Rosie Waterland - author of The Anti Cool Girl
Tell us about your book – what inspired you to write it?
The Anti Cool Girl is essentially a memoir about a difficult childhood. Both my parents were addicts and both suffered from mental illness (my dad had schizophrenia and my mum bipolar), which obviously resulted in a fairly tumultuous time, filled with a lot of neglect, trauma and dodgy foster parents. But, what was important to me when writing this book was that it not just be a Dickensian tale of woe - I was still just a kid growing up in the 90s, getting her first period, not knowing how to talk to boys and struggling to fit in. I like to think that The Anti Cool Girl tackles universal themes of coming of age - just, with a slightly unique backdrop.
I've been writing The Anti Cool Girl in my head since I was 7 or 8 years old. I knew even then that I was experiencing a childhood not like many others, so I started to log memories accordingly - I knew I was going to get a book out of them some day! I actually always thought I'd write this book a lot earlier, but after surviving my early years, I then had to get through the subsequent mental health issues that followed in my early twenties. After coming out the other side of all of that, it was finally the right time to get it all down on paper. Finally doing that has been a dream come true.
Which author/s or book/s have had the biggest influence on your work?
I tend to gravitate to authors who find humour in even the darkest moments. David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs, Richard Glover, Chelsea Handler, Jenny Lawson and Stephen Fry are a few of my favourites. To balance the light with the dark in such a way that neither are overwhelming... That's a skill I think I'll spend my life trying to perfect.
Do you have a message for aspiring writers?
Write like YOU. If you are disingenuous or pretentious for the sake of it, readers will spot it from a mile away. Don't be afraid to manipulate language, grammar and words so that they represent who you are. Being a 'memoirist' (if one memoir allows that label), I tend to read everything I've written out loud. If it doesn't sound natural as spoken word coming out of my own mouth, I know it isn't right. You may have to break traditional rules to get your prose to sound like you, but, rules be damned! It's your creation; it should sound like you, whether that would win a literary prize or not.
Also (and I find myself giving this advice to potential personal essayists/memoirists ALL the time), nobody wants to read your diary. You may be cracking your heart open and putting your life on the page, but what you're offering still needs to be entertaining. It's your job as a writer and artist to move people, to capture them and hold their attention. They're paying for your work with their money or their time (or both). If you're privileged enough to be doing this as a career, you need to make it worth their while.
To put it a little more bluntly, don't just vomit your feelings onto a page and use the creative process as a therapy session. The writing may be personal, but it's not just about you - it's just as much about the reader. Entertain them!
How and where do you write?
I write mostly at home, often in bed (although I have been known to build a blanket fort around the TV in the living room in order to get some work done). When my body gets to the point where it no longer remembers what sunlight feels like, I'll usually go to the local pub and sit in the garden with a fresh bevvie.
Do you have a lucky writing charm?
My brain! For all my parents' faults, I've always felt incredibly blessed that they gave me my incredible brain. My parents may be the reason that my childhood was so difficult, but they gave me the brain and the talent that I needed to write the shit out of it. People often ask me how I managed to end up doing so well after such a horrific start, and I always tell them that I'm just incredibly lucky to have been born with the brain I was born with. It was straight-up luck. I honestly feel like I won the lottery.
Can you tell us what you are working on now?
Well, there's my second nonfiction book for HarperCollins, which will be published in 2017. I'm also very excited to be working on a fictional novel, since I'm only 29, so to keep writing memoirs would be a little ridiculous.
I have a live one-woman show that will be touring nationally this year, and a TV show that's set to be released later in 2016. I'm also slowly growing my hair out after a bleaching disaster meant I had to cut it all off, so I'm concentrating on that too. Busy times!