Published by HQ Digital (5 January 2018)
available in ebook and paperback
Welcome to my turn on the blog tour for The Start of Something Wonderful. I am reviewing this book for a further blog tour in March, however for now I have a guest post from Jane together with an excerpt.
From Inspiration to Publication
by Jane Lambert
In the nineties I had what many would consider the perfect life – a lovely job travelling the world as air crew, a beautiful apartment, a nice car, a designer (okay, so fake designer) wardrobe and exotic holidays. So why did I give all that up to enter a profession that boasts a 92% unemployment rate?
When a dear friend drowned in a windsurfing accident, I was suddenly made aware of how fragile and precious life is and that we should never take it for granted. If there’s something we feel passionate about we should not waste time and have the courage to follow our destiny if at all possible. So I hung up my wings, sold my flat and car to follow my childhood dream of becoming an actor before it was too late.
When not acting I’ve had to do all sorts of odd jobs to pay the bills – from cleaning, waitressing and office work to handing out bags of crisps dressed as an aubergine.
I have met so many people along the way who feel trapped in jobs they don’t like, but are stuck because of financial commitments. These conversations inspired me to write a book about how success is not necessarily a financial thing, and doing what gives you fulfillment is healthier than focusing on your Christmas bonus. There are plenty of self-help books written on the subject, but I wanted to write a romantic, bittersweet comedy with this underlying theme. My main protagonist is an ordinary woman starting over on her own at a time of life when most people are settled and secure.
While sitting in draughty theatre dressing rooms and grotty digs on tour, I began to write the novel I had been carrying around in my head for years, and so The Start of Something Wonderful came to be.
As an actor, you have to be sensitive yet tough to deal with the insecurity and rejection that comes with the job. This grit and determination has helped me to achieve my publishing dream.
To all the dreamers out there, no matter what age you are, the message behind the book is this: life is full of second chances. You just need to believe in yourself and to never, ever give up.
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
‘Hayyaa’ala-s-salah, hayya ’ala-l-falah …’ came the haunting call from the mosque across the square, summoning worshippers to evening prayer. It was almost time to meet up with the crew to mosey around the souk – again. Too hot to sunbathe, room service menu exhausted, library book finished, alcohol forbidden, and no decent telly (only heavily edited re-runs of The Good Life, where Tom goes to kiss Barbara, and next minute it cuts to Margo shooing a goat off her herbaceous border), so the gold market had become the highlight of my day.
Donning my abaya (a little black number that is a must-have for ladies in this part of the world), I scrutinised myself in the full-length mirror. No wonder Nigel was leaving me; far from looking like a mysterious, exotic, desert queen, full of eastern promise, it made me resemble a walking bin liner.
I read the fire evacuation drill on the back of the door and checked my mobile for the umpteenth time, then cast my eyes downwards, studying my toes. I know, I thought, giving them a wee wiggle, I’ll paint my nails. It’s amazing what a coat of Blue Ice lacquer can do to make a girl feel a little more glamorous, and less like Ugly Betty’s granny.
As I rummaged in my crew bag for my nail varnish, there, stuffed in between Hello! and Procedures To Be Followed in the Event of a Hijack, was an old copy of The Stage (with another DO NOT PHONE HIM!! Post-it Note stuck to it). Idly flicking through the pages, my eyes lit up at the headline:
DREAMS REALLY CAN COME TRUE
Former computer programmer, Kevin Wilcox, 40, went for broke when he gave up his 50k-a-year job to become a professional opera singer.
‘My advice to anyone contemplating giving up their job to follow their dream is to go for it,’ said Kevin, taking a break from rehearsals of La Traviata at La Scala.
That was my life-changing moment: an affirmation that there were other people out there – perfectly sane people – who were not in the first flush of youth either, but were taking a chance. That’s what I’d do. I’d become an actress, and Nigel would see my name in lights as he walked along Shaftesbury Avenue, or when he sat down to watch Holby City, there I’d be, shooting a doe-eyed look over a green surgical mask.
‘What a fool I was,’ he’d tell his friends ruefully, ‘to have ever let her go.’ Hah!
But revenge wasn’t my only motive. Faux designer bags and expensive makeovers were no longer important to me. I wanted the things that money can’t buy: like self-fulfilment, like the buzz you get on opening night, stepping out on stage in front of a live audience. Appearing through the galley curtains, proclaiming that well-rehearsed line, ‘Would you like chicken or beef?’ just wouldn’t do any more.
Inspired, I grabbed the telephone pad and pen from the bedside table, and started to scribble furiously.
RADA/CENTRAL any drama school that will have me.
Hand in notice.
Sign up with temping agencies and find part-time job.
Sell flat, shred Visa, store cards, cancel gym membership, and Vogue subscription (ouch!).
Ever since I’d played Bill Sikes in a school production of Oliver! I’d wanted to act. Being tall at an all-girls school meant I never got to play Nancy, Maria, or Dorothy. But I didn’t care. Even having to kiss Kirstie McCallum who played Fiona opposite my Tommy in Brigadoon hadn’t deterred me.
I’d write my own shows, which I’d perform for Mum, Dad, Sammy the dog, and the neighbours. I loved to tell stories; to share, to feel, to emote. I was a shy, gawky kid with a vivid imagination and acting allowed me to disappear into a role.
My bedroom walls were plastered with posters of Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Pretty Woman, Doctor Zhivago, and Dirty Dancing.
I’d dress up for the Oscars and pose on the red shag pile, tell the interviewer what an honour it was just to be nominated, rise slowly from my seat in disbelief, and accept my award, fighting back the tears as I thanked my parents, my friends, and God for making this possible.
So what got in the way?
‘Drama school?’ spluttered Miss Crabb, my head teacher. ‘Don’t be ridiculous. Acting’s not a career! What about university?’
‘You need to wake up, Em,’ Mum said despairingly, rolling her eyes. ‘I should never have let you go to Saturday Showstoppers when you were ten. It’s put silly ideas in your head. Now, what about the Foreign Office? You’re good at languages …’
Persuaded that teachers and mums know best, I packed my dream away and scraped through university, where I spent more time acting in and producing plays than studying stuffy old Schiller or fusty Flaubert. I wisely left academia behind and joined Amy Air. If I wasn’t allowed to be an actress then I would at least pay off my student debt doing something fun and adventurous.
New York was my favourite route. While the rest of the crew would spend our brief stopover snuggled up in the hotel with room service and a movie, I’d dash along to Times Square on West 42nd Street and buy a ticket to a Broadway show. Jet lag miraculously forgotten, I’d be transported to a magical world far from turbulence and sick bags.
When the curtain came down, I’d skip along the shimmering streets of The Great White Way back to the hotel, reliving the performance in my mind, imagining the scene backstage: the post-show euphoria, the drinks, the conversation. And a bit of me regretted that I hadn’t believed in myself enough to ignore the naysayers and pursue the one thing I felt truly passionate about. Secretly I never stopped hoping though, that someday, somehow …
Then I met Nigel and the dream was buried once more. Charming, charismatic, athletic, sophisticated, dashing-in-uniform Nigel, a modern-day superman, in control of a 747 – and of my future happiness.
Now in my thirties, time was running out if I wanted to have children, and though he didn’t say as much, I knew Nigel and I were destined to be together for ever.
Fast-forward eight years, and here I am, forty, heartbroken, childless, and soon to be homeless.
But through all the despair, there’s a little voice deep down whispering to me, telling me to turn this crisis into an opportunity; to have the courage this time to follow my intuition, to listen to my heart, take responsibility for my own happiness, and not allow others to dictate the course of my life.
Okay, so it’s taken nearly a quarter of a century to reach this place, but this time nothing and no one is going to hold me back.
* * *
| About the Book |
Previously published as Learning to Fly
It’s never too late to follow your dreams…
Forty-year-old air stewardess, Emily Forsyth, thought she had everything a woman could wish for: a glamorous, jet-set lifestyle, a designer wardrobe and a dishy pilot boyfriend. Until he breaks up with her…
Catapulted into a mid-life crisis she wishes she’d had earlier, she decides to turn her life upside-down, quitting her job and instead beginning to chase her long-held dreams of becoming an actress!
Leaving the skies behind her, Emily heads for the bright lights of London’s West End – but is it too late to reach for the stars?
| About the Author |
Jane travelled the world as cabin crew before making the life-changing decision to become an actress. She has appeared in Calendar Girls, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and Deathtrap in London’s West End. Learning To Fly is her debut novel.