This Q&A has been such a hoot, I am excited to have Gina on my blog as it is, but she even took the time to answer a few questions for me. Oh so much fun!! There is a warning with this Q&A do not drink or eat when reading this you might end up spitting it out!!
We are going to start with the “sensible” questions first, not sure there are any but I try!
- What is your writing Kryptonite?
Oh gosh, for me it has got to be feeling sad. As I write humour, if anything touches me in my personal life that makes me either blue or emotional, it has a huge negative impact. I do tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, my career as a police officer did toughen me up, but it never quite succeeded in making me ‘hard’ to every challenge in life.
Whilst writing Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot and Blues, Twos I was experiencing two quite major challenges. I had developed a serious condition with my back which resulted in the loss of use of one leg and the most horrendous pain which eventually required major spinal surgery. At the same time I was caring for my elderly Step-dad who has Dementia. The two combined really strained my ‘funny’, particularly when I had to make the heartbreaking decision for Dad to go into a residential care home as I was no longer capable of giving him full time care. I used to sit at my PC, staring out of the window trying to find my much-needed friend ‘Funny’ so that I could write my words.
It’s the strangest feeling in the world to write a chapter that will make someone laugh whilst your heart is hurting. I suppose we all wear a smiley mask at some point in our lives.
- Gina, I really can not wait to meet you, first thing I would do is give you the hugest hug! I can imagine it is hard to write happy when you don’t feel it! I feel a bit bad asking this next question but what was the hardest chapter to finish and why?
It must be ‘…AND THE WORLD KEEPS TURNING’ from the first book, Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong, which dealt with the death of Mavis’s mum, Josie. Although my books are listed as fiction, they are based on real events and characters that have been part of my own life and that have shaped the person I am now. This chapter portrayed the story of my mum’s passing.
In all honesty, I don’t think I had ever come to terms with or accepted losing her, she wasn’t just my mum, she was my best friend too. I managed to hold back the tears whilst writing this chapter, but I had the most terrible ache in my heart reliving it.
After I typed the last paragraph, I broke down and sobbed for almost an hour, I just couldn’t stop the tears, it was the release I had so desperately needed. The chapter was incredibly cathartic in the strangest of ways, I think it gifted me not only with closure but it also allowed my mum to be immortalised in print forever, she will always be alive in those pages.
‘The cushions still held her imprint, her Theakstons ashtray sat clean and untouched alongside a packet of Embassy No.6 cigarettes and a cheap red plastic lighter. I knew then I would never be the same again…’
From Handcuffs, Truncheon and A Polyester Thong
- Ok, I am sorry for the sad start to this Q&A, I am happy you have been able to share your story with us. What “stories” did not make the Mavis series? Any you want to share now? 😉
There were quite a few, most didn’t make it because I was a bit worried that the humour wouldn’t carry well. Emergency Services personnel tend to develop quite a dark, irreverent sense of humour, it’s a coping mechanism for our own sanity but sometimes it can be a little too close to the knuckle. Some stories were cut in the edits because of the word count and then ended up sidelined in the sequels because they didn’t fit with the current storyline.
The stories I write about really do happen to me but I then ‘gift’ them to Mavis for her adventures. I’m very life observational, so I’m forever taking notes and scribbling down funny disasters and events. One story that didn’t make the cut for the book but became a blog post, was the stick-on bra escapade.
Whilst browsing Amazon in bed at 3am (as you do) I’d fallen asleep with my finger still adhered to my iPad. Two days later I discovered I’d purchased through one-click ordering, a strapless stick-on adhesive bra in a whopping E size cup. I only knew it was that big because it got stuck in the letterbox, traumatising Colin our postman.
Not to waste the £3.99 I’d inadvertently forked out, I decided to wear it for a very special occasion, a talk on Women in 21st Century Policing. I then spent the best part of an hour trying to stick the ruddy thing on evenly and at an acceptable level, without success. The adhesive cleverly adhered itself to every finger I possessed, attracted every body hair known to mankind within a 5-yard radius (which gave me very unattractive hairy nipples) but still steadfastly refused to cling to my boobs. After twenty minutes of squishing and pushing, it made full contact with my skin but one look in the mirror told me that having norks your chin can rest on when you’re almost sixty is not really a believable look, neither was having one boob three inches lower than the other, but with the help of my hubby’s B&Q spirit level, I persevered. Shoving and slapping them into place, I was eventually happy with their pertness.
Unfortunately, all did not go according to plan once I took to the stage.
Halfway through my speech to the large audience of women, the gentle first flush of perspiration was quickly followed by a deluge of panic struck sweat as I forgot where I was up to in my mental script. The bra slowly began to peel itself away, first from my right boob, followed very quickly by a slippy sensation as it lost its hold on the skin of my left one. I almost swallowed my tonsils as it slid down completely, juddered tantalisingly by my belly button for all of two seconds and before I could react, it appeared under the hem of my top and dropped to the floor. The faces of the ladies on the first two rows spoke volumes as I tried to kick the bra under the table that was next to me.
Unfortunately, the adhesive fared better on the leather of my shoe than it had on my skin…. it stuck fast to the toe of my stiletto, refusing point blank to budge. I had to feign ignorance for the rest of my talk with my poor droopy unholstered norks swinging at hip level whilst I occasionally dragged the pointy toe of my shoe along the threadbare carpet behind me in a futile attempt to dislodge it, much to the amusement of the audience!
- I remember reading this blog post, this is most definitely something I can imagine happening to Mavis as well!! Talking of Mavis what inspired you to write your story with Mavis as your alter-ego?
My first draft of Handcuffs was in the first person as myself, but it slowly dawned on me that I was limiting the storyline and characters and there was the added concern that someone might take offence at being named in the book.
Changing the main character to Mavis Upton, giving her my personal history and stories, I found it gave me artistic license to develop her and her escapades. I didn’t feel I needed to stick strictly to the truth and subsequently, more stories and characters came into being. Their traits and descriptives were based on people I’d worked with, but I rounded them off a little to create characters that would sit well on the page.
I spent days trying to think of a name for my protagonist and one night, whilst lying in bed staring at the ceiling, sleep eluding me because my mind was racing with plots and tales, I remembered my very first ‘blue light’ run after passing my police driving course. It was a 999 call to a burglary in progress at an address in Mavis Drive in a nearby village called Upton.
I almost fell out of bed in excitement…. Constable Mavis Upton had been born!
- I am so happy for sure that Mavis is alive! Ok another question about Mavis, Is this the last of Mavis? Or do you have more exciting escapades for us?
Oh gosh, poor Mavis, I have left her a little bit stranded on the Liverpool Waterfront haven’t? I don’t think I could ever truly say goodbye to her, she’s been such a huge part of me, in real life and in my imagination. I know it was a bit of a surprise at the book launch of Blues, Twos and Baby Shoes when I announced to the waiting audience at Waterstones L1 that she was taking a little holiday, but I didn’t want her to become predictable and boring. I did complete the trilogy with an ending that could promise more, she’s had lots of adventures that are still waiting to be told, so you just never know!
- I have said it time and time again, please do not let this be the end of Mavis! Although, I can’t wait for Pru 😉 This is the last of my “sensible” questions, Where is your favourite place to write?
It used to be in the Conservatory where my desk was so that I could look out onto the garden. It’s a woodland garden with a lovely waterfall that attracts lots of birds, butterflies and all the neighbourhood cats, it’s a very calming and therapeutic view with the occasional unsettling appearance of Bailey dragging his bum across the lawn. Can never understand why dogs do that, can you imagine your Nan coming for afternoon tea and doing the same?
Unfortunately, since my spinal op, I can’t sit at a desk for very long, so it’s now a laptop in the front room on the sofa, four cushions, a footrest (I’m very short for my age) and my two Westie boys, Brodie and Bailey cuddled up next to me. They squeeze in so tight I can’t move my elbows and every typo is down to Brodie slamming his nose down onto the keyboard when he wants attention….
….. like that!
- Brilliant, they just want to be close to mummy! Ok, on to the more “fun” questions. What is the funniest typo you’ve ever written? (I can imagine there might be a few lol)
Oh blimey, I’m terrible with my funny typos. I sent an email to lodge a complaint about Hermes, a well-known delivery company, stating the ‘man with Herpes had manhandled my package’, a letter to the council pointing out two of their concrete ‘bollocks’ had been damaged in the local car park and a text to my exhausted hubby returning home from one of his treks, where I hoped he could manage ’40 winks’ on the flight. Unfortunately, the ‘i’ in winks somehow got replaced with an ‘a’…..
I think my best though has got to be the first email submission I sent to a publisher for my Handcuffs manuscript. I decided to use my full name Georgina as I thought it sounded more ‘authorish’ and terribly posh, but predictive text had other ideas and signed me off as…
Needless to say, they never replied and I quickly reverted to Gina for the next one!
- OMG these are classics!! I love them!! Tell us about a unique or quirky habit of yours.
I’m hyper mobile and can put my legs behind my head.
It was always my go-to party trick until after one too many (or several) vodkas I exuberantly threw them up in front of a captive audience, forgetting I was still wearing a pair of stilettos with killer heels that subsequently got wedged in my neck like Frankenstein’s bolts. I was stuck for half an hour tipping backwards and forwards like my Nan’s old rocking chair much to the hilarity of those gathered.
- Thank god I was not drinking my tea when reading that I would have spat it out LOL. Hilarious! Well, What would you do if you were the last person on this earth? You wouldn’t be able to show your party trick to anyone!
Mmmm, what a great question.
Well, if I was the last person and likely to die imminently, I would do the one thing I’ve always wanted to do… throw a brick through the largest plate glass window I can find, strange I know, but it’s an irresistible urge I’ve had ever since I was a child. I’d do my hair and make-up, making sure I was wearing matching bra and knickers (nobody wants to die without their face on and decent set of underwear to clad their bits in), then I’d have a humongous Alnwick Gin with Co-op Elderflower Tonic, three bags of Pickled Onion Crisps,
watch every Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts Film ever made back to back,
finish off the bottle of Alnwick Gin and then drape myself dramatically on the sofa, a bit like the female leads used to do in the old 1940’s films, close my eyes and wait…..
- I can get behind this completely!! What a way to go! If Netflix wanted to make a Mavis Upton TV show, would you want them to? And who would you cast?
Oooh, definitely, I’d be whooping and hollering, you’d hear me half away across the Mersey if they did.
My most favourite actor and the one I have always imagined as Mavis rather than myself whilst writing is Sheridan Smith. She’d be perfectly perfect and I’d be ecstatically over the moon. I can see her uttering ‘jeez’ every five minutes and trying to get to grips with Mavis’s way of ‘poshly’ enunciating the ‘F’ word to make it sound less rude. I ridiculously fangirled around our front room when she followed me on Twitter, I was beside myself with excitement. At one point she asked on social media for any script, book ideas. I was desperate to tag my books to her but I’m just not very good at pushing myself forward, so sadly my Mavis remains a stranger to her.
I’d love Julie Walters as Josie Upton, Mavis’s mum. She would be fabulous as her and she has so many similar traits to my own mum.
Tom Hardy would be a great Joe – or is that just wishful thinking from an old dear who only has the energy to drool…. err sorry I mean admire, from afar these days lol.
I could imagine Daniel Radcliffe bringing the bumbling Petey to life, he has a vulnerability about him which would suit the character perfectly and I just like him a lot – in a grandmotherly way of course and last but not least, Mark Addy would play a brilliant Bob and the fantastic (and home grown) Stephen Graham as Degsy.
I am so on board with this cast! OMG, we need to make this happen! This is farking fantastic!!!! I need a moment…and yes it was necessary to have a topless Tom Hardy picture
- Unfortunately, it is time for the last question, What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer it?
Gosh, that’s a hard one. I know a few I wouldn’t like to be asked as I’d probably have to flee the UK to live on a remote desert island somewhere if I answered them honestly!
I think ‘Why do you write humour?’ would be a good question to encourage a discussion. I know it can be quite a difficult genre to find its niche in the general scope of reading when crime, romance and cosy cottage tales are so popular, they sit so well on book lists and are the mainstay of book lovers. Sometimes humour can struggle to fit in and shine because how we laugh and what we laugh at is a very personal taste and can be so varied, from a gentle tongue in cheek comedy to slapstick, irreverent satire, burlesque, farce, blue and many more in between. We only have to look back over the years to the transition of comedy as to what is enjoyed, what is accepted and what does indeed make you laugh, as a guffaw, a snort, a giggle, a titter or a full-on belly wobble. Those that enjoyed the slightly ribald humour of the 1870s would have endured an attack of the vapours when the 1970s heralded the likes of Kenny Everett and Roy Chubby Brown but that’s the joy of humour – it’s for everyone, once people find the right style that suits them and that will naturally tickle their funny.
My affinity to a more grown-up style of humour and laughter began at a very early age, after my first introduction to the fabulously funny Norman Wisdom. I vividly remember crying in empathy at the age of eight watching Trouble In Store one Sunday afternoon on our big old lumbering black & white television as he sang Don’t Laugh at Me ‘Cause I’m a fool, when only moment earlier, he’d had me giggling so much I’d almost choked on my Sherbet Dab my Nan had given me. I couldn’t understand how anyone could hold such sadness in their heart but be so incredibly funny at the same time.
As I grew older, I began to understand how closely related laughter and tears can be, and how the former can be a mask for many. Norman blossomed when he made people laugh and I desperately wanted to feel the same warmth, enjoyment and thrill that he did.
As the years progressed, I invented a new ‘me’, a public persona that was always upbeat, always happy. Life did throw me the occasional curveball, but I would laugh it off, have a ridiculous adventure, a funny story or play the fool whilst designating the melancholy and hurt to a little box, carefully tied with a mental bow before pushing it to the back of my mind. I wanted people to feel happy, for them to laugh, at me or with me and it was even better if it was me that served that happiness with even the smallest sliver of laughter. People want to experience your smile, not your tears.
‘I truly do smile because if I didn’t, you would ask me why’
Gina, thank you thank you thank you, this Q&A has been absolutely so much fun. You have had me laughing and caused a lump in my throat. You are amazing to me! Thank you again.
Until next time xxx