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

In Blood – short story

In Blood

We met in blood.

His and mine.

Sweet, dark tangy blood. Do you know how it tastes? Thick, dark blood. The essence of life. I do. And I like it. I like the rich, metallic tang, and I like the full, intense aroma, and I like the sight of blood in its many forms and shades.

In blood, it ended the same way that it started, and now they call us toxic. They call us sick. But I will wait for him.  We are connected now. His blood runs with mine.

The night of the party, that was our night. Our first night. But I had been watching him for a long time before that.  Let mel tell you what I saw. I saw a brute, a bear, a man, a thug. He was top heavy with arm muscles and his movements were precise and fast. He was a man who had never doubted himself, never questioned anything. He did not know hesitation or procrastination. He knew who he was, and the best thing about him was that he did not give a shit about anything. Not one single thing, not one single person.

Everyone knew who he was. The big lad, the top one, the bully boy from the bad family. Bad reputation. From the estate. Not to be messed with. Steer clear. If you had the brains you were born with, you would steer clear. But silly girls never listened. Silly girls saw his looks and his power and believed they could change him. But not me; I never wanted to change him.

I didn’t worry about brains, although I had plenty of them. Instead I concerned myself with instinct; where my guts led me. Besides, trouble was fun. Good girls were dull. Life was short, and Heaven was a lie.

He didn’t notice me back then. I was in the background. I think that is how he sees most people. Blurred noise while he cuts through it all. You always see him coming. You always stand back, hold your breath, look on. I remember doing that, when I was just in the background, looking in. I was a self-satisfied,  slinky, skin slashing, know it all. I still am.

I watched him, watched and learned. I was intrigued. I thought maybe, we had things in common. You see the thing about him I liked, was the thing about him they all hated, or feared. He was mean. He didn’t give a shit about anyone. He would hurt you, use you, laugh at you. It was just him and his brother Travis to take on the world; the twosome, one long and lanky and messy haired, and him, solid and immoveable. The younger brothers were not on his radar, not any of them. Not the little sticky fingered brats, and not Joe. If Joe was anything to him, it was a punch-bag.

I didn’t care about Joe. Not much. Or Lou, my so called best friend. I try not to care about people, for numerous reasons. It’s boring, for one thing. I mean, I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but people are mostly terribly boring. Plus if you do care about them, it tends to get sticky and complicated. So, we had that in common at least. Me and Leon. See, I knew it would work. I knew it was right. If I had said such a thing to Lou or Joe, or to anyone, they would have laughed and jeered, and then looked at me as if I was crazy. Yes, I am a little bit crazy, I want to tell them, so fucking what? Who isn’t anyway? Everyone is fucked up, and that is the truth, my friends. That is the truth. With some people it’s obvious. It’s written all over their face or their body. Some people hide it better, but usually they are the ones who are more fucked up than anyone. At least the freaks and the geeks and the oddities let it loose, let it out, embrace it and rejoice it. Be different.

Don’t be afraid of pain.

That night, we caught each other’s eye for the first time, and it was all how I knew it would be. I get a feeling, a sense about these things. I was tiny and dark in my little dress and shoes, and he was the monster I invited to my party. The kitchen was full of people, packed tight. But Leon was the only one I could see. The rest were blurry-faced. I moved closer to him, and then moved away. I caught his eye, and then refused to look back at him. I watched from the edges as he drank beer with his brothers and Lou. I felt flashes of hot, surprising rage, when she looked like she was in the centre of them. All three brothers looking at her and laughing as she got pissed up.

I made my move when she ran outside to be sick and Travis followed her. Joe turned away from his brother, and Leon was alone.  He took a chair and sat down, and before he could lift his beer to his lips, I was on his lap.

‘It’s quieter upstairs,’ I told him, and then I was gone. I heard his curious tread coming up the stairs behind me.  I opened my bedroom door,  and in he came. Just like that. We didn’t talk a lot at first. He sipped his beer and looked around at my room. Then he went to the window to check out the garden.

‘Your bedroom is about the size of our house,’ he muttered, and I laughed. I was lying on my bed and playing with my razor.

‘Don’t you get bored,’ I said to him. ‘With everything, and everyone?’

He came closer, his eyes narrowing in on my razor blade. ‘What are you, suicidal?’

‘No, not at all. I’m just bored. And I’m interested in pain. How about you? Tell me something interesting about you.’

He was quiet for a moment, just watching me. He looked hungry then, like a dog sizing up a good, juicy bone.  I waited for him, eyebrows raised.

He said; ‘I’ve got a wrap of coke in my back pocket, if you’re interested.’

I grinned and held up my razor. ‘Well aren’t we just made for each other?’

And we sat together at my desk, and I passed him my blade to chop up the coke, and my bare leg was pressed against his denim clad one, and the pulses in my body were on fire, throbbing and swelling. And then she knocked on the door. That little bitch.

Let me tell you a few things about Lou Carling.

She used to be fat, but now she’s not. She’s on a mission to destroy herself, and I am along for the ride. These kinds of things are interesting. After all, isn’t that the gist of being human? Isn’t that the curse? Once we are old enough to understand that everything must die, we start to destroy ourselves any way we can. Drugs. Drink. Sex. Work. Hate. Love. You name it. It cuts us up, from the inside out. Lou Carling is one of these people, cutting herself up on the inside where nobody can see it. On the outside she is tough and sarcastic and slow to smile. For some reason, she cannot see that her best friend Joe is totally and utterly in love with her. It makes me quite sick. It’s almost like incest. I’m not kidding. They were bathed together as kids, ran around naked in the garden, you name it. But now that their bodies have grown and been honed and hemmed and tightened and lengthened, things are getting all screwed up. Believe me, spend ten minutes in a room with those two and you will want to scream at the top of your lungs; for God’s sake just fuck each other and get it over with!

But anyway. I digress. Lou Carling, short and sweet and bitter and more fucked than any of us. I hang around with her because I want to see how fast she unravels. I want to see what lies underneath.

She knocked on the door with Joe because she was worried about me. How sweet. What happened next was not surprising to anyone at that party. Leon went out there, called her a few choice names, and then beat his brother up. Meanwhile she stormed past them to see if I was okay, and yes, how surprising, I was okay! I was chopping up lines of coke, and she could join in if she wanted to, but no.  No, of course, not Lou Carling. Not perfect little Lou. Smoking the odd spliff with Joe and drinking cider in the park is fine, but you know, anything else is evil! We had words and she went on her merry way to see to her precious non-boyfriend.

When Leon came back in, he had blood on his knuckles and blood on his face.

‘Little bastard,’ he said, under his breath.

God, I wanted him then. I wanted him so much. I couldn’t even speak. But that didn’t matter, because it was all there in the way he looked at me, and the way I looked at him. He was breathing hard and fast, and part of me wished I had gone out there to watch. Pow! Pow! Take that Joe, you little runt, you loser, you nothing!

I don’t mean it. Not really. I kind of like Joe. I kind of like everyone.

But things get so boring

We got back to business. I watched his face as he cut up the powder. I examined the contours of his features, and the curve of his chest, as he breathed fast, in and out. The muscles flexed on his bare arms. He was so very alive. And so was I. So was everything and everyone. It got so much I wanted to eat it. I wanted to grab the whole world and all the fizzing exploding swelling life within it, and shove it right into open mouth, chew it up and swallow it down. Weird, when you feel like that.

We took our medicine and then went to lie on my bed. We kicked off our shoes and stared at the patterns on the ceiling. After a while, he rolled over and looked at me. It felt like he looked into me. He cupped my face with his hand, held it like it was china…

‘What are you waiting for?’ I asked him, and he shrugged.

‘Nothing.’

That was the first time. But it was not the last. His blood mingled with mine, and then again on the night he rushed in and saved me. I was out of it. Mostly, I was absent. But I do remember his arms scooping me up from the bloody mush of my bed. It felt like I was being ripped from my mother’s spongy womb. I remember the feel of his arms, like branches of a tree, holding me close and holding me up. I don’t remember him ripping his t-shirt, which that night was once again doused in the blood of his brother Joe. I don’t remember him using the cloth to tie up my wounds, but apparently his quick thinking saved my life. He tied me once again to this world.

The thug, the animal, the sub-human scumbag. He came to me that night. He could have gone anywhere. He could have vanished from all of our lives, and Lou and Joe and his mother, and the rest of them, would all have been relieved. Good riddance to bad rubbish. But he came to me. He came to me. With the vilest crime a crimson stain upon his hands and all over his clothes, he came to me.

And our blood met again, and when all of this is over, he will be back.

And I will be waiting.

If you are interested in these characters and would like to find out more, you can download the YA novel they are related to here ; (available in paperback and ebook)12227067_1068628339823097_548647694753202354_n

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mess-Me-Chantelle-Atkins-ebook/dp/B00CSVQ8EQ/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=