emotional link to childhood. I adored this book and this film. I read it so many times. It has a very special place in my heart for that reason. It inspired me to keep reading and it inspired me to write stories about animals. It reflected my love of animals and wildlife. It made me think about life and death. Heavy stuff for a little one! This is what music does to you. It floods you with thoughts and feelings from the past.watership-down
  4. Disco 2000 by Pulp. You might think this an odd one. It’s a quirky, dance song. Typical of Pulp in the Britpop ear. This didn’t make me cry back in the day, oh no. I totally loved it and Pulp were one of the first bands I properly fell in love with, but it does something else to me these days. It reminds me that I’ve grown, just like the characters in the song. It reminds me how many years have passed since the year 2000 seemed an impossibly long way off! It has another emotional connection for me now though. Before I knew I was definitely pregnant with my fourth child, I had this CD on in the car during the school run. It made me cry for the first time and I knew I was pregnant long before I had to do a test! Now it’s always gonna’ make me blub.Britpop
  5. Oxygen by Willy Mason This is a new one for me. This song was out in 2004 but somehow I only came across it a few months ago when they played it on BBC 6Music. It came on and it made me slow down, demanding to be listened to. I think I was cooking the dinner, but I gravitated away from the oven and ended up hovering next to the window where our radio is. I soaked up the lyrics and felt a lump in my throat. So much of this makes sense to me right now. It could have been written specifically for the times we are currently living in, and sadly shows that not too much has changed. I wrote down the artist and the title of the song when it came up on the little bar on the radio and tucked the scrap piece of paper into my cutlery draw. I often do things like that and totally forget about them. But in the end, I did look Willy Mason on YouTube, and was impressed enough to order two CD’s. Since they arrived, I’ve played Oxygen in the car on the school run and I have to mouth the lyrics. I can’t sing it out loud without getting all choked up.
  6. Days – Kirsty MacCollI love The Kinks version, but I think Kirsty MacColl had a really beautiful voice, so I prefer this one. I first heard The Kinks sing this on the radio when I was about 12 or so. I used to listen to old fifties and sixties music on the radio in our kitchen, with my notebook in front of me. I’d write the lyrics around the edges of the paper. This was one I wrote the lyrics down to and I can remember how it made me feel sad and nostalgic, even though I was only a kid, and hadn’t even had any ‘days’ yet! Now when I hear it I fill warm and sad and my mind fills with my own memories of days past. I also can’t hear it without thinking about the tragic death of Kirsty MacColl. So yep, this is another one I try to sing along to and just can’t.
  7. Ten Storey Love Song – The Stone RosesThis one gets me every time. I am totally lost in so many thoughts and feelings when I try to sing to this. My husband introduced me to The Stone Roses when we first met. He used to make me mix-tapes and this song was on one of them. He also used to write me very amusing letters on A4 ruled paper, with lyrics and funny quotes written around the margins. He’s actually not that keen on this song, but I adored it from the first time I heard it. It makes me think of him, and us, when we were young and first in love. I wrote this song into The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, giving Danny and Lucy a similar scenario, where he made her mixtapes and this was on one of them. She wrote him love letters and scrawled these lyrics onto them. We saw The Stone Roses play at Finsbury Park in 2013 after they reformed. It was a dream come true and everything I had hoped it would be. I’m not ashamed in the slightest to admit I had tears rolling down my cheeks as I sung along to this one, and thought about everything it meant to me.
  8. Something Changed – Pulp Another Pulp track, and another one that reminds me of my husband and me when we first met. He also dislikes this song, but that doesn’t stop it meaning something to me. The lyrics seemed so perfect at the time. We met at the local night club when we were 17 and 18. He was there because it was one of his friends 18th and I was there because it was one of my friends 18th. One of my friends went to the same school he had, they chatted for a bit, and then she introduced me, and that was that. I’ve always liked the line ‘when we woke up that morning we had no way of knowing, that in a matter of hours we’d change the  way we were  going.’ The song questions what made the couple go to the same place at the same time, and whether it is fate, or something else.
  9. Little Talks – Of Monsters and MenI’m okay with this one until I get to the last verse. This song has an awesome, catchy tune, but the lyrics are a lot darker. I love the way it has a male and female singer, talking back and forth. For me, the female voice is losing her mind to old age, possibly dementia, and the male voice is reassuring her and also talking about how he can’t bear to see her this way. The last verse goes like this; ‘You’re gone, gone, gone away, I watched you disappear. All that’s left is a ghost of you. Now we’re torn, torn, torn apart, there’s nothing we can do, just let me go, we’ll meet again soon…now wait wait wait for me, please hang around, I’ll see you when I fall asleep.’ Lump in the throat right now, just writing that. It makes me think about getting old and dying and losing the one you love. It packs an emotional punch, I think.
  10. Perfect Day – Lou ReedA beautiful, haunting song, and one that builds up with intensity and emotion, taking me with it. Everything about this song chokes me up. His voice, the story, the piano, the endless search for something perfect and pure, his affirmation that this day was, in fact, perfect, and the way we all have days like that in our heads. I love the way you can interpret it how you like. As a love song, or as a song about drug addiction.

So, that’s my list. There are loads more, but I didn’t want to make this post too long! How about you? Are there any songs that make you well up when you hear them? Are there any songs you can’t sing along to without choking on tears? Or am I just a very strange emotional wreck?? Please feel free to comment and share! I would love to hear your songs too.

(PS. I just remembered one more! This one! Flowers In The Window by Travis. I was heavily pregnant with my first child, and stacking shelves at Asda when this came out. It would play in the shop, and after I had waddled home, hot and sweaty and deliriously excited about becoming a mother, I would find the video on The Box, and watch it. All those pregnant women! The lyrics talk about planting new seeds and watching them grow…You are one in a million… Oh that’s it, I’m off again!)