It is my huge pleasure to hand my blog over to Natalie Meg Evans who kindly sent me an email after reading my post on Indies Unlimited. You can see that post by clicking the link here if you missed it. So, without further ado, it’s over to Natalie:
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‘Why every writer should have a go at stand-up,’ says Carol E Wyer, who is rocking literary audiences with a spiel aimed at the funny bone. It has worked brilliantly for her, increasing audiences, sales and her reach (Germany, I hear . . . )
Having read her blog, I am inspired to follow suite. Well, actually, to pick up where I left off in 1983. A quick ‘about me’ I am 52 (still, just) and my first novel, The Dress Thief, was published this month. Back in 1983, I was a radical ex-art student and London fringe actress, weaned on The Young Ones et al, and reckoned I could cut it too. I had the guts, or maybe just the brass nerve, and the kind of innocence that comes with youth and a simple upbringing.
Victoria Wood once said that nobody should go into stand up until they’re of mature years. Stand up isn’t just about confidence, she says, it’s about control. And no 22 year old has the right to exert that kind of influence. You’re saying – look at me. Listen to my words. Laugh. Wait for the next good line. Laugh more. You at the back, stop scratching your neck. You, m’dear, at the front? Think about checking your facebook timeline while I’m delivering my story about the bridesmaid in tight lycra who had to travel to the wedding on the back of the best man’s scooter – where was I? Oh, yes. Fiddle with your phone while I’m extemporising and I’ll fire a stream of forensically personalised bile in your direction. Nice tan, by the way. You’ve come with the works outing from Bisto, haven’t you?
Honestly, it is not a job for shrinking violets or those prone to outbreaks of modesty. But is it a job for writers?
Well, I’m inclined to agree with Carol. Not just because comedy gives your ‘literary talk’ audiences a break from tepid, ‘What inspired your latest book’ monologues. I advocate stand up because regular bouts of bowel-evacuating terror hone the creative soul. Stand up is scary. You have an audience – be it a hundred people or two passers-by who’ve wandered in to get warm – that wants to laugh. They don’t care about your inner angst, or your journey from a job in credit control, or how long your jokes took to think up. They want to laugh. They don’t want to be curling their toes inside their shoes because you dry up or start shaking. Stand up makes you work hard – not a bad module for writing fiction. And how can you write about fear if you’ve never experienced it? Whether it’s thrillers, cosy crime novels, romance or chicklit, your subject will involve mental and physical jeopardy. Terror is everywhere, believe me. The other day, I saw a magpie seeing off a sparrow-hawk. It was as edgy as any WWII dogfight between a Spitfire and an ME-109 and the sparrow-hawk was terrified. How do I know? It pooed.
My own stand up was observational, while my knees provided the physical action, going like a bongo drummer in a Cuban wedding band. But I did get laughs, and I will never forget the joyful shock of the first roar of audience mirth. It was my end of year drama school piece. By some quirk of timing, our year end was Christmas. Other students had prepared pieces from Ibsen, Shaw, Shakespeare. There was even Sylvia Plath’s suicide note. I went on last and did my version of ‘The Twelve days of Christmas’ – a woman recounting the seasonal gifts her drug-taking punk boyfriend sent her before dying under the wheels of a Depeche Mode tour-bus (remember, this was 1983). The first verse was sung to a stunned silence, but when I reached into the box at my feet, pulled out one of those dead-fox coat collars that middle class women used to wear and sang, ‘Road kill for dinner’ there was a collective howl of laughter. I knew then I could ‘do funny’ . I gave it up as it was sooo hard and I had a partner (not a drug-taking punk) who would listen to my stich and say, ‘Don’t give up the day job, dear.’
Now that my day job is being a writer, maybe I can go back to stand up. Now what the hell did I do with those dead foxes?
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In the late 1970s, Natalie Meg Evans ran away from art college in the Midlands for a career in London’s fringe theatre. She spent five years acting, as well as writing her own plays and sketches before giving it up to work in PR. She now writes full-time from her house in rural north Suffolk, where she lives with her husband, dogs and horses.
Natalie has been awarded numerous awards for her writing including the Harry Bowling Prize (2012) and RWA’s Golden Pen award (3rd place), she also picked up a nomination for the coveted Daphne du Maurier award and was named a finalist for a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart award.
Natalie is the author of The Dress Thief published by Quercus
Alix Gower has a dream: to join the ranks of Coco Chanel to become a designer in the high-stakes world of Parisian haute couture. But Alix also has a secret: she supports her family by stealing designs to create bootlegs for the foreign market. A hidden sketchbook and two minutes inside Hermès is all she needs to create a perfect replica, to be whisked off to production in New York.
Then Alix is given her big break – a chance to finally realize her dream in one of the most prominent Parisian fashion houses – but at the price of copying the breakthrough Spring Collection.
Knowing this could be her only opportunity, Alix accepts the arrangement. But when a mystery from her past resurfaces and a chance meeting has her falling into the arms of a handsome English war reporter, Alix learns that the slightest misstep – or misplaced trust – could be all it takes for her life to begin falling apart at the seams.
‘A truly accomplished and delicious debut novel’ — Laurie Graham ‘I was utterly charmed by the story’s delectable heroine, as she struggled to make her mark in this seductive but perilous world’ — Margaret Leroy ‘A fascinating evocation of a great fashion house and the knife-edge the designers live on. Natalie Meg Evans is a born storyteller’ — Sara Craven