Briefly tell us about your book.
What do you when you’re told you’ve got terminal cancer at 50? Take up crochet and knit your own coffin, convert to religion and bow out gracefully? ….Or ditch your husband of twenty years, abandon your demanding teens, quit your job, desert your bossy, octogenarian mother, cash in your life savings and take your two sisters on a luxury cruise? Courageous or ruthlessly selfish? Answers on a postcard please… preferably from the Caribbean.
The three Ryan girls are dissatisfied. Emerald’s husband won’t pay her any attention in the bedroom, Amber’s husband won’t pay her any attention out of it. And Ruby’s handyman hubby is paying attention to every woman on the Insular Peninsular because well, the ladies love the tradies. Maybe what these three frazzled sisters need is a little “HRT – Husband Replacement Therapy”? This is a book about women ageing disgracefully, having fun, being frivolous and putting themselves first for a change. Laughter’s not just the best medicine, it’s the only medicine we have right now. So, slip between these covers. Satisfaction… and giggles guaranteed.
What inspired the idea behind this book?
I only write because it’s cheaper than therapy! For women life is in two acts – the trick is surviving the interval. Menopause, that horrible hormonal intermission, is discombobulating and demoralizing. Lack of sleep made me feel so at sea I needed a distress flare. It was also fiendishly hot. Cripes. I was having my own weather! I sweated so much I thought Gestapo were trying to get a confession out of me. It was like being a moody teenager again, only this time with wrinkles instead of pimples.
But there’s an upside. As a woman’s oestrogen drops, her testosterone increases. Having spent decades tethered to the kitchen by apron and heart strings, you suddenly start to feel a little bit more selfish, a little bit more bolshie – a little bit more like a bloke, basically! And women get a little bit more confident about standing on their own two stilettos.
Also, with the corona crisis, could there be a better time to bring out a book about husband-ectomies? After six weeks of lockdown, every woman I know wants to administer a large dose of “HRT – Husband Replacement Therapy”. In post corona China, divorce statistics have soared, with 74% of proceedings initiated by exhausted wives, citing lack of help around the house during Lockdown as the main reason. And where Wuhun goes, the world does tend to follow.
It seems a woman’s work is never done… Not by men any way. Suddenly deprived of their cleaners, women quickly realised that their spouses were not pulling their weight on the shopping, mopping, cooking and cleaning front. (Not all men, obviously. I wanted to get that in before beardy blokes start pelting me with their homemade quinoa quiches.) But generally speaking, it’s true that the enlistment of labour on a subsistence basis is now forbidden except in one state – the holy state of matrimony. Although clearly it’s in a man’s best interest to help more around the house as it’s scientifically proven that no woman ever shot her husband while he was vacuuming.
But I also wanted to write a book which celebrates the sisterhood. My motto in life? That women are each other’s human wonder bras – uplifting, supportive and making each other look bigger and better.
What was the research process like for the book?
I do all my research in a scientific, in depth fashion – over cocktails with girlfriends. And what I discovered is that women want to carpe the hell out of diem. Adventure before dementia, that’s our motto. I thought at this age I’d feel like the human version of an orthopaedic shoe – comfy, well worn, unremarkable. But I don’t. I feel like swinging off a chandelier with a toy boy between my teeth. And yet, society tends to cast older women out into Social Siberia. For example, 85% of people on TV over 50 are men. You never hear older men dismissed as “mutton dressed as ram” now do you?
If I have any gift at all, it’s writing down the way women talk when there’s no men around. And also putting into words what women are thinking but not necessarily saying out loud. And what they’re thinking is… I want to have my beefcake and eat him too! Oh, and equal pay would be quite nice also.
What are you hoping the reader will take away from reading your book?
To have some fun and not feel guilty about it. As Mums, our guilt glands are constantly throbbing. Mothers always put ourselves last. We take the burnt chop, but never the window seat on a plane, for example.
But once the kids fly the nest we can finally cut that psychological umbilical cord that’s kept us tied to the family hearth. I just can’t stop thinking about all the wonders of the world I’ve never glimpsed – The Great Wildebeest migration in Kenya. The Rio de Janeiro Carnival. The Taj Mahal. The Aurora Borealis…Chris Hemsworth naked…
My mind is jumping from one missed opportunity to another. I’ve never bungee-jumped or wing-walked. Not that I want to… But I want to have the chance to at least chicken out at the last minute! I want to swim with whales and ride a Harley. Not only haven’t I ever been in a threesome, I’ve never even played doubles at tennis! I want to have adventurous sex, say, in a hot tub – but a hot tub aboard the International space station. And this is just the start of my bucket list!
I want to say to women, you are not a runner-up in the human race. Just remember that there’s nothing dull or boring about women my age – Madonna, Kate Bush, Jennifer Saunders, Sharon Stone, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandi Toksvig – all females in their prime. So, rejoice and embrace you second act. I mean, getting older sure beats the alternative, right?
To women who are thinking about giving everything up and just going on a permanent holiday – what would you say to them?
My advice to women my age? When the window of opportunity opens… leap through it. And if opportunity doesn’t knock – get a doorbell. Forget all thoughts of a “chequered past.” What you need now is a “chequered present.” So, I’ll see you on top of Everest. Or on a scuba in Cuba. Or maybe in the burly arms of a hot-to-trot tango Love-God in Brazil. Forget “Eat, Pray, Love”. What about “Drink, Dance, Shag?” Here’s to being footloose and spanx-free.
Do you write about people you know? Or yourself?
A writers first novel is usually largely autobiographical – but after that, we make a living out of lying. And yet, even though my characters are invented, as long as their struggles and survival strategies ring true, they resonate with readers.
All my novels, from Puberty Blues on, champion women because it’s still a man’s world. 100 years since Emily Pankhurst tied herself to the railings, and we still don’t have equal pay; plus, we’re getting concussion hitting our heads on the glass ceiling – and we’re expected to clean it whilst up there. Any woman who says a post-feminist, has kept her wonder bra and burnt her brains because we still have a long way to go. But we don’t whinge about it, do we girls? Laugh and the world laughs with you – cry you and you get salt in your champers, which we definitely don’t want!
So here’s cheers. I hope you enjoy HRT and that it gives you a few extra laughter lines.
Much love to you all, Kathy. xx