Today I’m delighted to feature author Laura Wilkinson. I met Laura ealier this year at a Literary Lunch as part of Northwich Lit Fest. Never one to miss a trick, I jumped at the opportunity to invite her to take part. She’s warm, open, very real and very like-able and her books reflect those qualities.
Laura Wilkinson is a feminist and lover of ginger hair. A resident of an unfashionable quarter of Brighton, she likes to write stories which entertain and provide food for thought. Her novels are Crossing the Line, Skin Deep, Redemption Song and The Family Line. Her work has been described variously as ‘compelling’, ‘poignant’, and ‘emotional’. Alongside writing, she works as an editor and mentor, and speaks at events nationwide. She has a passion for fashion and anything which glitters. In another life, she’d make a good magpie.
So over to Laura
Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
The first song – and album – I can recall in any detail is the soundtrack to The Jungle Book, the animated film. The glossy, colourful cover with Baloo and Mowgli on it fascinated me and my favourite track was Bare Necessities. I’d dance around the living room, singing along as a small child, though I didn’t get to see the film itself at the cinema as it had been released years earlier.
Brit Pop had a huge influence on me; it was just my kind of music. And though I’m a northerner and studied for my degree in Manchester, I preferred Blur to Oasis. I was a Pulp fan so that compensates…During the 90s I worked as an actor and on a nine-month tour of Italy with The Importance of Being Earnest, I listened to Blur’s Parklife, Pulp’s Common People, Radiohead’s The Bends and Oasis’s (What’s the Story) Morning Glory on my Walkman on a loop. Blur’s The Universal was a track I played over and over and over… It was a time in my life when anything seemed possible. The UK was on the brink of change. A sense of possibility abounded.
And for me personally, a few years after this tour, life did change dramatically. I married the man I loved with all my heart; a man I couldn’t imagine life without. And still can’t. The Penguin Cafe Roof Orchestra’s Music For A Found Harmonium was the music which accompanied me into the registry office.
Six months later I was pregnant with our first child, Ginger1, and still a massive Radiohead fan. OK Computer had been released the summer before – the summer I married – and through my pregnancy I listened to that album A LOT, and mostly especially Let Down. Unlike many of my friends at the time, I used a computer – I had Windows 3 (3!) on the old desktop in our flat – and I’d heard of this strange messaging service called electronic mail from my sister who was working in San Francisco – but like most people I could not have imagined the technological advances to come that would transform our lives. It seems to me now that OK Computer was prophetic. It remains one of my favourite albums of all time.
My final track is a shameless plug for my fella’s band – Hatful of Rain. Hatful make a beautiful sound and Start Again from their most recent album, Songs of the Lost and Found, is stunning. It not only sounds gorgeous, but the story it tells of an immigrant girl seems especially poignant now. And though this is a plug, at least this track isn’t one my fella wrote!
Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.
Assuming a roof over my head and books to read (is this cheating? I think so, but, hey I was never a rule follower)
Coffee – to wake me up in the morning
Wine – to drown sorrows and celebrate with
Cake – as wine
Toothpaste – to counteract the sugar, stains and stink created by my first three
A large handbag – I carry way too much around with me but seem unable to streamline. I’m very much a ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ person.
Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?
To five-year-old Laura: Let Sandra have your doll. You’ll have others. You’re luckier than she is. Your parents aren’t rich (far from it), and you won’t have your dad for much longer, but Sandra’s never known her dad and her mum is desperate poor. If you let her keep your doll, you’ll save yourself so much guilt as you grow up. You won’t play much with that doll anyway. You’ll be more of a Lego girl within months.
To teenage Laura: Don’t starve yourself. It’s OK to weigh more than seven and a half stone. It really is. In fact, it’s better than OK; it’s healthier. Your body is an incredible machine; treat it well; respect it. It will bring you more pleasure than pain; it will produce two gorgeous boys. How miraculous is that?
To twenty-something Laura: You’re stronger than you think you are, smarter, more resilient. Don’t be intimidated by those with a seeming abundance of self-confidence. They’re mostly as unsure as you.
And don’t move to Manchester. In less than three weeks, you’ll leave that house, that relationship, and move back to London with nothing. But don’t despair. Something – someone – wonderful is just around the corner. Trust me.
To thirty-something Laura: Seek help sooner. You’re depressed. There’s no shame in it. Motherhood is tough and you’re in a new town with no family and friends around you. Life will be good again. Honest.
Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.
I’ve had dinner with 60s super model Twiggy and her husband, Leigh Lawson at their London home. They’re both gorgeous. Very down to earth and not at all starry.
I was arrested and thrown off a Greek Island (Paros) by the local police for sleeping on the beach overnight. I travelled round the islands in the long summer break after my first year at college. It was an amazing experience, arrests notwithstanding.
I lived in a brothel when I was nineteen. A beautiful flat in a glorious Victorian house in Whalley Range, Manchester; cheap to rent. What’s not to like, my best mate and I reasoned? Ah… I’d like to make it clear that I was not a working girl myself, though I have nothing against the oldest profession. It’s just not for me.
I broke the school long jump record when I was twelve. It was the first time I’d ever done a long jump (I wasn’t a sporty girl). I was roped into it as no one else in the class would do it and I wasn’t down for any other event. It made the local paper. Another twist is that the record was matched by another girl – Suzi – from the other half of the year group (it was a mahoosive comprehensive). I didn’t know her till that day, but we’ve been friends ever since.
I learnt to play the guitar for a role in a play when working as an actress. It was a new play about the artist Salvador Dali. The director wanted me for the role of Dali’s wife, Gala, but the role required doubling as a whore in a Barcelona brothel for one scene, and this character played the guitar. At audition I was unusually bold, saying: ‘I can’t play, but I live with a musician and am a fast learner!)
What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?
In no particular order:
Swim with dolphins
Visit south America and Machu Picchu in particular
Write a bestseller (I realise I’m not entirely in control of this… the writing bit, yes; the popularity, harder to predict – I can dream!)
Throw a pot
Dance the Argentine Tango
Thank you so much for taking part Laura and I’d like to openly apologise for somehow ‘losing’ your replies and not getting you in the diary sooner. That said, it was worth waiting for, I really appreciate your honest and heartfelt responses. I’m also a teeny bit jealous about Twiggy ( I love her) and Leigh Lawson – the icing on the cake for obvious reasons! I know Whalley Range and it has some beautiful Victorian villas, as well as a notorious reputation. I’m sure you have some stories to tell. We did once stay in a hotel in Paris near the Gare du Nord, which I think had a similar use – we hardly slept all night and didn’t stay for breakfast! I’m sure we’ll all be heading off to listen to Hatful of Rain – shameless plugs are allowed, it’s your Five after all. Hope you get to achieve those bucket list choices – Machu Picchu is well worth it, while you’re on the same continent maybe a visit to Buenos Aires for a tango lesson.
Megan is a former foreign correspondent whose life is thrown into turmoil when her son is diagnosed with a terminal illness: a degenerative disease passed down the mother’s line. In order to save him, Megan will have to unearth the truth about her origins and about a catastrophic event from the past. She must confront the strained relationship she has with her mother, make sense of the family history that has been hidden from her all her life, and embark on a journey of self-discovery that stretches halfway around the world.
What we need most is often what we run from…
Winter. Dusk, in a shabby seaside town. A man stops for a young woman who has broken down. Both are hiding, neither are what they seem.
A grieving fiancé hiding from the world…
When Saffron de Lacy loses her fiancé and father in a tragic accident, she abandons a promising career in medicine and moves to a small Welsh town to care for her mother. Trapped by a lie, Saffron is unable move on, to live and love again.
A good man gone bad, eaten up by betrayal…
Joe Jones lives a solitary life on the edge of town, and he’d like to keep it that way. A skilled carpenter he repairs broken things but he cannot repair his broken life.
Love is what they need most, but will they risk it?
Art student and former model Diana has always been admired for her beauty, but what use are good looks when you want to shine for your talent? Insecure and desperate for inspiration, Diana needs a muse.
Facially disfigured four-year-old Cal lives a life largely hidden from the world. But he was born to be looked at and he needs love too. A chance encounter changes everything and Cal becomes Diana’s muse. But as Diana’s reputation develops and Cal grows up, their relationship implodes.
Both struggle to be accepted for what lies within.
Is it possible to find acceptance in a society where what’s on the outside counts for so much?
Yorkshire, 1983. Miner’s wife Mandy Walker lives a quiet life. She’s hopeless at everything apart from looking after her boys and baking. Life is fine. But she knows it could be better. Her husband’s a drinker, and her best friend Ruth is busy with a teaching career. Mandy dreams of a different life – an impossible, unachievable life. Only Ruth’s husband Dan believes in her but, after serving during the Falklands war, he has problems of his own.
When the men come out on strike, Mandy joins a support group. She finds friends and strength in surprising places. And secrets and enemies where she least expected them.
Mandy must decide which side of the line to stand on.
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