Saturday 15 July 2017

The Hippo Hands Over . . . . to Gina Kirkham

I'm so excited today as I'm handing over to the very lovely Gina Kirkham, who  recently published her debut novel, Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong, with Urbane Publications.


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.

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So that's the book, what about the lovely (and gorgeous) lady behind the words? Allow me to introduce you all to Gina Kirkham.

Photo courtesy of Gina Kirkham

Gina was born during the not-so-swinging 50's to a mum who frequently abandoned her in a pram outside Woolworths and a dad who, after two pints of beer, could play a mean Boogie Woogie on the piano in the front room of their 3-bed semi on the Wirral.

Being the less adventurous of three children, she remains there to this day - apart from a long weekend in Bognor Regis in 1982. Her teenage years were filled with angst, a CSE in Arithmetic, pimples, PLJ juice, Barry White and rather large knickers.  Marriage and motherhood ensued, quickly followed by divorce in her early thirties and a desperate need for a career and some form of financial support for herself and her daughter. Trundling a bicycle along a leafy path one wintry day, a lifelong passion to be a police officer gave her simultaneously an epiphany of fond memories of her favourite author Enid Blyton and moments of solving mysteries. And thus began an enjoyable and fulfilling career with Merseyside Police.

On reaching an age most women lie about, she quickly adapted to retirement by utilising her policing skills to chase after two granddaughters, two dogs and one previously used, but still in excellent condition, husband. Having said goodbye to what had been a huge part of her life, she suddenly had another wonderful epiphany. This time it was to put pen to paper to write a book based on her experiences as a police officer.

Lying in bed one night staring at the ceiling and contemplating life as she knew it, Gina's alter-ego, Mavis Upton was born, ready to star in a humorous and sometimes poignant look at the life, loves and career of an everyday girl who followed a dream and embarked upon a search for the missing piece of her childhood.

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            Oh my goodness, I’ve written a book, I’ve really written a book…  

I stared at the bedroom ceiling watching the amber light from the lamppost outside sneak through a gap in the blinds, marking a pattern across the wall.  Yep, I’ve written a book and I am just beginning to find out that writing it was actually the easy bit!

It’s 4 o’clock in the morning.  The start of a brand-new day; another day of excitement, expectations, another round of frantically refreshing Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles, W. H Smith -  in fact any site that happens to be selling my book whilst simultaneously providing the horrors and joys of Reader Reviews.  The section, that as an author you dread looking at just in case, but are compelled to do so as it is somehow a measure of the acceptance of your words and your passion to write.

I hadn’t really thought further ahead than achieving my dream of having my first book Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong, published.  I hadn’t thought about sales, interviews, magazine pieces or personal appearances.  I hadn’t even thought about being expected to talk to an audience without glowing with so much perspiration and fear that my strapless, stick-on bra, the one I’d accidentally bought when I fell asleep with my finger adhered to my iPad whilst logged on to one-click ordering on Amazon, suddenly decided to part company with my skin, appear from the hem of my dress and settle gently at my feet amid sniggers from the first two rows of the audience.  I carried on expounding the virtues of policing in the 21st century whilst trying to kick it under a nearby table, but failed miserably as although the adhesive was not good for skin, it fared pretty well on leather and remained glued to the toe of my shoe until the end of my talk.

I was only just starting to realise that I had in effect popped my head above the parapet of anonymity.  

I sometimes think I’m a bit of an anomaly.  I am both optimistic and cheerful, always trying to see the best in people and life in general; but I am also a born worrier who is desperate to please, I lack confidence in my abilities and if anyone is likely to tear me down, it’s me!

My mum used to call it endearing, my hubby calls it attractive, my friends call it cute; I call it ‘hell in a handbag’; my naughty little voice.

My naughty little voice puts paid to most lovely things in my life.  It can, when not controlled, change everything to a worry or a negative.  

Since becoming part of the wonderful world of books, I have got to know and meet some pretty fantastic people, Authors, Bloggers Reviewers and Readers.  It truly is a big supportive family who love to see others succeed.  Their reviews of my book have been amazing, nothing to drag the naughty little voice out of hiding, apart from my worry when told that etiquette meant I couldn’t thank them or even ‘like’ the review they had left.  Not thanking someone for being so kind always feels alien; but I understood why and my confidence was happily beginning to grow.

And then it had happened.

The dreaded poor review on Goodreads.  It stung.  In fact, it stung a lot.  It didn’t quite send me weeping and wailing into the downstairs loo dragging off sheets of Aldi 2-ply (we’re cheap in this family) to blow my nose on, or bring me to the point of despair where I would contemplate applying to the local Carmelite Monastery in Birkenhead, which, as much as being hidden from the world appealed at the time, with my track record, they probably wouldn’t have me anyway - but it was a review that did hurt, nonetheless.

I thought I had been prepared for this, I’d read the hopes and expectations of established authors, the highs and the lows, poured over the Writers & Artists Yearbook 2016 and believed I could handle it.

Clearly not.  That’s why I’m lying here, wide awake, my naughty little voice on over-time, thinking of that one poor review and wondering what I could have done better; castigating my desire to please whilst contemplating thrashing myself with a branch from my neighbours Weeping Willow for a poor performance and then just as quickly being annoyed with myself for allowing one review to overshadow all the lovely ones that readers, reviewers and bloggers had so kindly taken the time to leave.

To comfort myself, I started browsing Amazon and Goodreads for my favourite authors to see if they had any 2* reviews, and was surprised to see they did, which then made me wonder how they coped, how did they deal with it?  

After much soul searching, I decided that low rating reviews should be taken as a learning curve, a sort of positive critique to benefit my writing.  Mentally punching my naughty little voice on the nose, I set about confronting critique head-on.  I accepted an invitation by a local Reading Group to be present when they reviewed my book, which they had read the previous month.

I mentioned my decision to friends, fellow authors and family.

“You need your head reading…”

“Don’t do it, just don’t….”

“Authors don’t do that, it’s just…. well, plain daft!”

“Are you mad?”

“Always knew there was something masochistic about you.” 

Well, that told me, didn’t it?  But could I really afford to be so precious about my ‘baby’ that I wasn’t willing to accept or listen to views and critique from those who had bought and read my book, the very same people I am trying to please.

So, here I am, perched on a bar stool, which being seriously vertically challenged took me a very ungainly five-minutes to get on to, slugging a double Gin in front of forty plus women with a huge backdrop screen showing my face and my book, whilst I wait for their good and bad reviews of Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong. 
I smile nicely, probably more with a ‘please don’t eat me alive’ look as the whites of my eyes shine in the sun-lit room, my heart is pounding, perspiration is beginning to trickle down my back as my naughty little voice screams loudly in my mind……
‘I hope your not wearing that ruddy stick-on bra from Amazon again...!
….. as I quickly tuck my chiffon top between my upper thighs and squeeze my knees together tightly.

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Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong is the next book on my list so watch out for my review coming soon.

You can find out more about Gina and connect with her using the links below:
Twitter (Gina Kirkham
Twitter (Mavis Upton)

 I'd like to thank Gina for taking the time to write her wonderful guest post and for stopping by today, it's been an absolute pleasure having you here. 😉

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for inviting me Neats, it's so very much appreciated ☺️ Gina x