Oh! What a Pavlova By @IsabellaMayBks #Author Feature @crookedcatbooks


Book Jacket 

Kate Clothier is leading a double life: a successful jet-setting businesswoman to the outside world, but behind closed doors, life with Daniel and his volcanic temper is anything but rosy.

Some days – heck, make that EVERY day – cake is her only salvation.

Slowly but surely, the cities she visits – and the men she meets – help her to realise there IS a better future.

And the ley lines of Glastonbury are certainly doing their best to impart their mystical wisdom…

But will she escape before it’s too late?

(Writing) Rules are there to be Broken!

I have penned a few different articles in the rrun-upto the launch of my debut novel, ‘Oh! What a Pavlova, and so I wondered what juicy subject I could come up with for Kelly Lacey’s popular ‘Love Books Group’ blog when she kindly offered me a guest post…

The twenty-two travel destinations featured in my book (done), the domestic violence aspect (also covered), the cake (eaten!), the subtle spiritual thread (I really don’t want to sound like the Preaching Fairy Godmother). And then it came to me.

Breaking the rules!

That’s exactly what my cross-genre book does for one thing, and it’s something I passionately believe more of us authors should be doing for another.

The rules really are there to be broken, and only when we do dare to tear them into tiny pieces and toss them over our shoulder like confetti (or first drafts gone badly wrong) do we come anywhere close to creating our unique writing voice. In the world of 21st century publishing, a voice that’s clear as a bell, a style that stands out from the rest of the pack, is fast becoming more essential than ever – not only to getting ourselves published in the first place, but to staying published.

Without daring to attempt to teach anybody to suck eggs, ever mindful of my ranking as a newbie, here is a list of the rebellion I enjoyed indulging in when it came to the construction of ‘Oh! What a Pavlova’:

1: Straddling Genres
And why in the heck not?
It doesn’t feel natural for me as a writer to squeeze all of my words into a contemporary, or chicklit, or travel writing, or comedy, or Mind Body Spirit box. So I pepper my stories with a generous helping of all of these genres. Somehow it really does work, and it makes for a story with a difference.

2: Too Many Characters
Not of the alphabetical variety… I mean too many ‘Darlings’.
But you know what, I already killed off a whole bunch of ‘extras’, and besides, I like the ones who remain. No, perhaps they don’t all play an integral role in the story, but, as any drama teacher will tell you, the chorus line is the most important part of the act, the backbone of the production. Just as we have passers-by in our real lives, so can our novels.

3: Colloquial Jargon
When a novel is part set in Somerset  – Glastonbury to be precise – then the lengua local is a crucial part of the scene setting. We’re all too often told we can drop in the ‘odd Cockney rhyming slang/Geordie slang/ Cornish pleasantry’ as long as we don’t overdo it. But what if one of your characters is Miss Eccentricity? Do you curtail her speech to tick the boxes, or do you show her in all her glory? Not only will you meet one or two broad (and here we’re talking accent, not body shape) Glastonians in ‘Pavlova’, I’ve thrown in a token Bristolian in all his linguistic beauty too!  

4: Dating My Work
If I want to chart social history, I’ll do it!
Bland is the only word that springs to mind had I forced my story come to life in a neutral time zone. In fact, it would never have worked. The Noughties (the era my novel is set in), although it feels like yesterday to many of us, couldn’t have been a more different environment to today. Companies and their workers were riding on a champagne bubble fuelled wave of abundance, blissfully ignorant that it was about to burst. And we were all still madly in love with our Jamies and Nigellas. Whilst in complete juxtaposition, domestic violence was as swept under the carpet as it might have been in the fifties.
The only way to paint a realistic backdrop was to, well, paint that realistic backdrop. From the bands that would have been starring at Glastonbury Festival at that time (‘Pavlova’ is part set in the iconic town), through to the latest trends in patisserie, celebrity crushes, clothes, cars, emerging spiritual practices, and general ways of thinking.

5: Mixing Satire with the Serious
A number of publishing houses turned my novel down because they didn’t feel comfortable with the way it featured both humour and abuse (at this point I must stress that they did not appear in the same scene…).
But life is multi-faceted! And that’s why I wanted to give domestic violence as authentic a spotlight as possible. For this is not just an act that carries on in and of itself, rather, the many lives of the victim – and quite often this is a double, or even a triple life – don’t stop any more than the Earth could stop spinning; both, all, co-exist. Thankfully, indie publisher Crooked Cat Books ‘got it’ and had the vision to take my story on.

The wit is there for a purpose, to dispel the myth that an abusive relationship is abusive all the time. D.V is all too often depicted as a monochrome subject. But nothing could be further from the truth. And we have only to look to those in the public eye who have been through this, to remember there is a separate life which goes on behind closed doors, as well as – in many cases – a strong and powerful facade. When we step over the threshold of the doormat (both the proverbial and physical version thereof), we enter a completely different world. This is a world where the rest of our persona is in charge. It’s a coping mechanism of sorts. It gives us hope. And naturally, it finds things to laugh at. Laughter will out like that. We are only human after all. We can only take on so much suffering before we have to seek out the bright side.

6: Too Many Locations
Variety is the spice of life (see point 7 below). Hey, my novel may not be snapped up by Paramount Pictures when it comes to the epic budget that would be needed to film in every location from Bristol to Singapore, Krakow to New York, Lyon to Porto, and Oslo to a Mediterranean cruise. But Kate Clothier, my protagonist, works in Foreign Rights sales in publishing. She also happens to have a penchant for three holidays plus a city break a year. Critics, go do the math!

7: Cliches
I am not ashamed to say that I love a good cliché. I really do. Sometimes in 3D life, we just cannot find a better way of saying something, try as we might. Naturally, sometimes that extends to our characters too, so much so, that often our refusal; our digging in of the heels to avoid being frowned upon by the judges of the Man Booker prize, leads to us penning something terribly wooden instead. The Cliché Police would have handcuffed me by now for saying it, but when used with a little thought, and not just strewn about like the aforementioned confetti, a cliché or two… or three… or four – or heck, in my case at least five – can embellish your storyline, and especially your characters, making them more credible, more, well, 3D.

So be brave, follow your gut instinct and write from the heart, not the head, no matter how much it berates you. The world needs your unique voice, after all.

Happy scribing!

Isabella xx


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