Saturday, 27 June 2015

The Origins of Star Struck

Since publishing my book in 2014, I have often been asked where I get my ideas from. Star Struck is my first novel and the idea had been evolving since the 1980s when a young man took the microphone at the Montreux Rock Festival. His name was Nino D’Angelo. You can see the performance that so inspired me here.
I loved the way he looked, but most of all I loved the way he could change his voice, one minute it was high, the next low and deep. I wondered how one so young could produce a voice like that.
     My mind began to wander as a story started to take shape. I wanted a strong female lead and that led me to Joanna Nelson. Someone independent and not afraid to speak her mind. Someone who had endured something terrible and come out fighting. I wanted to explore relationships, and especially one with her sister, Sandie. Their memories of a bad childhood seen through different eyes and each of them bearing hidden scars.
     As the initial draft of this was written in the 1980s, I filled it with fashion and music of the time. 

‘Unconsciously, the sisters had dressed similarly. Joanna was wearing a short pink skirt and Sandie was in a short yellow one. Their tops were similar too, in contrasting colours and with wide shoulders. Sandie had back-combed her long hair till it was full around her face and she wore a scarf as a hair band. Joanna had moved her ponytail to the side of her head, wrapped it in a pink tie-dye, and let it fall in a long loose drape, to move with her hair.
Joanna knew that being with each other made them both feel good; they felt strong because they were a unit that fitted together. They didn’t need to say things because they understood each other so well. Quite often they would say one thing, but each knew they meant something else entirely.
Occasionally, as they danced, their eyes met and a smile played on their lips. They were aware they looked good and that people watched them together and they liked the way that made them feel.
After dancing to Flock of Seagulls and Richard Marx, they came off the dance floor and joined the lads, who had been watching them too.’

The relationship between the sisters is key to understanding Joanna, and she still depends on Sandie to be there for her. 
The story is based in 1980s Manchester and in the book we walk around places that don't exist any more. Sandie moved away to London, but the closeness between the sisters cannot be broken, or can it?
Joanna’s tough exterior belays that fact that on the inside she is just as vulnerable as she always was. She is looking for that one person who she can really depend on, but choosing the right man is not always easy as the three men she loves all have different qualities and her love is different for each of them.
She is drawn to Solly Jackson’s bad boy image and their relationship is volatile from the start, something that Joanna feeds off.

     Joanna found herself chatting to Solly for most of the evening after that. Sandie stuck with Jack, Woody flitted between Jack and Solly, and John went off with a dark-haired girl.
Somewhere around her sixth glass of lager, Joanna realised she was tipsy, and Solly was most willing to keep them coming. The alcohol had loosened both of their tongues and Joanna found herself flirting outrageously with him. After all, she was a free agent now. Solly seemed very receptive and they were both giggling about something when Sandie came over and asked if she wanted to go the toilet, which of course meant that she wanted to talk.
The toilets had four cubicles and a mirror that ran just above a shelf, with stools fastened to the floor all along. Coming out of the cubicles, they washed their hands and sat down to touch up their make-up and hair.
“I would watch that Solly if I were you,” said Sandie, as she re-applied her mascara. “Why?” asked Joanna, smudging in more blusher with a finger.
“He has a bad reputation.”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s got a fast temper, I’ve heard. He likes to use his fists. I’d watch him Jo, if I were you.”
Getting out her hairbrush, Joanna ran it vigorously down her ponytail.
“How do you know, have you seen him?”
“Well no, but Jack’s been telling me.”
“You don’t want to listen to gossip, Sandie, you should know that.”
“I’m just watching out for you, that’s all. After everything that’s happened, I don’t want you to get hurt again.”’

     Back in the 1980’s I used to go to see the Manchester Evening News's Search for a Star competition at The Willows, a club in Manchester that was associated with Salford Rugby Team. Gary Barlow from Take That came third in the final one year and Lisa Stansfield was a winner.

     They had a great compere by the name of Mike Sherard. He was smart good looking and the brother of Johnny Logan who won the Eurovision Song Contest twice, once in 1980 and in 1992 for Ireland. I once had the pleasure of seeing them perform together.
It is something that I will never forget and they received a standing ovation.  
   Mike Sherard was a perfect Mike Adams, Joanna's neighbour, who lived in the downstairs flat. In my mind, as I wrote about him, he looked just like Mike Sherard did with his snazzy smart suits. You can find anything on You Tube these days, and I found one of Mike Sherard just as he was back then.
  Mike Adams is her best friend, and Joanna likes the route their relationship has taken.

‘An hour later Mike knocked on her door with the whisky she’d given him. He apologised for flirting with her, suggested they’d got off on the wrong foot, and said that he really was a nice guy.
These days, she knew that he was.
Mike now carefully handed her the topped-up cup, and sat down opposite. “How’re you feeling now?” She stared at him. “I mean, after what you told me. About your ex – Phil whatsisname.”
“Fine.” She took a long draft of tea. “I met two gorgeous blokes. Diane Collier is welcome to old Phil. I realise now there are far better fish in the sea.”
“Good girl.” He grinned. “You only live once, as they say, so you might as well enjoy it.”
“What? Like you, you mean?”
“Of course. No ties, no commitments, I can please myself. You should, too.”’
Nino D’Angelo started me off and the story was supposed to be about the relationship between him and Joanna, except as with most stories, it evolved as characters do, and they took over dictating where the story went.
   As with the other characters it is good to have a visual picture, but that's all it is. There is no resemblance to the real people.
   Niko is Joanna’s passion, someone she falls completely for.
‘She liked Solly a lot, and she liked Mike a lot. She had perhaps even loved Phil. But with Niko she felt something different, and it was impossible to explain even to herself. She remembered the train, and him sitting opposite her looking so handsome, and the sound of his voice like smooth dark chocolate. The way her heart pounded so loud in her chest, and the way he left her wanting more of him. The song he had written for her told her how he felt.
     And in another paragraph:
Niko was watching her taking in her appearance. She looked up at him suddenly, her eyes amused, and then she broke into a self-conscious grin.
“I’m trying to grow my nails,” she said, holding her hand out for him. “By my standards I’m doing pretty well.”
Niko took her hand, and his thumb gently slid over her knuckles as he said, “I think they’re lovely.”
Joanna, feeling sure he would be able to feel her trembling, said, “Do you bite yours?”
He had broad hands, and his nails were neat and short. “No, that is one bad habit I don’t have.”
She looked up at him again, wondering if he meant anything by it, but his face told her he didn’t. She was still holding his hand and he did not seem in a hurry to let go. A waitress appeared to clear away the table, and the wine waiter came to ask if there was anything he could get for them.’
As with all good stories, things are never what they seem and each of these men there is a flaw or a secret that Joanna has yet to discover. Throw into the mix a betrayal, an assault and something that will shatter Joanna’ s world, makes this a novel that you won’t forget.

     During 2013 I worked with editor, Don Masters, who also produced the book cover and he suggested I change the title from Love and War to something else. It was a long and hard search for a suitable title and I eventually came up with Star Struck. He also suggested that I split the book in two making two completely different stories. So I hope to have 'Starburst' out later in 2015. 
Having other people read my books, was something I had always dreamed of and being able to self publish in 2014 on Amazon was a dream come true. 
Reviews are very subjective, not everyone is going to like your book, I was told, and many won't bother to even leave a review. I waited with bated breath. My first review was not a good one and even though I had been warned, I took it personally. I began to doubt myself, maybe I couldn't write after all. Gradually, though, the good reviews started coming in and here are a few of them:

This is a story of love gained, love lost, friendships forged and familial connections. Emotional and personal growth occur amid personal friendships and human interactions. – Jennifer
I thought that the author did a great job of conveying the time period and made the characters full of life. Joanna is the main character and she goes through a lot in this book.  Arky
One of those books that keeps you reading on to the end - twists and turns through a good storyline and convincing characters. – Mrs C M Clark
I felt as if I could connect with Joanna, and was riveted to each page until I had read it 

through. I couldn't wait to get to the end.....and then wanted to start over! – Lana

You can buy your copy here

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