Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book? When did it come out? Where can we get it?
Girl Friends is a YA novel that was published by Solstice in May 2016. It is available via Solstice Publishing, Amazon Books, CreateSpace, and Walmart.
Girl Friends is written from the view point of a fifteen year old girl called Courtney, who, as well as tackling her own worries about home, school, and will she ever get a boyfriend, grows increasingly concerned about her friend Grace. Grace is beautiful and has no problem attracting boys, but Courtney thinks the latest one seems too old for her and a bit sinister, or is she just jealous? In fact, all the signs are there that Grace is being groomed for sexual exploitation, but it takes some time for Courtney to understand this – and by the time she does, it may be too late to help her friend.
I won prize for a story I wrote for the Brownie magazine when I was eight, and immediately started on a novel. I think I got to page three. When I went to university I thought I wanted to write and produce plays, but lack of confidence – or maybe talent! - got in the way of being a producer, and I was disappointed by my literary efforts. So it all went on the back boiler for a few decades as the need to earn a living, and family took up my time. I started again in earnest about six years ago – short stories, novels, plays, and the occasional poem.
I may have stopped writing fiction but I never stopped reading! I like the classics – Jane Austen, George Elliot, Virginia Woolf – as well as more modern writers like Anne Tyler. I’ve just read Gillian Flynn’s best seller Gone Girl, which I admired greatly for its plot twists and ability to keep the reader guessing (I also found just about all the characters unlikable, and some of the twists incredible, yet still kept reading – how does she do it?).
For non-fiction reading, I like almost anything by Bill Bryson as he manages to inform the reader about so many things, whilst making them chuckle at the same time.
I should add Shakespeare to this list as I am re-reading a lot of his plays as part of my project to write an anthology of short stories based on a number of his female characters. Several of these shorts have already been published by Solstice, and another, The Ghost Queen, based on Hermione in The Winter’s Tale, will be in their fantasy anthology to be published on September 16th.
When I first started writing seriously, I wrote in my ‘study’ during the morning. Recently, life has become more complicated with my mother’s and mother-in-law’s care needs (they are both in their 90s), so I often end up writing into the evening on my laptop in the living room (as now!).
Nothing is working out for Courtney, and even Grace, her beautiful best friend has no time for her now she has a boyfriend who has promised to get her a modelling contract. Courtney senses something is wrong – what is Grace getting herself into? And can Courtney and her newfound friends rescue Grace before it is too late? It is a race against time …
If a look could kill, Grace gives me one then, so I shut up. I think briefly about her mother living now in a special hospital for the criminally insane and wonder if Grace misses her: whether it is better to have a mad mum like she has or a sad apology for a mum like mine. Who knows? Who cares anyway—it seems we’re more or less in the same boat.
The tense moment passes. I look across at Grace and she winks and gives a small smile. I smile back and feel my whole body relax. It’s great to have someone in your life who knows almost everything about you and understands. I hope in some way it is the same for her. We drink our coffee in reasonably companionable silence. It’s pretty dark outside by the time we’re down to the last dregs.
Grace looks at her watch—I notice for the first time that it is new. A new alertness comes over her. She digs into her bag and gets out her make-up—peering into the mirror to touch up an already flawless face. She looks across at me.
“Oh, Cor, you do look a mess. Here.” She starts to lay about me with the powder.
“What the…? Heh, get off.” I pull away but she has grabbed me firmly and continues to powder my nose. Then she releases me and sits back.
“Well, that’s sorted the greasy shine. Now for the eyes.”
“No, Grace, lay off. I don’t really go for much make–up.”
“Time you did,” she retorts, advancing on me with eyeliner. “I’ve bought you your tea, remember, so you do as I say.” That’s true, so I sigh and let her get on with it, even allowing her to re-style my hair, pulling some bits across my face, and pushing other bits behind my ears. Across the restaurant, I see the lads behind the counter looking at us. Surely it must be against company rules to use the dining area as a beauty parlor and one of them will come across and throw us out. But it’s not busy and they are just laughing, enjoying the show. Eventually she is finished and stands up to look at me from all angles.
“Mmm, not too bad.” She is obviously pleased with her work. “You should wear a tighter top.” She pulls at mine from behind and then looks round at the front, before sighing and letting it hang loose again. “But first, you will need to get yourself a proper bra—that one is doing nothing for you—it must be a least one size too big—and the cups are too small—so you’re just all saggy.”
“Yeah, well, it’s an old one of Mum’s that she’s got too fat for,” I reply.
“Why am I not surprised?” Grace rolls her eyes. “Time you thought about yourself a bit,” she adds reprovingly. “You’ve got to make the most of your assets— use them or lose them as they say.”
It is news to me I have any assets worth making anything off in that department and I pull away from her, embarrassed. “I’m off to the loo,” I say, heading that way as I speak.
When I wash my hands, I catch sight of myself in the mirror. At first I don’t realise it is me—just someone with the same baggy top. The face is quite different; harder, older, more sassy and, I peer more closely, definitely more sexy. Not the Courtney I have known and lived with for nearly sixteen years, but I’m not displeased. I’ll go along with this face this evening anyway, if only to please Grace. I can get back to the real me tomorrow. So, apart from a bit of poking around with my hair, and a small wipe at my eyes to get rid of some of the purple shadow Grace had selected for me, I leave it all intact and return to the dining area.
Grace is standing by the door when I return, reading a text on her phone—not her usual old Nokia, but a new one I haven’t seen before. She looks excited—agitated even.
“Come on,” she says as soon as I reach her. “We’re on a date.”
Margaret Egrot worked with teenagers and troubled families for many years and drew on these experiences when writing Girl Friends. She is a trustee for a couple of charities, including one that provides family assessments, and child safeguarding services.
She has written one previous novel for young adults: And Alex Still Has Acne (also published by Solstice), as well as numerous short stories and plays.
She keeps fit by swimming, chasing her dog round the park, and Pilates (when she runs out of excuses for not going).
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Margaret-Egrot/e/B00RVO1BHO/