Friday 30 September 2011

Should Everyone Write a Book?

“Everyone who wants to write a book should do it.” - The very idea brings knee-jerk reactions of horror from many. But if you suggested “everyone who wants to paint a picture should do it”, you would receive a much more forgiving response.

Is that because a painter is asking for only a few seconds of their audience’s time to appreciate their work – a few seconds that could also be combined with being in company or simply day dreaming - whereas a book might expect them to spend several hours of mental effort in its exclusive company?

But just because a book has been written doesn’t mean you have to read it unless you truly want to.

“But now every book can be self-published, so there is just too much stuff out there.”

Well yes, there is too much for anyone to ever hope to read more than a tiny percentage of the books that they might potentially enjoy. But returning to the artist/writer analogy; self publishing a book is really just like putting a frame around a painting, merely a practical way of making it easier for your audience to access your work should they wish to.

If only one person ever read your book and enjoyed it – or maybe if you simply enjoyed writing it – wouldn’t that be justification enough for doing it? Even if you fear that your writings seem mundane now, that doesn’t mean they will seem that way to anyone who might come across them in fifty or a hundred years time. Then your book may be providing a fascinating glimpse into the past, just as a painting produced today might make the perfect decoration for a house in the twenty second century.

Thursday 29 September 2011

What Would You Sacrifice to be Famous?

A philosophy current prevailing in the popular media is that if you want to succeed, want to excel, want to be a winner, want to attain your dreams, you have to be entirely ruthless and single minded. The message is constantly being banged home in singing, dancing and other talent competitions. Chefs, business apprentices – they all have to give “110 per cent” of themselves to the job. But if you are giving everything, (plus a mythical extra ten percent), you are doubtless going to have to make some sacrifices in other areas. The hard working parent who later laments the time they didn’t spend “watching their children’s school plays” is a cliché, as is the child who grows up to resent his or her parents’ absence from their early years. Some people forgo relationships or let marriages and friendships slip in the rush to be “successful” or “rich” or “famous”.

Amongst other sacrifices, Maggie de Beer even gave up her own child in order to stay on her chosen career path, and that child eventually became the key to Maggie achieving everything she had ever dreamed of. That would suggest it was a sacrifice worth making – Maggie certainly believes so. But how many would be able to do such a thing to win their moment in the celebrity spotlight?

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Autobiographies: the ultimate headstone inscriptions

What would you like to see written on your gravestone? Usually when people ask that question they expect you to come up with a pithy one-liner, summing up the whole sorry business of life and death in a few choice words. But actually, if you have a bit of an ego, you’d probably prefer to see the crowds pouring into the graveyard to read the whole story. Why else do so many people want to write autobiographies if it isn’t to benefit from a little wipe with the brush of immortality?

Whether its a self-published tome for your grandchildren and great-grandchildren to pore over or a mighty scholarly work for the general public, being remembered by future generations, (and validated by the current ones), is what you hire the ghostwriters for.

For Maggie de Beer it was the ultimate prize in her quest to become an icon, to have written and printed evidence that she was a glamorous, interesting person, someone of note, even if it meant having her many shortcomings exposed to anyone with the price of a paperback or a download.

“What’s the point in being coy about it?” she would say, “Steffi’s told the whole world what a terrible person I am already anyway.”

Monday 26 September 2011

Authors' Electric Dreams Blogspot

Today I have written a short introduction to my electronic activities with "The Fabulous Dreams of Maggie de Beer" on a website called "Do Authors Dream of Electric Books?" - .
Because publishing books electronically is not hard - and because it is fun to do - millions of writers are now plunging like lemmings into the icy waters. The big question remains, just as in traditional publishing - how do we make our voices heard above such a mighty competitive roar?
Just as high streets shops, newspaper review sections and Richard and Judy helped to focus people's attention onto traditional books, sites like this one are starting to give some structure to the babble of this gigantic, sprawling, exciting new marketplace.

Saturday 24 September 2011

Were "Page Three Girls" the Founders of Modern Celebrity Culture?

Spending time with Maggie de Beer, helping promote her autobiography – “The Fabulous Dreams of Maggie de Beer” - has led me to pondering. Would it be fair to say that she and her fellow “Page Three Girls” became the founders of the modern celebrity circus in 1970 when they were persuaded for the first time by The Sun to take off their tops in a national newspaper?

Was that the moment when the concept of “being famous for being famous” first took root, when someone merely had to look sexy in front of a camera to start being treated as a VIP?

Of course the Sixties witnessed many meteoric and fleeting success stories, but those celebrities had usually sung a hit song, taken a photograph for the cover of Vogue or invented a new hairstyle. When glamour modelling went legit and the media started to write about the girls as well as showing their pictures it discovered the public’s surprising willingness to be intrigued, a fascination which survives forty years later with the likes of Katie Price and reality show contestants. I doubt if Maggie and the other girls had any idea they were changing society forever when first persuaded to whip their tops off for the boys.

Friday 23 September 2011

Famous Mother and Daughter Reunited on Website

To be separated from your child at birth must be one of the most painful experiences any mother can endure. Worse of course to have them die before you, but there is a very special agony in knowing that they are alive, growing up somewhere else, in someone else’s care, loving someone else, and that you have no part in their lives.

The reunion of such mothers with their lost children is bound to be fraught with dangers. What if they hate you? Blame you? Want nothing to do with you? What if they have been told nothing of your existence and would prefer not to be disillusioned about those they believe to be their true parents? What if it looks like you are back only to cash in on their good fortune and new found fame?

Despite all of the above we have a happy ending for Maggie de Beer and Steffi McBride – mother and daughter are now reunited on a new website, with both of them telling their sides of the dramatic story of both their rises to fame and the secret that kept them apart for so many years.

Thursday 22 September 2011

Maggie and Me in Seventies London

Maggie de Beer and I arrived in London in the same year – 1970, although she was only 15 and I was by then a sophisticated 17. We both had our fabulous dreams. She was going to be a star and I had my lightweight portable typewriter, which I trusted was going to make my fortune.

Of course she ended up as a national treasure through the wonders of reality television and the celebrity media circus and I am no more than a Boswell to her soaring Johnson, but I feel we understand one another. We share a timeline, arriving in Earls Court, sandwiched between the much trendier areas of Chelsea and Kensington, on the tail end of the much trendier Swinging Sixties. Then it felt like we had come in at the end of the party, but everything was about to change. Credit cards and parking meters were still a rarity and we had Hughie Green rather than Simon Cowell, Petula Clark rather than Lady Gaga.

Monday 19 September 2011

Learning to Love Maggie de Beer

Maggie de Beer first came to my attention half way through the writing of a memoir for her daughter – Steffi McBride. In fact that was when Steffi first learned of her existence too, (it’s all explained in her book “The Overnight Fame of Steffi McBride”).

Initially, of course, Maggie’s behaviour seemed pretty indefensible – I mean giving up your child for the sake of your career, particularly a career like hers, is hardly the work of heroines – but as I got to know her better I became intrigued. It must have taken some guts to leave a safe and secure home at fifteen and never look back, and the woman had to be admired for her single minded perseverance in her pursuit of fame and glamour. She endured over thirty years of endless disappointment but she managed to keep on believing in herself and refused to give up hope.

Of course she only got her big break because of Steffi, but my God she was ready for it when it came, knowing exactly how to exploit this window of opportunity for all it was worth.

I found myself becoming increasingly fascinated by her single minded personal ambition to be famous and adored, and so I wrote her side of the story, starting with her leaving home in 1970 and then following her through to the eventual rise to fame she had worked so long and hard for. Her story pretty much mirrors the rise of today’s celebrity culture itself, from the arrival of “Page Three” girls through to the explosion of reality television nearly forty years later.

One of the attractive things about Maggie is her refusal to complain about the terrible price she had to pay for having her fabulous dreams come true.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

From "Blockbusters" to "Systemcrashers"

So, the button has been pressed and The Fabulous Dreams of Maggie de Beer are available for the whole world to read at . Simple. People don't even have to worry about queueing round the block to get their copy. Instead of "blockbusters" authors should now aim to produce "systemcrashers".

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Maggie de Beer Cover Image

We have an excellent new cover. Using the same model, (see picture in previous post), designer Elliot Thomson has created a look which is eerily reminiscent of the sort of poster I would have had on the walls of my Earls Court bedsit in the very early Seventies.

My publisher, Paul Hurst, is now preparing for the technical launch into the cyber marketplace.

Fifteen year-old Maggie arrives in London on the run from her humdrum suburban life, determined to make it big in show business.

For more than thirty years she is exploited by both men and the media. She struggles against endless set-backs and disappointments, always remaining optimistic, always believing that this time her big break has come. Then, when most of us would have given up all hope, the celebrity circus rockets her to bizarre and unexpected pinnacles of fame.

Starting in 1970 Maggie de Beer’s journey mirrors the rise of celebrity culture and the growth of the media which ruthlessly created it, exploiting and destroying the lives of girls like Maggie who willingly offered themselves up, happy to make any amount of personal sacrifices in exchange for a chance to live the dream. She is determined to make herself “interesting” and only when she finally achieves her goal, at enormous personal cost, does she discover, under the full glare of the media spotlight, that the family she was running away from was never as humdrum as she had believed.

“This, I thought as the chauffeured car slid me back from Park Lane to Earls Court behind darkened windows, is what life must have been like for party girls like Christine Keeler in the sixties. I had found my Xanadu, the place where I was meant to be …”

This is the story of a woman who just wanted to be recognised and loved by the whole world.