One of my favourite authors is Mary Wesley. If you haven’t yet read any of her novels you are in for a treat. Her first novel was published at the age of 70 and I devoured everyone of them. Of course, she came in for her (un)fair share of femageism, especially as people seem to find it hard to believe she wrote so well about sex. She countered thus:
People are startled by my books because they think, how can an old woman write about sex? As though one forgets it, as though it isn’t in everything you see, breathe, watch – because sex is so enjoyable and so funny – how could one forget it? The idea that people go on being sexy all their life is little explored in fiction. What do people think “happy ever after” means? It goes on and on; it doesn’t end.
Hear, hear to that, Mary. Well, sadly I never knew Mary Wesley but I do know Christine Webber and have interviewed her twice for the blog. She is the author of 13 self help books and a fount of wisdom on many things. Aged 69 herself, she is publishing her first work of fiction ‘Who’d Have Thought It?’ about a fifty something woman rediscovering herself. I think I may have found my new Mary!
Christine is also taking an independent route to getting the book out in the public domain, which we’ll hear more about. If you’ve ever thought of writing anything, you’re going to love this interview, I promise. And if you’re a woman in her prime, you’ll love the book, too.
Jane: Christine, thank you so much for taking time to talk with us again; I know these last few months have been really busy and exciting. My first question has to be, what is the book about?
Christine: It’s about a 55-year old doctor called Annie, who – about a year after her husband dumped her for a younger model – wakes up one day to find she’s suddenly enthusiastic about being single again. But, as she soon discovers, being single in mid-life – with adult children to consider, and ageing parents taking more of your time – is very different from being single when you’re young. So it’s her story, but it’s also about everyone around her, including her two 20-something daughters with their various crises, and three very good female friends who are all going through profound change in their own lives. At one point, Annie wonders: ‘how do people of my age – with careers, adult children doing unwise things with unwise people, parents going gaga, and friends falling ill, or in or out of love – ever have the time and energy to find a new partner?’
I think her thoughts will resonate with lots of mid-life women!
It’s such a great topic; I know from my own work with women that our fifties can be such a productive time yet also one where we can feel a bit all at sea, especially, if like your main character, we find ourselves out of a long term relationship and starting anew. Women in their later years have so much wisdom and love to share, hard to believe that for centuries we’ve been ignored. What’s the best piece of advice/wisdom a woman (of any age) will take away from your book, do you think?
I hope it will be that anything is possible. I think the biggest surprise to me in getting older is how many opportunities there still are – perhaps one has to make them, but even so, assuming you keep healthy, lots can still happen. Far from feeling settled, it feels like there are still many mountains available to climb!
With 13 self help type and factual type books already to your credit this seems like quite a departure from your usual style. What prompted you to go down the fiction route?
Well, in actual fact, and practically nobody knows this, I began my writing career with a novel – way back in 1987. I was still a news presenter at Anglia Television at the time. This helped the sales no end in the nine counties that comprised the Anglia TV region! I always meant to write more fiction. And sometimes I tried – and there are some unfinished ideas languishing in a bottom drawer somewhere. But first I fell into being an agony aunt, and that went very well for a time, then I trained as a psychotherapist and I began to find myself cast in the role of ‘expert’ on TV programmes like Trisha, Kilroy, Dating the Enemy and The Good Sex Guide. And publishers commissioned self-help books from me, which was great. Also, I started a psychotherapy practice, and after a few years moved that to Harley Street. So, fiction was very much on the back burner. But not forgotten.
One thing that surprised me about the book is how funny it is in places.
Yes, I think that has surprised me too! But after decades of writing non-fiction, I think something a bit more humorous was desperate to get out. Also, the fact is that much of mid-life is comical. Often, naturally, it’s awfully serious, but in the midst of that, I think we often see something that strikes us as hilarious. For example, I have my main character trying out internet dating. And a lot of that – as countless women have told me – is quite farcical. And sometimes sex with someone new is highly amusing – not always in a good way!
You decided to self publish this book, despite your established connections in the publishing world. Can you tell us a bit more about why? How easy (or otherwise) have you found the process?
Publishing has changed out of all recognition and I was aware that lots of authors who had been published conventionally for years were taking matters into their own hands. Of course they were taking the financial risk, which normally publishers take, but they were also gaining control of their own project: deciding on their own cover design, whether just to produce a cheap and easy ebook or whether to go for a full print run, and so on. And various organisations, such as the Society of Authors, were very supportive and encouraging of writers going independent.
When self-publishing first began in earnest a few years ago, most of the people doing it were individuals who had always wanted to write but who had never been able to find an agent or a publisher. And lots of them did it brilliantly, and became very successful. But now many established authors are producing their own books too. It is a bit scary, but – like starting any new business – it’s stimulating and quite thrilling. And you can feel a real sense of accomplishment in not only writing your book but deciding how it’s to look, and where to sell it and so on. I have actually loved the whole process.
What has been the most exciting part of this self publishing process?
Controlling it! Picking my own title. Working with a great designer, Jane Dixon-Smith, till I got absolutely the right cover. Finding a wonderful editor in the shape of Helen Baggott. And liaising with Clays, the printers, who couldn’t have been more helpful.
What is the best tip you could pass on to any aspiring self publishers out there?
I have two:
1. Join the Alliance of Independent Authors. It’s one of the best things I ever did. I have learned so much, and met so many bright, special, supportive, lovely and helpful writers, as a result.
2. Read a good book on self-publishing. I found ‘How to Self Publish: A Guardian Masterclass’ by Ed Peppitt particularly helpful.
And finally, Christine, how can readers get hold of your new book?
From June 10th 2016 it should be finding its way into bookshops. I have put it with a major distributor, called Gardners, so any bookseller can get it from them very quickly. It’s also available as a paperback on Internet sites like Amazon – and any day now it will turn up on Amazon and other sites as an ebook too.
Thanks so much, Jane, for letting me tell you about it.
It has been a pleasure as ever, Christine. You can pre order the book via Amazon using this link, and I highly recommend that you do!
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Posted on June 7th, 2016 by Jane