Continuing my 'recycling' of past blogs which I think are worth repeating, here's another 'A' blog from my archives.
In three of the six books I’ve had published since 2011, my
heroines have been actresses. In His Leading Lady Jess is a talented
amateur actress who takes the opportunity to replace her sister on the
professional stage in London. In Fragrance of Violets, Abbey has had
a successful acting career but loses confidence after she fails to win a
coveted role. My most recent release, Irish Inheritance, has a struggling
actress, Jenna, who has given herself five years to discover whether she is
good enough to make acting her lifetime career.
Why do I choose to have actresses as my heroines? I’ve never
been an actress, apart from a few small roles in amateur plays when I was
younger. I soon realised I wasn’t very good, and I can’t sing or dance either.
The first answer to the question is that I’ve been
stage-struck for almost as long as I can remember. My mother used to take me
sometimes to plays performed by the local repertory company. I still remembered
being enthralled by a production of Jane
Eyre when I was about ten. A couple of years later it was a school
production of The Importance of Being
Earnest that caught my imagination, and soon after this, a local amateur
group introduced me to musical theatre, which I have loved ever since I first
saw Oklahoma on the stage.
Fast forward about 20 years, and we come to my second
answer. In the 1980s, when
my daughters were in their early teens, I was the leader of a Girl Guide
Company, and we decided to ‘put on a show’, namely ‘The Wizard of Oz’. That was
the beginning of about 15 years of producing musical shows, first with the Girl
Guides, and then with the junior section of the local Musical Theatre Group.
Maybe I couldn’t act, sing or dance myself, but this was the next best thing. I
was privileged to work with a lot of talented teenagers, and to see them
develop from shy chorus members to confident youngsters who took the lead roles
with self-assurance and amazing stage presence. Indeed, some of them went on to
drama school and then the professional stage.
I also worked backstage with two musical theatre groups for
several years, doing costumes, props, or as a stage hand. I know first-hand
that there is no experience in the world like ‘show week’ at the theatre, with
combination of panic, nerves, adrenalin, laughter, camaraderie, and the sheer
satisfaction at the end of each evening.
Maybe this goes in part to explain why my heroines are
actresses. It could be a subconscious yearning on my part, a wish that I’d had
a talent for acting. At the same time, the theatre is an environment with which
I am familiar (and even know some of the jargon!). Although I’ve worked with
amateur groups, I’ve been backstage at two major professional theatres. The
latter use far more high-tech stuff than the amateur theatre can afford but the
process of rehearsals, backstage preparations, and actual appearance onstage is
not much different from the amateur world.
Finally, from the purely practical angle of having actresses
in my novels, it’s often useful to have a heroine who isn’t doing a nine to
five job, as they can have periods when they’re not working at all!