Friday, 29 May 2009

Book Review: Crossed Wires by Rosy Thornton

A delicious looking copy of Rosy Thornton's latest novel, CROSSED WIRES hit my door mat a few weeks ago and I was DESPERATE to start reading it. I carried it everywhere hoping to get a few moments in a very busy month to read snippets, but it soon became clear this book was something that needed time to read, in a good way.

The pace of Crossed Wires is so warm and gentle I knew I had to save it to one side for a rainy day, to devour every last, gorgeously crafted word.

And guess what? When I did find that spare rainy day, it absolutely didn't disappoint.

This is the story of Peter, a Cambridge geography don who crashes his car into a tree stump when swerving to avoid a cat, and Mina, the girl at the Sheffield call centre who deals with his insurance claim. It tracks their parallel lives, as well those of their families - because both Peter and Mina are single parents. An old-fashioned fairy tale of love across the class divide, it is also a book about the small joys and tribulations of parenthood; about one-ness and two-ness; about symmetry and coincidence; about the things which separate us and the things which bring us together. It is a story, in fact, of the accidents of geography.

As someone who's worked in a few call centres, I loved reading the parts about Mina and her job in a Sheffield call centre.
I loved the background characters who helped bring Peter and Mina's worlds excitingly alive and of course the love story which unfolded with a warm, gentle ease.

Rosy Thornton has a beautiful way with words, has a wonderful style to go with it.

This book is very much highly recommended.

Read a fabulous interview with Rosy here!

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

** Coming Soon **

Coming soon - we have:

Book Reviews
An exciting author interview
Theatre Reviews

and much, much more!

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Actor Interview

Emmerdale and Shameless actress Emma Kearney has kindly taken time from her busy schedule to chat to us about the highs and lows of being an actor.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the things you’ve done?
I’m originally from Northern Ireland, and have lived in Manchester for seven years, following the 3 that I trained in drama school. I was lucky to get an agent from leaving my training and fell into the wonderful “rat race” quite quickly and have been running the race ever since!

What made you decide to be an actor?
I remember being in play group and was cast as one of the Shepherds in the Christmas Nativity. I remember other kids crying to their parents and having to be dragged on stage. I was crying because I wanted more lines! In actual fact I recall improvising some extra scenarios in the Nativity that shouldn’t have been there! So, I guess the answer to the question is, it’s always been knocking about in me.
I also recall seeing Brian Friels “Dancing at Lughnasa” at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1993 on a school trip. That was the day I decided acting my going to be my job! That was an amazing production.

What does being an actor mean to you?
So many things! These questions aren’t as easy as they first appear to be! =-) I love words…. I love how words can change a situation in a second. Words can be so incredibly powerful depending on how they are used and the context they are presented. Also, people fascinate me so much. I could watch people all day. We are such amazing creatures! I love to find out what makes people tick, to do that as a job is pretty unreal! Something I never tire of!
Being an actress allows me to keep the child in me; I get to play more than adults my age in different professions. I get to meet the most amazing people. Everyday is different and no show is ever the same. Boredom doesn’t exist for me in my job. I love meeting people after a show and they make a point of coming up to you and telling you how you impacted on them. That is so rewarding. Plus I talk far far too much! This way I can talk without being told to stay quiet!

How much time is spent marketing yourself and how important do you think this is?
It’s so important! I have agents who push my CV and headshots around, but I’m very determined that I too need to market myself. I do this by sending out CV’s and headshots, or I make a point of introducing myself to people whom I haven’t met. Initially I used to be terrified of casting directors and those “on the other side”. Over the years I came to realise that these people are just people.
Effectively we are products. Marketing is essential. A brief meeting with someone could lead to them recalling you to a friend who needs someone of your description for a role. It is as simple as that.
First and foremost I know who I am and what I’m about and that is how I present myself. That sounds very cocky, but it took me a long time to figure that out. I’m much more laid back now with people, but I still put pen to paper! What opportunities do you think there are for people starting out?
At this moment in time with the economy work is very slow! Opportunities aren’t the best I have seen them right now. You must be persistent though. Training is very important if you want to be taken seriously. That I do know.

What tips would you give anyone thinking of starting out?
Hmmmm… This question is making me smile! How many times have I asked people this??? I will tell you that every answer I got was different, simply because we are all different. What might work for one person may not hold for another. I would say be determined. Get the proper training from an NCDT accredited drama school. Work hard, because there is always someone else who wants it as much as you and would be willing to fill your shoes. Be professional. Time keeping is a basic must! Stay grounded. Be prepared for very hard financial times. Be prepared for months of no work. You will not get every job you go for, but do not let that stop you from carrying on. Believe in yourself and trust that you can do it.

Have you faced any difficulties as an actor? If so, how did you overcome them?
How much time have you got! =-) This question is making me smile too!
I have faced a lot of difficulties. People used to say to me it’s not as easy as it seems, there will be difficult times of no work and your confidence will slip. During these times a majority of people change professions as they realise how extremely unstable this job can be. I thought “I’ll be fine, I’m tough!”. Little did I realise how hard it can be. My confidence took a severe bashing, until I questioned myself daily if I was even good enough to be doing this. Months went by with no work and income was low, and I realised that I may have to struggle for years and how would I cope. If you are made for this you will experience low days, weeks and months. Confidence, finances, low paid jobs, self esteem.. The list is endless. I know I maybe making it all appear doom and gloom! I’m sorry! You will overcome all these and become a much stronger person, and ironically a better actor. Also, when you do get that next job, memories of the tough days disappear in a second! I persisted. I just persisted.

Do you find there’s enough support for actors within the industry?

Not really if I’m honest. I have very few real friends from drama school. It was a business, we where all there to make it. My family have helped me through with supporting me emotionally and encouraging me frequently. They are my backbone and the reason I am still doing it. I still hold close a lot of my friends from when I was a kid too. Don’t get me wrong, but I have met some fantastic friends in the profession whom I love to bits and who understand the highs and lows. If I needed support I always go back to my roots first and foremost! No one knows me like they do.

Who inspires you?

My parents. My parents weren’t pushy about me and acting. They where very supportive though. I cannot tell you the things they did to help me as a kid with this great big dream. They are amazing.
I may sound a little sad, but Liam Neeson. He’s from the same town as me and for him to break out and make a career from this tiny town in Northern Ireland was nothing short of a miraculous event!!
I always believed if he could do it, so could I.
Finally, I have worked with a few amazing actors. I watched them rehearse and I was never afraid to ask for help. Who better to ask than someone who’s been in the game a lifetime ahead of me. I’ve found a few great mentors.
Also, on my last job I was directed by the renowned Christopher Morahan. The man is a genius! I learned so much from him. He’s now on my hero list, I wouldn’t tell him to his face though! He’d call me “silly” in his fab English accent!

Anything else you’d like to mention on the acting front?
Yes it’s hard.
More importantly, if it’s in you, you have to do it. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says. You need to live and breathe it for yourself.
It is the BEST job in the world!

Emma in a scene from Emmerdale (Above)
Here at Woo-Hoo! We think Emma is so fab and lovely, we're awarding her this months Woo-Hoo You! Shining Star Award!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Legally Blonde the Musical

Legally Blonde the Musical looks fab and after a successful run on Broadway it's now opening in the West End this December.
The cast has just been announced:

Sheridan Smith to play Elle
Duncan James to play Warner
Here at Woo-Hoo we've just downloaded the Broadway cast recording album from itunes and it's BRILLIANT.

Click here to get further info or to see a sneek video clip of the show.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Theatre Review: Widowers' Houses

I was lucky enough to be invited along to the Royal Exchange theatre for an open dress rehearsal of their new play Widowers' Houses by Bernard Shaw.

Roger Lloyd Pack, known for his roles in Only Fools and Horses and The Vicar of Dibley heads this comedy play.

"The action of the play centres on hot-tempered young doctor Harry Trench who falls in love with wealthy heiress Blanche. He thinks nothing can stand in the way of true love. But after discovering that his prospective father-in-law is the worst landlord in London, he finds his morals and desires are pitted against each other.

Shaw’s biting fiscal satire turns the convention of the “well made play” on its head and has an extraordinary relevance in the context of the current recession. This major new production is directed by Royal Exchange Artistic Director Greg Hersov, whose recent RET credits include THE TEMPEST with Pete Postlethwaite, HAY FEVER, ANTIGONE and, most recently, PALACE OF THE END in The Studio."

Although I felt the beginning was a bit slow, it soon picked up pace. The actors were a credit to the play, especially Lucy Briggs-Owen who played Blanche - her torment of the poor servant were the funniest scenes of the night.

The play is on from 15th April - 9th May. It's definitely worth seeing.

For further information, click here for the website.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Author Interview

I'm delighted the wonderful author Rosy Thornton has stopped by to chat to us about book deals, writing at red lights and her love of Richard Armitage!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing.
I began writing fiction in 2005 at the grand old age of 41 – I suppose you could call it a mid-life crisis! It started when I watched the BBC’s TV adaptation of ‘North and South’ and fell in love with Richard Armitage in the starring role. The first thing I wrote was North and South fanfic, posted on an internet fan site. After that I found I had caught the writing bug; I carried straight on and began my own first original novel.
To date I have published three novels, all of which could broadly be described as romantic comedy: ‘More Than Love Letters (2007)’, ‘Hearts and Minds (2008)’ and my latest, ‘Crossed Wires’.

What inspires you to write?
Apart from Richard Armitage, you mean? Mainly, it’s just people: the endlessly funny things they see and do.

Did you always want to be a writer?
Not at all. The idea of writing a novel – or even so much as a short story - had never occurred to me until it suddenly hit me like a thunderbolt in my 40s. But I do write non-fiction as part of my day job as a university lecturer, It means that my backlist on Amazon is the weirdest of any writer I know. There’s my novels, with their cartoony, pastel covers – and then there’s the sexily titled ‘Property Disrepair and Dilapidations: A Guide to the Law’!

How long does it take you to write a novel?
On average I reckon they take me about six to nine months to write - plus a little longer for rewriting when my agent or editor pulls them to pieces. But the first draft of ‘More Than Love letters’ was written in six weeks flat. I was in the first flush of my love affair with writing, and staying up all night to scribble it down.

Do you have a writing routine? What is it?
Well, I have a full-time job and a family (daughters of 12 and 10) so the only time I have for working on the novels is in the early morning, before the rest of the family are up. I try to write from 5.30 to 7am on a weekday, and maybe 6 to 8.30 or 9am on a weekend when the rest of the clan have a lie-in.
In between, though, I guess I’m often writing in my head. Occasionally I have to scribble things down at a red traffic light or in the frozen food aisle at Tesco.

How did you go about finding an agent and how long did it take you to get one?
I began by doing what you are supposed to do: I researched it carefully and selected the agents who represented authors whose work I thought was similar to mine. I sent them my proposal – and they all rejected me. Then, in batches, I wrote to every fiction agent in the Writers and Artists’ Yearbook – and they all rejected me, too. Then, by mistake, I wrote to an agent who was listed at the time as handling only non-fiction (‘dur’, as my daughters would say) and it just so happened to be looking to expand into fiction. He took me on, and we’ve learned the fiction ropes together. He’s completely wonderful. (Robert Dudley of the Robert Dudley Agency, in case anyone is looking for an agent.) I think the whole process took about six months.

How did you first get published?
My agent, Rob, sent out the book to various publishers, and eventually it was taken up by Headline (part of the Hodder Hachette group), who offered me an initial two-book deal.

Do you believe in writers block?
Not really. There are days when it flows beautifully and days when it goes painfully slowly; there are days when I think that everything I’ve written is garbage - and days when it actually is garbage. But if you just get something down and worry about tidying it up later (or even deleting it all, if necessary!), then I don’t think there’s ever a need to get ‘blocked’.

What’s the biggest myth about being a writer?
That writers are born and not made.

What advice would you give budding authors?
Someone far cleverer than me once expressed it with perfect concision: ‘Read a lot; write a lot; repeat as necessary.’
I think that’s right: work at your craft by writing every day – even if it’s just a few lines and even you think it’s rubbish. And read as much as you can, across as wide a range of genres as possible. Before I began to write, I read an average of two to three novels a week. And in particular, I like to read things that I know are better than I could ever write myself.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Nothing except thank you so much, Sally, for giving me the opportunity to talk on your blog!
For more info on Rosy, check out her website here.

We'll be reviewing one of Rosy's books soon, so keep checking back.

Theatre Review: Never Forget the Musical

I was lucky enough to dress on this show on its first ever tour and being a huge Take That fan, at the time I wasn't sure if I was going to like it. But actually, it turned out to be the best show I've ever dressed on. I loved the script, music and the cast were great.

It was really nice watching it from out front instead of from the side of the stage. The new set was brilliant and worked really well. Some slight changes to the scripts I didn't like as much as the last version, but everything was forgiven when it started raining the words 'NEVER FORGET.'
Very impressive!

The cast were great, the costumes fab and the script sparkled 'written by Danny Brocklehurst - of Clocking Off and Shameless fame.'
If you're looking for a fun night out, a night of laughs, fantastic dancing, and a spectacular production - get yourself a ticket immediately.

Never Forget the Musical is on at the Manchester Opera House until Saturday 18th April and continues on tour until December.
You can also catch the show in the West End.
For further info - click here for the website