I am a dreamer and thus I have always written. I wrote as a kid: stories, diaries, poems. For a few years all my stories would begin with a girl sat by a window. A wistful beginning which I felt suited a writer of my seriousness, age fifteen. It became a running joke as my sister would see me writing and say, ‘she by the window again?’ It was something I did without effort. As a result I never for a second thought this is what I was meant to do. An Officer and a Gentleman, starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger. Paula dreams of being married to a naval aviator. Not only do these men fly jets but, after ending their relationship, Zack returns to the factory where she works and, lifting her up in his arms, he carries her out of her dull existence amidst cheers from her factory girlfriends, ‘Way to go Paula.’
Movies have always played a huge role in my life and I have a group of them, like old faithful friends, that have been there from the beginning and will always support me right through to the end. They have helped me more than any therapist – and I’m a big believer in therapy. There is a therapeutic anaesthesia that hangs between the illusion of film and the reality of film. So it makes sense that this is where I started – on a Film Theory degree at the University of Kent at Canterbury. In Love Story starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw, one of the most poignant love stories of all time, I was mesmerised by McGraw’s character Jenny. Such poise, such discipline, such strength of purpose. I watched her walk to Radcliffe College behind her thick, black-rimmed glasses, her love of academia keeping her warm on those cold wintry evenings and as I sat in my film seminars I thought of Jenny. Alas, once I graduated, no one wanted to pay me for my extensive knowledge of Alfred Hitchcock.
‘Which one of you bitches is my mother?’ The tag line from the TV series based on Shirley Conran’s Lace, the first book I couldn’t put down. Three friends meet at finishing school and one has a baby. They give her up for adoption, making a pact that they will return for her but they never do. Meanwhile baby Lili grows up to be a porn queen hell-bent on revenge. We all do what we have to in order to make it. I moved to Norwich as a TV presenter. It was hell. 16 hour days leading to nowhere until I knelt by my bed and asked God, if he could hear me in Norwich, to please give me a sign that this wasn’t where I would die. That day I met Emma. A lovely girl, on holiday, and a presenter for a well-known TV channel in New York. We exchanged numbers, kindred spirits. She invited me out to New York so I went to stay with my new best friend. We had a fabulous fun-filled week of naughtiness and on the last day we both auditioned for a place in the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting and were accepted for the following year! I returned to England and by that time had landed a job at the BBC. I gave my notice and began saving for our new life together. Emma and I wrote letters to each other once a week. She would also ring me and ask me for money. The well-known TV channel hadn’t paid her and could I lend her money for rent. Of course I could; her rent would soon be my rent and besides, this was my new best friend. After three money transfers – all my savings – I told her I had no more and Emma asked me if I could ask my parents. The alarm bell finally rang. Despite all our conversations, all our plans, no one came to meet me at JFK airport at 1am that cold night in January, a place where I knew no one. ‘The World of Suzi Wong,’ starring Nancy Kwan. A Hong Kong prostitute pretends to be a society girl long enough to capture the attention of an American painter. She has a son, she wants a different life, a better life. Her faith in herself is infectious and her beauty lies in her tenacity. I didn’t need anyone, I had me.
After a year in New York I came back to London and worked as an actress for four years. I wanted the role of the sexy vampire or the psychiatric patient; I was the doctor and the Asian corner shop owner’s daughter. The idea of acting was very different to the reality and I took a break when I had my first child. I did an MA in Creative Writing and wrote a novel but after two years was no closer to a publisher. I wrote another novel and the same thing happened again. Nine years after doing the course I wrote THE GOOD ENOUGH MOTHER. A satirical black comedy about a mother who cannot afford her daughter’s private school tuition so she turns to criminal means. This time, I decided, my book was being read so I self-published. At the end of the seminal eighties film Working Girl, Melanie Griffiths’ character Tess, after ‘going out on a limb’ with a ‘fire in her belly,’ sits back in her chair in her new office and takes in the beautiful vista of New York – city of dreams. She’s made it. She’s got to the top and just in case anyone was in doubt we hear the uplifting tones of Carly Simon kick in with the Oscar-winning song Let The River Run. It is one of my favourite movie moments of all time. I watched it obsessively, the way that you do when you are young and enamoured.
THE GOOD ENOUGH MOTHER has been selected as the September read for the international book club Poppyloves. It is available in Waterstones, Foyles, Daunt Books, on Amazon and in most independent bookstores. While it might seem fanciful to think that the magic of film could ever become reality, I did – finally – have my very own Working Girl moment. At my book launch / Q&A / interview with Harriett Gilbert of Radio 4 in Daunt Books, ‘Let The River Run, Let all the dreamers wake the nation…’ played whilst I signed copies of my book. Way to go Anoushka!