When The Romaniacs asked me to guest on their blog, I was really pleased to do so. And when they suggested that perhaps my writing alter ego Scarlett Bailey might want to interview me, Rowan Coleman, I thought that would be interesting. And this is what happened….
RC: Well, I must say I am very proud and pleased to be guest blogging on the Romaniacs’ blog this, the very week of their very first anniversary.
SB: ‘We’ are, you mean. ‘We’ are very pleased.
RC: We yes, except that ‘we’ is me. I am you, you are me. We are the same person.
SB: I’ll have you know I’m an entirely my own person, thank you very much. And I’m a much better dancer than you.
RC: Well, that’s debatable, but if it’s true it’s because you don’t spend 20 hours out of every 24 changing nappies. Anyway, discussing our, by which I mean, my, dancing skills is not why the Romaniacs kindly invited me, er…us, onto their lovely blog. They invited us, I mean me, to talk about me, I mean us. Now I’m confused.
SB: They want you to interview me about how witty and fabulous I am.
RC: Actually, I think they want you to interview me about being witty and mostly knackered. And also about what it’s like writing with a split personality.
SB: But I want to talk about me.
RC: I am you, you are talking about me. Go on then, ask me a question. I haven’t got all day.
SB: Okay, when was it that you first realised you had become boring and middle aged and needed an exciting, younger, funnier, sexier alter ego?
SB: Fine, why did you start to write books as Scarlett Bailey as well as Rowan Coleman. That boring enough for you?
RC: You came along at a very good time for me. I’ve had quite an eventful five years. I’ve been divorced, remarried and had three children in that time, two of them at the same time! I came to the end of my relationship with my publisher of a decade, and during that time, I wrote and delivered two books a year. It’s felt a bit like I never have a moment to stop and think. Or work out exactly what impact all that has happened has had on me, as a person and a writer. Or to sit down.
SB: Frankly, with that bottom you must sit down a lot, it’s massive.
RC: RUDE. And anyway, you forget, it’s your bottom too.
SB: Damn it. So you were pretty busy then, not exactly looking for something else to do?
RC: Well, yes and no. Yes I was pretty busy, and rather stressed and anxious, but there was something else. I’ve been writing novels for ten years now, and I’ve got older.
SB Speak for yourself.
RC I’m forty-one now….
SB Don’t say it out loud!
RC And gradually the books I write, while I hope are still quite funny, and certainly romantic, dealt with darker more grown up subjects. Agoraphobia, surviving abuse, domestic violence, alcoholism….
SB: Laugh a minute.
RC: Well a laugh every now and then, and quite a lot of tears and a fair dose of kissing. But they are books I’ve really liked writing, and that I’m really proud of. And then I had this idea….
Married By Christmas
SB: I think you’ll find I had this idea, for a really lovely perfectly Christmassy book, about a group of friends stranded in the snowbound Lake District on ‘The Night Before Christmas’, when a tall dark and handsome stranger calls…And I thought, hey that sounds fun to write.
RC: Yes, that’s what I thought. I thought that sounds fun, I really want to write that book, and I want to make it really funny, and really romantic, and really Christmassy and that is so different from the books I’ve been writing for the last few years that…I think I’d better do it under another name.
SB: And so Miss Scarlett Bailey was born!
SB: And how did you name me?
RC: Well, you are the combination of my favourite heroine, Miss Scarlett O Hara, and my favourite Christmas drink – Baileys.
SB: And was that your first choice of name for me?
RC: Well, there were a few others, but they turned out to be porn stars….
SB: That says a lot more about you than it does about me. But anyway, I like my name, I can’t imagine it being anything else.
RC: Me neither, you really are a Scarlett.
SB: So for the publication of the first book, you didn’t tell hardly anyone that I was you, did you? What in the bloomin’ heck was that about?
RC: Yes, I know. I wasn’t allowed to. I was published by Arrow at the time, and they said it was okay for me to write as Scarlett as long I at no-point-what-so-ever told anyone that Scarlett was Rowan. I don’t really know why it mattered so much, but you know, they’d published me for almost ten years and I owed them a lot, so I agreed. It was pretty weird, especially when I talked to bloggers or readers that I knew as Rowan, so I secretly told as many people as I thought I could get away with! Even so, I didn’t really like keeping you a secret, so I was glad when after moving away from Arrow and signing as Rowan with Ebury I could tell everyone that I was Scarlett Bailey in time for the publication of ‘Married by Christmas’.
SB: I can confirm that is pretty much the most exciting moment of your life. And you’ve had twins.
RC: I was very pleased to be out of the closet, that’s for sure.
SB: You were, but I get a lot less online propositions since people found out that you are a married mother of four.
RC: Sorry about that.
SB: So 2012 was quite a year for you, wasn’t it?
RC: It really was. I knew it was going to be a hard year. I mean I gave birth to twins, which was never going to be a walk in the park and I…
RC: You were writing Married by Christmas during the last stages of the pregnancy. No mean feat when I was so pregnant that I couldn’t reach the keyboard. And ‘Dearest Rose,’ was published in September. It had been a very difficult book to write, for a lot of reasons. Partly because as I wrote I knew it was going to be my last book for Arrow, which was a bit like writing a love letter to someone after you’ve already split up, and partly because of my EXTREME PREGNANCY and mostly because of the subject matter. Rose is a victim of domestic abuse, and while I was researching the book, a great many women were kind enough to trust me with their stories. It sent me to some quite dark places, and it tested me as a writer, because I was so determined to do their stories justice. So I worried a lot about writing it, more than I have ever worried about writing any other book. And also I was MASSIVELY PREGNANT with SURPRISE TWINS.
SB: I think your husband quite fancies me, you know.
RC: Oh shut up.
SB: So, was 2012 as difficult as you thought it would be?
RC: Actually it turned out to be a really wonderful year.
SB: Do tell.
RC: Well, my darling little boys Stanley and Aubrey arrived on April 10th four days before my 41st birthday, which did mean I spent my birthday suffering with terrible constipation, but other than that, they were the best birthday gifts ever. I still look at them and I think, look, there’s two of them! Mad!
RC: Sorry, and so yes, the publication of ‘Dearest Rose’ was wonderfully supported by many lovely writers friends, and best of all many lovely readers, for whose loyalty I am extremely grateful. Thanks entirely to them, it has been slowly blossoming into a well read and well reviewed book. And that has been absolutely the most joyfully unexpected outcome for the book. I won’t lie, my confidence was very shaken at the beginning of 2012. They way that ‘Dearest Rose’ has been received has been a big boost, and kept me going when a lot of the time I felt like giving up writing and becoming a tour guide at The British Museum. I’m wiser now and….SB: Don’t say older.
RC: Less young. And I feel like, you know, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you more grey haired.
SB: So, go on then.
RC: Go on what?
SB: Get the showing off over and done with.
RC: Well, if you insist. ‘Dearest Rose’ won Best Romantic Read 2012 at the Festival of Romance, and has been nominated for the RoNA Epic Romance Novel of the Year, Rose was name best Female Character of the Year 2012 by Chick Lit Chloe, and I won the title Author Tweeter of the Year 2012 from the lovely ladies at Novelicious. All of which is really and genuinely so thrilling, I can’t tell you how much it’s meant to me.
SB: What Ever.
RC: What do you mean what ever? I am you, you are me, remember?
SB: Oh yes, well in that case well done us. So tell me, what has the last few tumultuous years taught you about being a writer in this era of modern publishing?
RC: Essentially, I think it’s the same as it’s ever been. If you want to be a writer you’ve got to be prepared for rejection. You’ve got to be prepared for your fortunes to turn on the flip of a coin, which means they can go down as well as up, and you never know which is coming next, or when. Sometimes being a writer really, really hurts. Sometimes, it can be really, really wonderful – but never count on either one of those things to last forever. You have to know that you might work your butt off for ten years and never be an overnight success. But above all remember that you do what you do because you love doing it and whatever happens, there is nothing else that gives you as much joy, even when it’s driving you crazy and making you consider retraining as an elephant keeper. And that if you can go to sleep at night knowing that you’ve done every single thing that day that you could have possibly done, and that you’ve done your best, then actually you are doing pretty well.
SB: So in conclusion, the really important issue that everyone really wants to know… Which one of us is a better dancer?
RC: Okay, fine, it’s you.
Scarlett and Rowan – thank you so much for joining us on our first anniversary week. It has been an absolute pleasure having you here. And many congratulations on your awards and nominations – we’re sending some Romaniacal luck and wishes for the RoNAs. Since it’s party time, we’ll be putting your dancing to the test, but first a glass of champagne and a slice of Celia’s chocolate cake. Enjoy xx