Bucket lists – have you ever made one? A list of things you hope to see or do before you reach a certain age or before you die, perhaps? I haven’t personally but my younger sons had preprinted bucket lists from the National Trust, I think it was, detailing a list of activities to achieve by the age of 11….including rolling down a hill, climb a tree, play pooh sticks, skim stones, etc My sons were chuffed that they had crossed off most of the things on the list. Perhaps you’ve seen the articles on subjects such as 100 places to see before you die … a wishlist that would be nice to fill out… ; some bucket lists are a lot more challenging, thought provoking, and life changing. I’ve been chatting to the lovely author Carol E Wyer this week, whose 7th humorous book, Three Little Birds, was published by Safkhet Publishing on 15th August about this very subject…. a big warm welcome Carol:
Hello! I’m Carol E. Wyer (no I won’t tell you what the E stands for) AKA Facing 50 although I am facing it from the wrong direction now. I write humorous books aimed at helping people to grow old disgracefully and hopefully make them laugh. Recently I took a crash course in stand up and now tour the UK and France with my comedy talk Smile While You Still Have Teeth – phew! Are you still reading or have I bored you yet?
Your 7th humorous novel, Three Little Birds, published by Safkhet Publishing was launched on the 15th August. Your book is based on two female best friends, one who has struggled after her daughter’s death and her divorce; the other coping with life after a riding accident left her paralysed. On New Year’s Eve, after consuming much wine, they write bucket lists that test their friendship and strengths. For the launch of this book you decided to undertake four of the featured in the book life-affirming challenges plus a bonus challenge – zipwire, belly dancing, bushtucker trial, indoor skydive and zorbing. Where did you get inspiration from to write this novel?
Inspiration always comes from many sources and indeed takes considerable time to be structured into a novel. There were a few reasons I wrote the book. Firstly, I am one of those irritatingly cheerful people who thinks that no matter how old you are or what life has thrown at you, you can change certain elements by being brave and having a go at different things – whether that be changing your job, taking up a hobby or, as in the case of this book, writing a ‘carpe diem’ list. When I was in my late teens and early twenties I suffered from spinal problems that meant I spent far too much time in hospital and later after an invasive procedure, had a period of time when I was paralysed myself. Fortunately it was a temporary paralysis but it made me appreciate my life more thereafter. I wrote a list out in my forties and tried to complete all the physically challenging things on it as I have osteoarthritis, and at some point I’ll be struggling again, so best to get these things in while you can. Inspiration for some of the characters came from real people, including a lady called Priscilla who writes a blog called The Wheelchair Mommy who impressed me hugely with her vivacity and positive attitude in spite of her disability. Like Mercedes in the book she is a paraplegic. Charlie Blunkett, a hospital radio presenter for Coastway Radio became the inspiration for Charlie the radio presenter although she is only the inspiration and nothing like Charlie in the book and even Bert the mischievous parrot is an online friend! It is also intended to motivate others into having a go at challenges, after all, you have no idea where they make take you. There’s a list of 100 possibilities at the end of the book.
I hear you are a bit of a daredevil, having already learnt to fly a helicopter; driven a quad bike up a mountainside; swum with dolphins; took kickboxing classes; experienced working abroad; took a crash course in comedy…. so, with the extra “launch” challenges… which challenges have you enjoyed the most?
Haha! Not really a daredevil. These are quite tame compared to some of the possibilities available. I enjoyed them all although I kept getting the quad bike stuck on raised mounds. The biggest thrill was flying. There is not really much to compare to the adrenaline rush you get when you take off for the first time flying solo in a Robinson 22.
Your career started in teaching English in an American language school in Casablanca, Morocco before moving back to the UK to teach English as a foreign language in a private school. I guess both experiences have given you a lot of inspiration when writing. What are your fondest memories of teaching?
I loved teaching. I taught all ages from small children to grown adults. The best memory though was at the American Language School where I taught three classes of children aged 8-14. At the end of the year all the teachers and classes had to sing a popular song. I am the world’s worst at singing but hey ho! It was my job so I chose something fun. My classes sang the Frog Chorus – We All Stand Together by Paul McCartney. They spent the afternoon making frog masks and sang it perfectly. At the end they all cheered like mad and applauded me until I felt like some sort of superstar. The ambience was terrific. All the proud parents kept thanking me and the students kept hugging me. It was very special.
You have written a series of educational yet amusing books for children, and since 2010 you turned your attention to the adult market. What made you realise that you wanted to write books? What impact did teaching make to your new career path?
I have been writing short stories since those days when I was stuck on hospital wards. I started writing then about the funny side of being on a ward. I sent all the stories to my friends and family who thought they were hilarious. Eventually, I got better, finished my degree and moved abroad. Morocco was the perfect place for inspiration. I would drive home on my velosolex motorbike, avoiding donkeys and come up with stories for children, then write them when I got home. They had titles like Humphrey the Camel and the Dustbin Cats. Teaching languages clearly influenced my writing because I then moved into stories, still with amusing animal themes, that taught French to young children aged 3 upwards and even had a series of songs produced to accompany them. They got used in schools with much success. It was when I was facing 50 myself that I decided there wasn’t enough humorous material for women my age. Chick Lit was for younger women, historical romances weren’t my cup of tea and I wanted to read books that had heroines and real characters in them that had lived life. My books aren’t so much ‘they all live happy ever after’ as ‘they started off happy ever after…now what?’ I decided that I would take my brand of observational humour and weave it into books and novels aimed at women (and men) over 40.
Last year you did a crash course in stand-up comedy and performed your comedy talk Smile While You Still Have Teeth to audiences in Lichfield and in October you will be on main stage at the Isle of Wight Literary festival along with celebrities Alan Titchmarsh, Katie Price, Sheila Hancock and novelist Katie Fford. Did you take to performing on stage like a duck to water or do you experience nerves before stepping into the spotlight?
I am such a media whore it is untrue! I can’t get enough of standing up in front of people and making them laugh. It’s a drug. I think teaching helped though. After all, once you’ve faced a class of six foot recalcitrant teenagers and attempted to teach them grammar, anything is easy. It helps too that I can’t see very well and my hearing is failing. I have no idea who is in the front row or if they have nodded off, or indeed, if they are heckling me.
You are currently writing a series of novels and articles aimed at the ‘older’ man and woman. Can you tell us a bit more about the topics you’ll be covering?
I often write about relationships, friendships, ageing process, dealing with retirement, coping with teenagers, grandchildren, enjoying life while you can and generally laughing at the banality of it all. Does it matter if we are getting on? No! What matters is that we make the most of what we have.
What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?
I read anything and everything but I mostly enjoy thrillers, especially dark psychological thrillers with twists or something amusing like Terry Pratchett or Ben Elton. I am not keen on lengthy novels about Victorian women or war stories. I did English and French Literature at university so now and then I get an urge to go and read Camus or Proust or Chaucer. I really must get that under control.
As much as you like to attempt different challenges, is there any “challenge” or “experience” that would really freak you out or would be a definite no no?
I’d have to draw the line under those challenges that would be too demanding in a physical sense. I would not, for instance, leap out of a plane and parachute down in case I landed incorrectly. I wouldn’t want to spend another five years in hospital getting my spine stuck together again. Wingwalking would be on my list of ‘no ways’ along with anything to do with spiders.
Hospital Radio features in Three Little Birds as well as featuring in a chunk of your life when you were younger and spent 11 weeks flat on your back after undergoing spinal surgery. What songs did you request or enjoy listening to or was it the friendly banter that gave you some respite from being in pain as well as being bored? How important was it to you that in your novel you included the work of the hospital radio?
I remembering requesting Magic Fly by Space, Ma Baker by Boney M and 2-4-6-8 Motorway by Tom Robinson’s Band among others. My msic taste is as eclectic as my reading tastes. The music was important as it is with all teenagers but in truth, it was the presenters who made it all the more interesting and I listened to them all day every day. I wanted people to be aware of the importance of hospital radio stations to those stuck in bed and I hope the book succeeds in doing that. I have been lucky to have been on many radio shows and lots of the BBC presenters started life in hospital radio and remember it with a deep fondness. It has given many an apprenticeship in radio and more importantly the radio stations connect those who are unwell and in hospital with life outside and keep them entertained.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
Always something bright. I don’t do subtle. You’ll invariably find me in red, orange or bright blue trousers or with a bright scarf and very bright earrings. My shoes must match my outfit so today I have orange trousers and orange and red strap sandals. I wear a lot of trousers and jackets or jumpers. My favourite makes are Marc Cain and Paul Smith and I have a few pieces by both.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
I don’t do online shopping for clothes but I go to my favourite shop in Solihull called Katherine Draisey that specialises in individual outfits. A couple of Times a year I head off to Germany to Hamburg or Munich and buy Brax trousers and fashionable blouses or jumpers. They always have styles, colours and sizes that fit me.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
I desperately want a pair of Christian Louboutin boots. Ever since I saw Celia Sawyer on the show Four Rooms, I have wanted a pair. They are so me!
Boots or Shoes?
Boots. Every time. I have twice as many boots as shoes. I can’t explain why but I feel much more comfortable in boots during autumn and winter than in sandals in summer. It’s probably because I have such big feet and I feel they look smaller in boots.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your novels.
SAFKEHT PUBLISHING http://www.safkhetpublishing.com/authors/Carol_E_Wyer.htm
GOOGLE PLUS https://plus.google.com/u/0/117914391843880994511/about
Thank you Carol, I’ve really enjoyed chatting to you and I wish your novel every success! Umm, I wonder, what would be on your Bucket List? …
Photo credits: All photos have been published with kind permission from Carol E Wyer.