Heathcliff and Barbie Dolls

barbie-1565718__180Writing is an emotional minefield and even at this late stage of my manuscript I am thinking, considering and weighing up my choices, so that I am better able to deal with the repercussions of what I do.  However, because of circumstantial restrictions my approach to publishing has been a little left-field and I would hate for my readers to suffer because of it. You see in my process I have worked with some incredibly talented people who are not professionals in the normal publishing world sense. Nevertheless they have had a professional approach and are knowledgeable people.

Even so I faltered for a few moments and lost confidence, until that is, I remembered some things. One was a recent a blog I read in reedsy.com and the other was a childhood memory centred on Barbie dolls. In Reedsy Paul Lucas, a literary agent, made the following comment: Since many self-published authors enjoy closer access to their fans, it makes self-sustaining success more achievable.

I don’t know how far I can go but I do know I love the idea of closer access to readers; in fact it is the singularly most important thing that drives me.  I have to trust in them to tell me what I have missed and they have to know I am working hard to learn all I can, and that I will act on their suggestions. The alternative is to stop and wait for something that may never be within my grasp. I can’t do that. So this post I thought I might share how I continue to learn drawing on both past and current events.

I have an obsessive fascination about the reasons people are inspired to write, and read constantly on this topic. Marie Lavender has a blog I enjoy where author to author interviews come up regularly leading me down some interesting thought paths.  For instance I found Vivienne Vincent, a newcomer to the scene and author of Dandelions had some interesting insights into male leads.

dartmoor-246881__180Vivienne believes thereare no Rhett Butlers and Darcys in real life. Only Heathcliffs.” She adds “I remember reading Wuthering Heights when I was young. I had read Pride and Prejudice and Gone with the Wind before. Even though I don’t think I fell in love with Heathcliff the way I fell for Darcy and Rhett, Heathcliff was far more intriguing… So I wanted to create a character that is flawed but has the ability to fall in love and improve himself. “

 I think the truth is more Heathcliffs exist than the straightforward heroic Darcys and Rhetts because we want it that way. Imagine someone loving us enough to want to change for us, how exciting and how terribly romantic? Isn’t this why as readers we drool over bad boys, and why as writers we create them?  I thought a lot about this when creating my male lead.

clark-gable-399715__180I like Darcy, full of himself and his place in life, and kind and fiercely loyal underneath all that.  Is it so bad to be proper?  And more to the point isn’t it just as exciting when someone like that falls and falls hard?  Rhett on the other hand impresses in a different way.  His strength of character is both mentally and sexually challenging. The more I considered this the more I felt I was missing something and somehow this was connected to Wuthering Heights.

As much as I adore the tortured enthrallment Heathcliff has for Cathy, it is Haerton that that holds me spellbound once I close the pages of the book.  Falling for Catherine has him change but his worship of Heathcliffe, a man who has not always treated him kindly, never wavers.  Wrongly or rightly his loyalty is absolute, and it is Catherine that has to bend and accept this if she is to be with him.

My character Nico is a difficult person with set ideas; his brooder personality demands control. I couldn’t have a doormat as his female lead even if the flawed character improving himself for his woman is appealing. It seems only fair the less flawed character shows herself to be big enough to make concessions as the young Catherine does in Wuthering Heights.  It is not about giving in; it is about relationships containing two people.  If you love someone, even something, you find ways to deal, ways to make things work that many would term a compromise.

I am from a migrant background.  Consequently we had very little as children yet somehow for my seventh birthday my parents bought me a Barbie doll. My excitement waned very quickly on realising how limited Barbie was in wardrobe choices. I was totally fixated on Barbie having adventures and one dress didn’t cut it. I knew I couldn’t say anything as I didn’t want to disappoint my parents.  They had gained so much pleasure in buying me something I wanted.  I must have sat on my bed for hours reflecting on how to solve my dilemma.

My mother did a lot of sewing, both by hand and on a very basic model sewing machine. It was a way of saving on expenses. I began collecting scraps of fabric she had discarded.  I began watching every little thing she did. By my eighth birthday Barbie had an outfit for every occasion but the piece de resistance was a skiing ensemble.  I had begged my mother to find some fur and I had made a hooded jacket, a type of leggings and trimmed the hood with white fur and then made Barbie fur boots.

clothes-1297720__180 Bent paddle pop sticks covered in Cadbury’s chocolate silver foil wrappers made excellent skis.  I salvaged match-stick boxes to glue together to make a dressing table, scavenged any larger boxes I could find to make tables, chairs and even a wardrobe.  A doll house from my parents was out of the question so I created my own.  Why not, I had the furniture?

Was everything as good a quality as it could have been? I was seven when I started so perhaps not but I got better as I got older.  I begged my Mother to buy me magazines with patterns, nagged her and my aunties to give me sewing lessons, and finally nagged my Ma (what I called her) enough to let me use her machine.  Along the way I got so much input from people that even when I became self-sufficient I loved running things past them.  There are always ways to improve things. Home-made can be outstanding at times.  Ask anyone still alive (lol Ma) who had ever tasted her bottled tomato sauces.

Compromise always sounds like someone is giving in.  I see it as finding a way to make things work that costs us nothing but time and effort. If the commitment is real the process irons out the creases very easily.

Alla prossima,



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  1. Pingback: Heathcliff and Barbie Dolls – Barbara Strickland – Author

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