Meet Mavis Upton. As mummy to 7-year old Ella, surrogate to far too many pets and with a failed marriage under her belt, Mavis knows she needs to make some life-changing decisions. It’s time to strike out into the world, to stand on her own two feet … to pursue a lifelong ambition to become a Police Officer. I mean, what could go wrong? Supported by her quirky, malapropism-suffering mum, Mavis throws herself headlong into a world of uncertainty, self-discovery, fearless escapades, laughter and extra-large knickers. And using her newly discovered investigative skills, she reluctantly embarks on a search to find her errant dad who was last seen years before, making off with her mum’s much needed coupon for a fabulous foam cup bra all the way from America. Follow Mavis as she tackles everything life can throw at her, and revel in Gina Kirkham’s humorous, poignant and moving story of an everyday girl who one day followed a dream.
My Q&A with Gina Kirkham
Describe yourself using three words?
Fun, quirky, caring
What inspired you to write your first novel?
I retired from Merseyside Police in 2012 after having a wonderful career as a front-line Police Officer. Over the years, I found that humour was one of the best coping mechanisms you could have to help you deal with the not so pleasant side of the job. “You couldn’t make it up” or “You could write a book’’ were two very familiar phrases you would hear after dealing with certain situations, so on my retirement I took the opportunity to do just that.
What time of day do you like to write? I tend to produce more words between 10 am and 2pm but I have my most exciting ideas for my characters at 3 am. When my mind is working overtime, sleep is impossible and my hubby’s snoring becomes too much to bear, I creep downstairs for a hot chocolate, a couple of biscuits and a stint in front of the keyboard. Two hours and 1,200 words later with another 2lb added to my already burgeoning derrière from the sneaky biscuits, I crawl back into bed, only to wonder what planet I must have been on when I re-read my nocturnal offerings at 10 am!
What is your favourite book and why?
To Kill A Mocking Bird, Harper Lee. I first read this as part of my English Class curriculum in the early 70’s. I remember being so strongly touched by the subject matter, I felt every emotion there is as I progressed from chapter to chapter. It dealt with such serious and intense issues, but still carried humour and warmth.
How did you pick the title of your book? Originally it was titled Handcuffs, Truncheon & A Primark Thong. The first part, Handcuffs, Truncheon, is a reflection of the police theme of the story and the Primark Thong is a reference to my main character, Mavis Upton’s love of cheap frillies from Primark. Once signed by Urbane Publications and after discussions, it was decided to replace Primark with Polyester to alleviate any potential snags with the trademark. So, my book is now titled Handcuffs, Truncheon & A Polyester Thong. I did wonder how it would all fit on the front of a book, but Matthew my Publisher, has done an amazing job.
Are the characters in your book based on real people?
Yes, absolutely, it made the development of the characters so much easier too, as I could actually hear their voices and see their features, gestures, and mannerisms. I know there will be quite a few people desperately trying to find little traits to identify themselves. I hope I can keep them guessing!
If you were a colour what would it be? Gosh, now that’s a difficult one. I do tend to wear a lot of black or grey, as I feel it helps me to sort of ‘blend in’, but those colours actually belie my personality. I think I would have to say I’m yellow, as I’m very fortunate to be a happy person. I know I must smile a lot because I’ve got the most horrendous crows feet and ‘prinkles’ (as my granddaughters call them) around my eyes!
Do you plan your story beforehand or go with the flow? I draft up an outline with bullet points and ideas on a whiteboard. It’s not set in stone, I have a basic idea of where I am going, but I take each day as it comes. Often I will have a fixed idea of what I want to write that day, and then suddenly one of the characters will become very awkward, like a naughty child, and I have to re-think their progress. I frequently tell them to behave or I might have to kill them off!
Who is your favourite Author?
Peter James. Although I write lighthearted humour, I’m actually a huge crime and supernatural/ghost story reader.
If you could give any literary villain a happy ending who would you chose?
Bill Sikes in Olivier Twist. Even though he was Dickens most savage and violent book character, I’d like to think he was really a big softy at heart and just a bit misunderstood. I’d have him marrying Nancy and opening a home for wayward boys and girls after realising the error of his ways. I’m probably slightly biased in my view of Sikes, as I had a juvenile crush on Oliver Reed who played him in the musical Oliver!, so my observations are more likely based on my adoration for him rather than the character itself, if I’m honest.
Are you working on a new project?
Yes, I’m currently 45,000 words into the second book following Mavis’s adventures. I’m having a lot of fun with this one as the storyline I have chosen plays on my own experiences, whilst at the same time allowing me the opportunity to research an unusual aspect of his life for one of the characters.
Do you have any upcoming events our members can attend?
Publication date for Handcuffs, Truncheon & A Polyester Thong is the 18th May with a launch at Waterstones Liverpool One at 6.30pm that evening. It will be a fun event with Liverpool Actor Lynne Fitzgerald reading from the book as the main character Mavis Upton and an appearance by Luca Veste (Murphy & Rossi crime series) for a ‘Conversation with’. Complimentary Prosecco and cupcakes will be available and a gift of one of Mavis’s Humongously Large Thongs with each book purchased on the night. There are other events planned but as yet, dates have not been confirmed.
Twitter – @ginageejay (personal) @MavisUpton (book character)
Author Website – http://www.ginakirkham.wordpress.com
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