Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Annie Lyons, the author of Life or Something Like it, to the blog for an interesting Q&A, which is followed up by my review of Life for Something Like it. I hope you enjoy the the Q&A and my review!
Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call ‘Breaking the Ice.’
The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms want to know)
The Song Collector by Natasha Solomons – a beautiful story of love and music by a writer I admire greatly.
The last movie you watched, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet…you name it)? Boyhood – left a mark on my heart because it said everything you need to know about growing up in a family – absolutely perfect.
Are you more of a Game of Thrones or Outlander gal? (Combinations are possible)
I have to confess that I’ve never watched either. I love Modern Family but I’m guessing that’s not quite the same!
Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet?
Mary Berry – imagine the cakes!
Something you treat yourself to, now and again? (Cream éclairs totally count)
A lovely new hardback book by a favourite author (Louis de Bernieres last week) and Double Deckers. Lots of Double Deckers.
Do you have a Bucket List, and if so name one of the things on it?
Not really but I am very aware how short life is and I try to live in the moment instead of anticipating the next event – easier said than done but my children help with this. Children are very good at it.
All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let’s talk about Life or Something Like It.
You have this knack of mixing really tough issues with what seem to be normal everyday family dynamics and situations. When you start writing or come up with a concept is it a conscious decision to mix the two? Are you picking often very contentious issues to bring attention to them or is this more of a subconscious act during the writing process?
What a great question! That made me think… For this book, I wanted to write about a woman, who to all intents and purposes is sorted and happy. She is unapologetically single and child-free with no desire to change this – the introduction of her brother’s children forces her to face certain realities for the first time. I am very interested in family dynamics so these became an inevitable part of the story.
Saying that, I really enjoyed the way you plonked or rather subtly weaved the Women: career vs children topic into the story. How do you feel about the choices you have made?
Hopefully it was more subtle than plonked! I was made redundant nearly six years ago just before my daughter started school and I took the decision to stay at home. I started writing firstly to see if I could do it and then I was lucky enough to be offered a contract with Carina. It’s a job that I can fit around my family. I think it’s a very personal choice and I am very happy with the way things have turned out!
Do you think women, as opposed to men and society in general, are more critical of other women when it comes to choosing either a career or children?
I think there’s a lot of chat, partly due to social media & partly due to the way we feel the need to share opinions all the time. I don’t think it’s one section of society or another but I do believe that it’s a personal decision and the world could do with being a little less judgemental sometimes.
Alongside that much discussed topic you also have your characters confront the choice of children or no children. Again an issue, which tends to get debaters all hot and bothered. Who do you think puts more pressure on women? Women, men or society in general?
I think it’s the same as for the career versus children topic and I think we all need to work harder at giving each other a break. Everyone has their own stuff to deal with and no-one understands completely what’s going on in another person’s life. I’m very much a live and let live person. My aim was to write a story that made people think about these issues and how we face them and as Cat has to look at life from a different angle, so we as readers do too. There are no right answers.
Another hot topic, especially if you are a parent of younger children or teens, is cyber-bullying. E-safety and cyber bullying have become the focus for schools and Ofsted. In your story the school seems reluctant to take the matter seriously. Do you think schools, parents and children should put more emphasis on it and offer training for staff, parents and children?
I think schools do offer this (my children’s school has). In Life Or Something Like It, it’s to do with the head teacher’s reluctance to admit that there’s a problem (she doesn’t want bad press for the school) but Charlie’s teacher does offer to help. I do think that a lot is expected of teachers and schools these days and that it’s our job as parents to work with them and be more aware of what our children face. The internet can be empowering for kids but they need our support and back-up to be able to use it safely and wisely. These are new challenges that we never had to face as kids so we need to make sure that we have the knowledge to be able to help them when they need us.
Lastly I would like to thank you for answering all my questions, both the bizarre and the more story focused ones.
Thank you for inviting me and posing such interesting and thought-provoking questions.
Annie Lyons has an intriguing way of mixing normal family life, dysfunctional relationships and important social topics of our time. It is so subtle you can barely tell and yet on a subconscious level you do take them on board. My point is Lyons makes her point without shoving it in your face.
Cat is a career girl through and through. The world of PR and the social media are the first thing she thinks of when she wakes up in the morning and her last thought at night. She has decided not to have children and focus on her career instead.
Unfortunately for Cat she ends up having to step up to mark as an auntie and take care of her niece and nephew. Two small humans, who don’t exactly like Cat and aren’t afraid to show it. One pre-teen and a very direct six-year old.What could possibly go wrong?
Cat finds herself questioning her own emotions. She realises she does care what her niece and nephew think of her. Ever so slowly the three of them start to build the beginnings of a fragile relationship.
I enjoyed the way Lyons brought up the age-old debate about career vs children. Women often feel as if they have to choose between one or the other, and those that have both know they can’t give equal time to both of them. It is interesting to note that women tend to be the harshest critics of other women.
Instead of supporting members of their own gender they tend to point the fingers the most. Women who choose to stay at home are raked over the coals for doing so, and similarly career women are accused of neglecting their children or not being real women if they choose not to have any.
On top of that Lyons has also shone a spotlight on the topic of women choosing in general not to have children. Society tends to be critical and perceive those women as more selfish. Such a shame that the emphasis is placed on our role as baby-growers instead of women as individuals who have the right and freedom to choose.
Life or Something Like it is a breezy, comfortable read with plenty of funny moments and underlying serious ones, without ever being more complex than a just a simple ‘girl discovers there is more to life than just her phone’ story. It really is one of Lyons talents to create something memorable in such a simple and realistic setting.
Overall a good read and one I definitely recommend.