Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Guest Blogger: Sue Margolis

Yesterday, I reviewed a very entertaining (and fun!) book called A CATERED AFFAIR by Sue Margolis. I found this book to be delightful and it was the perfect summer read. So naturally, I'm just thrilled that Ms. Margolis agreed to write a guest post for Booking Mama.

A CATERED AFFAIR is Ms. Margolis' tenth book (and the question is why have I waited so long to read one?) I just love her writing as well as her sense of humor, and I definitely think both assets shine through in this essay. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

So, Sue, how did you get to be a writer?

It’s the most common question I’m asked. The second is: where do you get your ideas?

The answers to both questions are almost the same … The urge to write, the ideas … it’s all just there, inside me. It always was.

When I was eleven, I wrote a composition in school, entitled Autumn. It included the following phrases (I know because my mum still has my school exercise book) …. ‘a feast of falling, tawny leaves … a cornucopia of chestnuts, acorns and apples’. I knew it was great stuff. My teacher seemed to think so too and I scored an A. I knew then that I would become a proper writer one day.

Are writers born? It sounds pretentious to say that they are and I’m a firm believer in the power of nurture. All I would say is that I don’t remember I time when I didn’t have a natural ‘feel’ for language. Whereas I have always struggled with even the elementary laws of science and mathematics, I don’t have the same problems with language. The rules governing words and grammar fascinate me. To me, a well-crafted sentence is a work of art.

As a teenager I wrote they usual angsty, miserablist poetry. I still believed I was a great talent and that one day I would be discovered.

But the day came when I realised that you don’t ‘get’ discovered. A nice lady editor from Penguin wasn’t going to knock on my door one day, ask to read my angsty poetry and declare she’d discovered the new TS Eliot.

On the other hand, actually submitting my writing to a publisher risked the possibility of rejection. I wasn’t sure I could cope with that, so I stopped writing. There were so many ‘proper’ writers out there, having deep literary thoughts. I could never compete. My half finished manuscripts were shut away in drawers and I got on with raising my kids and my job as a radio reporter for the BBC.

I was almost forty before I had grown a skin thick enough to cope with rejection and even then it isn’t easy. Writing a book is a bit like taking all your clothes off in public. You’re saying: ‘this is me. This is all I have. It doesn’t get any better than this.’ So when you submit your naked body to a publisher and they say thanks, but no thanks, it hurts. Like hell.

On the other hand, nothing beats the feeling I get when somebody emails to stay they stayed up all night finishing one of my books.

A Catered Affair is my 10th novel and whereas all the others have meant a lot to me – particularly my first one, Neurotica – none has felt quite as personal as this one.

Shelley, the heroine’s mother in A Catered Affair is a caricature of me: loud, a bit of a middle-aged rebel (or so I like to think) and in your face. Like me, Shelley has two daughters. Tally, the book’s heroine is about to get married. Scarlett - who is gay –lives with her partner Grace. They have decided to start a family and are looking for a suitable sperm donor.

I, too have a daughter who is about to get married. Her twenty two year old sister, Ellie is gay. She came out a few months before I started work on the novel - although she’d been out to her dad and me and her siblings, for a few years.

So when I sat down to write A Catered Affair, the issue of having a gay child and being the best mom possible, was very much on my mind. Shelley embraces her daughter’s gayness with a gusto that her daughter finds difficult to handle. I don’t know if I embarrass Ellie every time she sees me with my ‘I heart my gay daughter’ shopper, but I’m sure she’d tell me if I did.

So, this book – is a message of love to Ellie and I hope that when I’m gone – not that I have any immediate plans! – she’ll pick it up from time to time and know that I’m still with her. The only problem I have with writing a book, which I have dedicated to my gay daughter is that I’m worried my straight kids are going to feel left out. A mother never gets it right! So, I’d like to share the book dedication with you. Any thoughts on how I can make it up to them, gratefully received.

For Ellie … I heart my gay daughter. (To my straight kids: Yes, yes, I heart you guys too. Let’ s not make a big deal out of this).

Sue worked as a reporter for the BBC, before leaving broadcasting to write her first novel. She lives in London with her journalist husband Jonathan. They have three grown up children. Sue’s hobbies include napping, constantly interfering in her children’s lives, not going out, eating  - especially the remains of the previous night’s take-out curry straight from the fridge, and watching made for TV true-life movies in her PJs.



Beth F said...

Hearing Sue's personal story makes me want to read her books even more.

bermudaonion said...

I can see why it would be so hard to send your work to a publisher. I had my blog for a while before I told any of my friends or family about it. I can't wait to read some of Sue's work.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post! Thank you so much for sharing your feelings and words. said...

Wonderful heartfelt post. I enjoyed hearing about her journey. A lovely delight to read. Best wishes to you on your writing endeavors.