One afternoon in early summer in the year 2000, my life changed forever. I’d been to the shops to buy bread so my partner could take sandwiches to work the next day. When I returned home his car was in the drive, but the house was silent. This was very unusual – noise followed Andy around like a cloud of flies. He wasn’t the kind of person who could handle being on his own very well, and normally when I came in he’d be laughing with a friend on the phone, or at the very least playing loud music. I went into the sitting room, and there he was, just sitting. The TV wasn’t even on. Immediately, I was worried. The previous December my dad had died, and the previous July Andy’s best friend had been killed in a cycling accident. All my instincts told me that something else big had happened.
‘What’s wrong?’ I asked and sat beside him, taking his hand. Andy couldn’t meet my eyes. I thought it was because he was trying not to cry. But no, it was because he was bowed down by guilt. ‘I’ve met someone else,’ he said.
Twenty minutes later I left the house, taking only the dog and a small bag with me. It took me 4 years to rebuild my life.
What has all this got to do with Getting Published and Getting laughs, you may ask? Well, a great deal actually. Because the experience of this has given me a huge amount of material for my writing! In my novel The Goddess Workshop, my character Kate is very bitter following a similar break-up. Kate resorts to acts of revenge to try to assuage her feelings. So did I, but in a more subtle and much more satisfying way than Kate. I imagine most of us have heard of tales of wronged women stuffing prawns in curtain rails or cutting up their ex’s trousers. Andy clearly thought I would do such things, as he posted one of his friends in the house when I went to collect the rest of my things. He didn’t trust me to be there on my own.
But instead of seafood and scissors, I moved to a new city and got a new job. Then I saved my money and went on an adventure holiday to Cuba. Andy and I had been learning Spanish with a view to travelling somewhere exotic, and I knew Cuba would be top on his list of destinations. The whole time I was there, I was imagining how jealous he’d be if he found out. When I got back, I used the country as one of the settings in a book. The book was a reader for people learning to speak English and I called it Murder Maker.
Murder Maker begins with the main character Carla being dumped by the love of her life. Here’s how it starts:
I used to think that murderers were born murderers, but now I know differently. Now I know they can be made.
In my case, it was shock that did it. Four brutal words that changed my life forever. And who spoke those words?
Congratulations, you created a murderer.
Can you guess what the 4 words were? Yes – I’ve met someone else. Carla goes on to become a serial killer, and the whole story is narrated by Carla to her ex. I changed names, but there are no prizes for guessing who her ex is based on. And satisfyingly, by the end of the book, we know time is running out for him…
After Murder Maker was a published, it was on sale in a specialist bookshop in Cambridge, near to where I used to live with Andy. And the best revenge of all? Well, a mutual friend told me that Andy had walked by the bookshop and seen it in the window. He’d been compelled to go in and buy it!
Murder Maker has since sold thousands of copies around the world and still continues to earn me money. Best of all, my experience of dealing with heartbreak and of rebuilding my life has continued to provide me with meaty material for writing. In my latest novel – The Dare Club – my characters meet at a course for the newly divorced and separated. I did such a course myself when I moved to a new city.
But more about that another day…