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Identity

The Japanese say everyone has three faces; there is the one you show to the world, the one you show only to close friends and family, and a third that you never show to anyone!

I love this idea, but I would go even further and say we actually have many more versions of ourselves than just those three. What about your dating profile, how does he/she measure up to your true self? How does that person differ from the version of yourself your boss gets to see, and what about your parents, how much of you are they genuinely allowed?

In fact, we get a unique opportunity to reinvent ourselves everytime we meet someone new, to be the person we wished we were, to live a fantasy version of ourselves, and I think we are all guilty of a little personal tweaking to make ourselves appear more desirable to a new audience, whoever that might be.

The idea of identity and the hats we wear fascinates me so much that I couldn’t wait to explore it more deeply, and the character I had created in that early writing exercise seemed the perfect candidate for it.

When Alice meets Jonny she grabs that golden opportunity with both hands and slips out of Alice’s dissatisfactory married-with-two-kids life and Susanna drags her towards a life of excitement, and Jonny!

Of course, when so much of you is fake, it’s only a matter of time before your lies start unraveling. What starts as a bit of fun quickly turns sour as she realises what exactly it means to cheat on Mr Mundane!

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Inspiration for When the Mask Falls

I have found story ideas in lots of places over the years; my favourite comes from overhearing snippets of conversations and letting my imagination fill in the gaps, but I have also taken inspiration from a note I once found folded up and tucked in a gate, from quotes and sayings, other books I have read, and even on walks with the dog; but inspiration for the When the Mask Falls came from a warm up exercise I had once used to get me past a stall on another piece of work!

I had chosen the exercise specifically because it helps me get out of the habit of trying to edit as I write, a very bad habit many of us writers suffer from, so I sat down with the intention to just write something, anything at all, but most importantly to not stop!

I  have a terrible habit of expecting only perfection to spill from my fingers which can mean that sometimes hardly anything gets written at all, or if it does, it quickly gets deleted, re-written, deleted again, and so on until I eventually give up, decide I am the worst writer in the world and make some tea! So this is a good exercise for me to do and I try to make myself do this as often as I can, even when I am writing updates on my Instagram!

Usually I find this exercise hard but today I got a thousand words down surprisingly quickly, so before I got too carried away I sat back to review the nonsense, which is usually what I produce when I do these things, only this time I really fell in love with the character I had written about; she had a very dry sense of humour, she was unsatisfied with her boring, routine life and wanted more, not all that dissimilar to me at the time.

It had taken around and hour to write those first thousand words, which have since formed the basis for chapter two of the book, but they didn’t leave me, the character haunted me and I couldn’t wait to find out more about her, and me I suppose, and really push her to her limits so I asked her a big question!

“What would happen if…?”

With that in mind, I set her off in pursuit of a more exciting life and we find out the answer to that very important question in all its glorious, and often grisly, detail.

As an aside, despite trying a few times, the other book is really no further on than when I took that break, but I do intend to go back to it at some point, maybe I will be half way through another piece, seeking a moment of brilliance, when I find myself re-inspired and finally get it finished!