Friday 1 July 2016

Blog Tour: Would Like to Meet by Polly James

Title: Would Like to Meet 
Author: Polly James
Published: 30th June 2016
Publisher: Avon

On the blog today, I am delighted to be on the tour for Would Like to Meet by Polly James. I have a great piece from Polly to share with you. Polly is discussing which three authors she would like to go on a date with. I definitely know one author that I would like to go on a date with, a certain Pierce Brown if you've heard of him! Anyway read on for Polly's three choices.

Polly James

If you could go on a date with three authors separately - who would they be and why?

Ooh, this is such a hard question, as there are so many authors that Id love to meet, including those Ive become friendly with on Twitter over recent years. Or maybe I should choose the most handsome male novelists in the hope that one of them might flirt with me, and remind me that Im not dead yet? Hmm, let me think

Okay, Ive just caught sight of myself in the mirror, so now Ive decided its best to rule out the flirting option. (Its not going to happen when I spend most of my time writing in my dressing gown and forgetting to brush my hair, let alone doing anything that could possibly be described as personal grooming.)

I think Ill opt three of the authors whose work I most admire, instead. Here they are:

1.    Sue Townsend

Sue died in 2014, but Im assuming that doesnt rule her out for the purposes of this question. (I hope it doesnt, anyway, because Im going to choose another dead author as my number three.)

Sue Townsends my first choice for a number of reasons, and not just because of her books, brilliant though most of them are.

I read The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole when it first came out in 1982, and was blown away. The book was a perfect blend of humour and pathos, and Townsends comic timing never missed its mark. How was it even possible that a woman of 36 could capture the voice and personality of a teenage male so convincingly?

The whole thing was a mystery, and thats when I first started to read biographical information about Sue, as well as her subsequent books. She wasnt just a supremely talented comic writer, but a remarkable human being, too.

Every article I read about her life contained another surprise. Shed witnessed the murder of a fellow schoolgirl while she was still a young child. Shed failed her 11-plus and left school at 15, becoming first a packer at a Birds Eye factory and then an attendant at a petrol station. Apparently, she really enjoyed that particular job, as it left her free to read when she wasnt serving customers.

Her home life was busy, too, as shed become a single parent to three young children by the time that she was 23. Not exactly the easiest route to a stellar career as a national treasure, if you ask me.

I wouldnt have written a word with three kids to deal with on a daily basis, but Sue Townsend was clearly made of sterner stuff than me. In fact, her determination and stoicism was quite incredible. She suffered a heart attack in her early thirties, then became diabetic and was registered blind in 2001. None of these traumatic events stopped her writing, not even the loss of her sight. She just dictated her books to her son instead.

Ill-health persisted throughout the rest of Sues life, too, but somehow it never affected her ability to make her readers laugh  – and think – not even when she underwent a kidney transplant and then became wheelchair-bound due to arthritis.

Despite all this, she never expressed one iota of self-pity whenever she was interviewed about her life and work, and she also remained a committed campaigner to improve the lives of the poor until she died in 2014. 
She was a truly admirable person, as well as a great writer who gave joy to millions of readers around the world. I wish Id met her, even though Id probably have felt an absolute wimp in her presence. (It only takes my neighbours noisy building works to render me unable to write a single word.)

2. Fran Lebowitz

I have no idea why I keep on picking authors whod make me feel totally pathetic in comparison to them, but Fran Lebowitz makes me laugh so much, itd be worth the humiliation of trying in vain to hold my end of the conversation during dinner.

If you havent read Frans first book, Metropolitan Life, I highly recommend it – especially if youre a fan of sardonic humour coupled with the most deadpan delivery Ive ever seen. Ill chuck a couple of quotes from Fran in here, so that you can see exactly what I mean. Heres how she once described herself:

Success didnt spoil me. Ive always been insufferable.

Fran Lebowitz is often described as a modern-day Dorothy Parker, and for a while I dithered about which of the two to choose, as Im a huge fan of both. In the end, I opted for Fran because she makes me laugh out loud even more often than Parker does, and she also finds writing really, really difficult, as do I. She and I can bond over the whole nightmarish process of finishing a book, if nothing else. The process she describes like this:

I write so slowly, I could write in my own blood and not hurt myself.

3. Colette

Or Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, to give her her full name, which no one ever does.

I read Colettes novel, Cheri, when I was still a teenager, and was so moved by it that Ive re-read it more times than I can count since then.

It was originally published in 1920, though thats obviously not when I first read it. (Im not THAT old.) However, although that means the novel is 96 years old this year, I dont think its really aged at all. In some ways, it may even have become more relevant over time.

Cheri was probably the first novel ever written about the relationship between an older woman and what would now be called her toy-boy – though thats a bit of a misleading description as it makes the book sound more lightweight than it is. I suppose its really a novel about love, selflessness and loss.

Like Sue Townsend, Colettes life was far from ordinary, though in a different way (apart from the fact that both authors eventually became crippled by arthritis). Colette began and ended her life as a writer, but she also had a career on stage in between. During that time, she sometimes played characters from her Claudine novels, crossing the boundaries between performance and writing, as she would eventually cross so many other boundaries during her long life.

She had a passion for the avant garde (though Im never entirely sure what counts as avant garde), and a long list of lovers of both sexes. She also married three times, and had an affair with her stepson, which was probably pushing it a bit, even by her usual standards as something of a renegade.

Id probably bore Colette to tears as a dinner companion, because my lifes pretty dull by anyones standards, but that doesnt put me off choosing her, because Ive loved her work for so long – and for so many reasons. Her writing is so sensual, and so full of the beauty of nature, that you can almost feel the sun on your face when you read a scene set in the French countryside at the height of summer. You can almost hear the bees buzzing, too. When she describes a meal, you can see and almost taste the food.

Colette might well complain if the food during our dinner didnt live up to her expectations, but I have a cunning plan for if we get stuck for conversation to bring up the one thing that we have in common. Colette became a character in some of her stories, and I did much the same thing in the blog that eventually turned into my first novel, Diary of an Unsmug Married. (I wrote the blog under the pseudonym of the main character, Molly Bennett, and I still have trouble remembering Im not really her.)

If you get a chance to read Cheri, then do. I promise you wont regret it, though obviously Im talking about the English version, unless your French is sh*tloads better than mine. (Can I choose one extra person to take along to my dinner with Colette, now I come to think of it? A translator, please.)

 Would Like to Meet is out now

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