My first book, Awful by Comparison, was a bit of an experiment to see if a) I could write Comedy, and b) catch the attention of a Literary Agent.
More than that, it was a story I couldn’t leave unfinished, and I hoped real-life readers may feel the same way. So, to justify the time and attention required, I had to make the book good enough to send out into the ether.
From day one, I’ve had the same, almost accidental, approach. A character pops into my head. I spend time with them. Those first confessionals become plot-lines. If I think I’ve got something interesting, I draw up a synopsis. Nobody really knows how we’re getting there. Least of all, me.
The initial idea for the book was based on a series of daydreams which became Characters, Settings, Motivation and Revelation. Sat in my Dentists’ waiting room, leafing through a magazine, an article on Siblings of the Rich and Famous, became the tension between Lara and Jennifer.
The pressure perpetuated by Media outlets for women to unfavourably compare themselves, struck me as a form of mass cultural, ‘sibling rivalry’. I explore Family Dynamics through my work; from step-families, to work families, and, in my latest project, an on-screen, TV dynasty.
These two sisters and their worlds, existed in stark contrast, providing me with vast amounts of space to play with Comedy and Conflict. Awful by Comparison split into two colliding storylines, dictated by two very different women.
Eldest sister, Lara Taylor, was inspired by a quote from my favourite Poet, Rilke: ‘For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we are barely able to endure, and it amazes us so, because it serenely disdains, to destroy us.’
The idea of capturing Beauty, whether visually, or by an aesthetic urge to collect, led to discussing perceptions of commodity within the Modelling Industry. The Models I spoke with were astonishingly candid. Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia Carangi, by Stephen Fried, was another important source.
The advent of #metoo dawned a couple of years after Awful by Comparison, but Lara’s experiences, and the accounts of her supporting cast, are very much part of that movement.
While Lara’s beauty becomes her currency, her younger sister, Jennifer, envies the seeming ease with which Lara migrated far from the sleepy village where they grew up. Thanks to redundancy, romantic stalemate, and the most awkward job interview of her life, Jennifer is thrust into Quarter-life crisis, paving her return to the family home.
Things happen to Jennifer. Lara happens to things. That was my mantra, writing the novel. By the end of the novel, I missed spending time in the world of Awful by Comparison. And really, that should be the best part of your job. Create a novel you can’t wait to return to, characters you’re invested in, and sheer enjoyment takes you through to typing, The End.
I’m planning the sequel to Awful by Comparison as my fourth book. Incredibly, a story I wrote now has expectant readers. I know I’ve lots to live up to, but I can’t help but feel excited to catch-up with those characters again.