7 Sep 2013

Guest post: The inspiration behind Laura Barnard's latest novel

A book I've just added to my bulging TBR pile is by Laura Barnard and it's called Debt and the Doormat. I knew I had to read it once I'd read this excerpt (below). It's hilarious (and it's FREE!). Now, over to Laura...
Like many people I’ve always said I wanted to write a book. My new year’s resolution a few years back was to start writing. That was it; no big plan to write a novel, just try to jot something down every day. The more I wrote the more I wanted to write.
Then came the problem of what to write. It took yet another friend to confess to me that they were in horrendous debt for me to come up with the idea. They always told me they had a plan and it would be paid off really soon, but I’d always know that unless I locked them away in a cupboard for six months and completely took over their life this would never happen.
I’ve always been quite a sensible Sally, much to the disgust of my many ‘live for the moment’ friends. I had a mortgage when I was 19 and was married by 22. When I say that now I can’t believe how young it sounds. So I’ve basically been sensible from the day I was born. The product of wild parents. I’ve watched friends around me get into serious debt and thought what fools they were. It took me having a baby to realize that really they had the right idea. You could always pay off debt, but the wild memories made will be cherished forever. If it wasn’t for these friends I would probably just shrivel up and hibernate. Instead they bully me into going out and drinking wine until I throw up. Opposite personalities often make for more balanced people. If I were to never go out again and save my money I’d have no life worth living. Just like if my friends partied every single day they’d eventually burn out.
Sometimes we need to be thrown out of our comfort zones and experience new things to not only learn things about ourselves but to change if necessary. If we stick to our usual routines and never try anything else we would just waste away and rot. So it’s fair to say I am a Poppy. Since The Debt & the Doormat’s been released I’ve had many phone calls late at night asking ‘Am I Jazz???’ The truth is that they are all her in some way. Everyone needs an opposite in their life. And so The Debt and the Doormat was born…
Have you checked out my FREE chick-lit novel, The Debt & the Doormat? Available FREE via Amazon or Smashwords.
For a taster, read the following excerpt...

When I walk back down the stairs Mum’s telling Suzanne about how wonderful dry shampoo is and how she should use it to stop her hair being greasy.
‘Come on Mum.’  I drag her away, smiling apologetically at Suzanne.
‘Oh, lovely girl that Suzanne.  Just a bloody shame about the greasy hair.’
‘Mum!  We haven’t even left the reception yet,’ I whisper.
‘Well some people need to be told,’ she scoffs, completely unembarrassed.  
‘Ok whatever.  Anyway, where do you want to go for lunch?  There’s a nice little Italian a few roads away from here.’ 
‘Not sure about that.  I’m off the carbs now.  Auntie Beryl’s got me on another diet.’
‘When will you stop with these crazy diets!’
‘They’re not crazy sweetheart.  Maybe you should try one sometime.  It wouldn’t kill you.’  She looks me up and down disapprovingly.  
Great.  Now I’ve been called both a lesbian and fat in the same day.  A fat lesbian.
‘Anyway, where do you want to go then?’ I ask through gritted teeth.
‘Wherever Ryan wants to take us,’ she smiles.
‘Sorry?  Ryan?’
Oh my God.  My imaginary boyfriend Ryan.
‘Yes.  You should always let the man decide on where to eat.  Makes them feel superior,’ she nods knowingly.  
‘But...we haven’t invited Ryan.’
‘Well we can invite him now!’  She shakes her head as if I’m retarded.
‘Mum, he’s very busy.  I doubt he’ll have time,’ I say playing for time.  Think Poppy, think of an action plan.
‘Well you won't know until you ask.’
Oh my God.  What the hell am I going to do?  She stares back at me expectantly.  I know she won't drop this.
‘Actually Mum, I’ll just call him.’ 
I grab my phone out of my handbag and realise I probably won't get away with pretending to call someone.  With my luck it would call while I was faking.  I’ll call Jazz.
‘Hey babe, you ok?’ Jazz says down the phone.  I’ve just got to hope that she realises what I’m doing.
‘Hi R-y-a-n,’ I say, pronouncing his name very slowly.  
‘Ryan?  Babe you’ve called the wrong number.  It's me.’
‘Yes, R-y-a-n.  My mum’s in London and she wondered if you wanted to have lunch?’
‘Ryan?  You’re taking Ryan for lunch with your Mum?’
Jesus.  She really doesn’t get it does she.
‘What's he saying?’ Mum says, trying to grab the phone off me.
‘Oh no!  What a shame,’ I say hitting her hand away.  ‘Well don't worry, we’ll organise something soon.’
‘Oh I get it.  Is this something for your mum?’ Jazz finally clocks.
‘Yes, yes.  OK bye, love you.’  I hang up.  Shit.  Why did I say love you?  I’m so used to saying it to Jazz.
‘Darling, you didn’t tell me you were at the stage where you’ve told each other you love one another?’
‘Oh...didn’t I?’
Shit shit shit.
‘No!  I’m pretty sure I’d remember that darling.  My little girls in love,’ she beams, her eyes crazy wide.
‘Anyway, he can't meet.’  I pull a disappointed face.  ‘He says he’s very sorry but he’s got loads on and simply can't leave the office.’
‘Oh, what a shame.  Well, I’ll tell you what.  If he can't leave the office then we’ll go to him.’
‘Yes.  We’ll give him a little picnic.  Come on, we’ll go to Marks and Spencer’s.’  She grabs hold of my arm and starts pulling me along.
‘No, you don't understand.  He’s very busy.  He won't have time,’ I try and protest.
‘Well, he’ll have time to see us for two seconds won't he?’
‘No!  You don't understand.  He’s very important and can't be interrupted.’

Before I know it I’m leaving Marks and Spencer’s with a full picnic and Mum’s talking about when he might propose.  How the hell do I get myself in these situations!
‘Right.  Which building does he work at?’
‘Um.  I can't remember,’ I say playing for time.  There has to be a way to get her to drop this.
‘What was the name of the bank where he works again?’ she asks.
‘Um...I can't remember that either.’
‘Jesus darling!  How can you forget this kind of stuff?  Wait a minute.’  She starts rubbing her forehead.  ‘Barclays!  That's it, I remember.’
How can she remember that!  How can she remember my false story?
‘Ok, but we still don't know where his office is.  Why don't we just go for a nice picnic, just us?’
‘Don't be ridiculous.  We’ve bought far too much food for just us.  I’m not supposed to be eating half this stuff anyway.  Auntie Beryl would go mad at me if she found out.’
‘Ok, but – ‘
‘Excuse me.’  She grabs a stranger’s arm.  ‘Do you know where Barclays head office is?’
‘Oh yes.  It's two streets away.’
Two streets?  Why couldn’t it be the other side of London?  The whole of fucking London and its two streets away.  
‘Great thanks.’  She turns back to me, seeming very pleased with herself.  ‘See darling!  If you use your initiative you can do anything.’
As we begin walking down the street I start to sweat.  What the hell am I going to do?  I can't hold her back.  Dear God, wild boars couldn’t hold her back!  And what am I going to do when she asks for Ryan and they tell her he doesn’t work there.  She’ll have me committed.    
Just think!  Oh my God, I’ve got it!  I’ll go along with this and when they say he doesn’t work there I can act all dramatic and cry and say that he lied to me.  That it's over.  Perfect.  I can stop this whole charade before it gets out of hand.
As she pulls me into the building I’m feeling better about the whole situation.  It’ll be over in two minutes.
‘Excuse me,’ she says, dragging me to the reception desk.  ‘Could you please call Ryan and tell him that we’re here to see him.’
‘Sorry...Ryan...?  What's his surname?’ the receptionist asks, looking Mum up and down in alarm.
Trust my mother to think that only one Ryan works here.
‘Poppy, what's his surname?’
‘Um...it’s...Smith.’  I start psyching myself up for the tears.
‘And your names are?’
‘My daughter is Poppy Windsor and I’m – ‘
‘Sorry,’ I interrupt.  ‘But are you telling me that there is a Ryan Smith?’
‘Yes.’  She looks at me strangely.
‘Don't interrupt me Poppy, it's very rude,’ Mum snaps.  ‘I’m Meryl Windsor, her mother.’
‘Ok, I’ll just ring up.’
Oh my God.  Oh my fucking God.  What the hell am I going to do now?  I need to get her out of here.
‘Mum, I feel sick.  Let’s go and we’ll get him another time.’
‘Don't be silly.  She’s called up for him now.’  She shakes her head at me, annoyed.
I watch the receptionist on the phone, talking away.  He’s probably saying ‘who the hell are these people?’
‘Yes but...I think I...may have come on my period.  I need to get a change of clothes.’
‘A change of clothes darling?  How heavy could you be?’  She starts staring at my crotch.  ‘I don't see anything.’ 
‘Very heavy.  Come on, we need to go.’ I grab her arm.  
‘Auntie Beryl used to be the same.  Used to go through everything she wore.  I couldn’t lend her anything.  She ruined two of my favourite white trousers.  Had to have her womb microwaved in the end.’
‘Sorry, but Ryan’s not expecting you,’ the receptionist says, holding a hand over her receiver.
‘Oh, he won't be darling.  It's a surprise.’  She looks back at me excited.  ‘Where was I anyway?  Yes, she had to get her womb microwaved.  Terrible business.’
‘He’s coming down now,’ the receptionist says, still suspicious.
Oh my God.  Oh my God.  I need to get out of here. 
‘Mum, we need to go!  Now!’ I scream.  I’m sweating.  My neck is hot.  
‘He’s your boyfriend Poppy.  You’re already telling each other you’re in love.  I’m sure he’s not going to be bothered by a bit of blood.’
‘But he will!  You don't know him.  He’s...he’s allergic to blood,’ I stammer, my insides churning.  How could I have got myself in this mess!
‘Allergic to blood?  What the hell are you talking about Poppy?’
I look up as the lift pings and a man in his late forties walks out looking around.  Oh my God, that must be him.  What the fuck?  What the fuck!
There’s only one option left.  I pretend to pass out.  
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