We all know (and love) Denise Welch for her many varied TV roles, not to mention winning Celebrity Big brother 2012, but did you know she was an author – and a very good one at that!? Denise’s debut novel has received fantastic praise so far, including a glowing review from best-selling author Susan Lewis …
Without giving too much away, the story is based in Denise’s stomping ground of Cheshire and centres around an actress named Harper who gave up fame and fortune to marry and have children. At the age of 53, trapped in a controlling relationship, something is about to happen to make her question her entire future.
We spoke to Denise last night, on the eve of the book going on sale with a new-look cover, to find out more….
Hi Denise, my copy is on order and I am really looking forward to reading it. From what I have gathered so far, the main character Harper is larger than life – how did you come up with her?
I do get asked a lot if Harper is auto-biographical – there are definite similarities in that we are both actresses and based in Cheshire for example, and whilst some of the issues facing her have some resonance with me from my past experiences – we are also very different. My career as a writer is in it’s infancy so as far as I’m concerned it’s best for me to write about what I know and can relate to and Harper’s character is a familiar one to me through people I’ve met along the way. JK Rowling is a fantastically clever writer for example and can use her amazing imagination to create worlds we all want to read about but for me it has to be based on my life experiences or others that I know – that way I can visualise it and really feel the story.
Is the story based on your own life in any way?
My life in parts is woven in with the story along the way – perhaps it’s chopped and changed and turned around a bit but the essence of some of my life experience is there. I live in Cheshire so I was able to inject a bit of humour when it came to Harper trying to fit in with the ‘Cheshire Set’ which is not her natural environment at all. Her husband is desperate for her to be accepted within that glamorous community and so she has to make sure she joins the right Golf Clubs etc and does everything just the right way to be ‘one of them’ and that’s something I understand from what’s around me. The story is very much Harper’s though, not mine.
Is she someone you would get on with in real life?
I would get on with her although I have become really good over the years at spotting women trapped in controlling relationships so I would desperately want to give here a shake and tell her to leave her husband. Aaron is a charmer – very attractive and has everyone wrapped around his little finger so no one really spots the mental abuse that Harper is suffering on a daily basis. On the outside everyone thinks she’s extremely lucky – big house, sexy husband but nobody knows what’s going on behind that beautiful front door do they?
The book has received great reviews so far – is writing fiction something you have always wanted to do?
No! To be honest I never thought I could do it! I’m a Gemini and a very social animal – even though I don’t drink anymore I love to talk and be with people chatting all the time and writing is such a solitary thing. But I had this first chapter in my head and I wanted to get it out. I was approached previously to do my Auto-Biography but this story was something that came to me, no one approached me and asked me if I wanted to write a novel – in fact I was rejected several times before Maddie West picked it up! It was a real learning curve and without my amazing Editor Rebecca to bounce off and trouble-shoot – I couldn’t have done it.
Do your story-lines come naturally during the process or do you plan in advance?
I had a basic arc to start with. I knew my characters and my first chapter and I knew it had to have a happy ending – that was really very important to me. Aside from that the story and characters pretty much evolved organically along the way. Again, I love chatting and it was during chats with Rebecca or Lincoln, my husband, that the events, characters and whole thing in general just started to take shape. I found that process worked really well for me and got my creative juices flowing!
Are there any messages you hope to convey through the story?
Yes – as I mentioned briefly, I have some experience of what it’s like to be in a controlling relationship, from many years ago. I can see when it’s happening and it’s something important to me. Likewise, as an ambassador for Lighter Life I am very seriously against fat-shaming and the bullying that goes on. Some bullying gets disguised these days under the heading of ‘banter’ when really it’s causing a lot of damage and I wanted to highlight that with Harper’s overweight teenage daughter Georgina. Her Dad is constantly making jokes at her expense to hide his own embarrassment with her size as it doesn’t fit in with his glamorous ideal, not to mention the bullying she gets outside the home. It’s a crying shame the way self-esteems are destroyed by this. The story also touches on depression which is another topic close to my heart.
How would you sum up the book in three words?
Funny, Frightening and Fierce!
What advice would you give to anyone out there who felt they wanted to write that first book?
If I can do it – you can do it! Persistence is the key – we all get knock-backs and rejections but stick with it! Writing about subjects you feel passionate about helps because it will feel more authentic too. Go for it I say!