I’m delighted to feature Reality Rehab, the hilarious debut novel by celebrity producer Lisa Mary London as my Friday Read this week. Lisa says the book is ‘chock-a-block with real celebrities and genuine behind-the-screen events’ although she’s mixed them, obviously, to protect the people concerned so it sounds a must-read! If you love reality TV, you’re going to love this. And this cute pooch is the star of the book!
About the book
Faded soap star Gloria Grayson swaps banoffee pie for humble pie with a stint on reality TV. But her last ditch bid to salvage her celebrity backfires, when the ex-husband from hell is sprung on her in front of 10 million viewers.
Can Gloria win back A-list status, happy ever after and her Rear of the Year title? Reality is stranger than fiction!
Faded TV star Gloria Grayson has hit rock bottom. Sacked from her starring role in a top soap, divorced from hell-raising actor ‘Mad’ Tommy Mack, and obese from binge eating, her days as Britain’s sexiest blonde are well and truly over.
But her luck changes when cruel paparazzi photos relaunch her career, and she and her fat, feisty dog are booked to appear on TV’s Reality Rehab.
Gloria is incarcerated with an American psychotherapist, a rabble of D-list celebrities and umpteen cameras, then put on a starvation diet. But worse is to come, with the shock arrival of her alcoholic ex-husband.
Tears and tantrums ensue as the divorced couple’s therapy sessions take over the show, and ratings soar. The other celebrities are infuriated to be sidelined and Reality Rehab fast becomes The Tommy and Glo Show.
But Gloria and Tommy are hiding explosive secrets from each other and 10 million viewers – Reality is stranger than fiction!
Lisa Mary London went from Chief Reporter on a sleepy Cotswold newspaper to become Celebrity Producer on some of Britain’s best-loved TV shows. Her TV credits include An Audience with Ken Dodd, A BAFTA Tribute to Julie Walters, The British Comedy Awards and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! She’s worked with stars from Tony Curtis to Ant and Dec, and her debut novel Reality Rehab features around 200 famous names.
‘There’s never a dull moment when you’re working with the stars’, says Lisa. ‘One minute you’re sipping champagne with Pierce Brosnan, the next you’re standing in the Ladies’ minding Barbara Windsor’s handbag.’
Reality Rehab is based on her real life, behind-the-screen experiences as a Celebrity Producer. ‘I’ve met many old school stars like my book’s protagonist Gloria, who curse reality TV and think the cast of TOWIE should be stacking shelves at Tesco, not walking the red carpet.
‘She’s a cross between Diana Dors, Boadicea and Miss Piggy, a glorious, garrulous anti-heroine with bags of fattitude – Gloria puts the real in reality TV!’
Gloria’s petulant pooch Baby-Girl is closely based on the book’s cover star, Lisa’s beloved Maltese Dolly-Dog (says Lisa – ‘You couldn’t make her up’). Dolly-Dog won fame on ITV’s Loose Women when she married Sherrie Hewson’s Westie Charlie, in a ceremony officiated by John Barrowman (available on YouTube). The couple split acrimoniously and are currently fighting for custody of a chew toy.
A journalist by profession, Lisa has written for the Daily Mail and was briefly a News of the World reporter, but made her excuses and left before anyone was imprisoned for phone hacking.
I asked Lisa to tell us a bit more about herself
Your book, Reality Rehab, sounds great. Have you always wanted to write a book?
I’ve loved writing since I was a child and was always passionate about comedy. I was the only teenager around obsessed with comedians rather than pop stars! It’s no coincidence Reality Rehab is a funny book – I don’t think I could write any other kind!
In a hectic, 20 year TV career as a Celebrity Producer I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of Britain’s biggest comedians, including Ken Dodd, Victoria Wood, Harry Hill, Jimmy Tarbuck, Cannon and Ball, Bob Monkhouse and Billy Connolly. I was fascinated by their ability to make an audience laugh with a stream of witty, well-timed quips. I hoped to get that same reaction from readers of my debut novel.
Early reviews for Reality Rehab have been great. So many are saying the book made them laugh out loud. One reviewer said they had to avoid eating or drinking while reading it for fear of spillage, and another said they took more frequent loo breaks to avoid an accident! It’s a great feeling to know Reality Rehab is generating fun and laughter, in the same way as my comedy heroes!
The job shift from Chief reporter on a Cotswold newspaper to Celebrity Producer is a massive one. Did it take you long to adjust?
As Chief Reporter on a rural newspaper I loved being welcomed into people’s homes to hear their most personal stories. And the discipline of newspaper journalism is the best preparation for a writing career you can get.
But my dream was always to work on TV entertainment shows. One day I saw a job advert in the Media Guardian that said something like: “Do you want a glamorous career working with celebrities? No experience necessary!” I applied along with 4,000 other people and miraculously got the job!
It was Research Assistant on a BBC1 daytime show called ‘Good Morning with Anne and Nick’ (hosted by Anne Diamond and Nick Owen). My job was to meet the celebrity guest of the day at 7am at Euston Station and escort them to the Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham by train.
I was primed by my bosses to chat the star up en route over our First Class breakfasts, and then tip off Anne and Nick at the studio with any juicy gossip they’d revealed to me. My journalism training came in handy here! Quite a few celebs were surprised live on air with an unexpected question, and I sometimes got it in the neck from them for blabbing when they came off air!
Being thrown in the deep end meeting lots of famous faces every week, writing research briefs and interview questions, was the perfect first job in television and honed my skills as a TV producer. Moreover, I built up a fantastic contacts book of famous names and their all-important agents and publicists.
My next TV contracts were ‘An Audience with Ken Dodd’ and ‘An Audience with Jimmy Tarbuck’. I had realised my dream to work with comedians! As a freelance producer I typically worked on four or five different TV series every year, for every channel, and occasionally booked stars for corporate events too. I’ve now met just about every celebrity you can name!
You’ve worked on well-known shows like ‘I’m a Celebrity …Get me Out Of Here!’ so I’ve got to ask – how far is your book based on real incidents and characters?
Reality Rehab is chock-a-block with real celebrities and genuine behind-the-screen events, though I’ve mixed them up to protect the innocent (or in some cases, the guilty!) Many people are saying what fun they’re having trying to work out which real celebrities the stars of Reality Rehab are based on. I couldn’t possibly comment!
The idea for Dr Lucien Douglas, the slick American host of Reality Rehab, came from my role as producer on a Saturday night celebrity chat show for ITV hosted by Jerry Springer.
Jerry Springer flew in First Class from Chicago every week to record the show, always surrounded by a big American entourage. Jerry (as he insisted we call him), was warm and approachable, but you were never in any doubt you were in the presence of a huge star.
This scenario of a world famous name coming to the UK to front a British TV show fascinated me, and so the character of Dr Lucien Douglas was born. While Dr Lucien and Jerry Springer both have bags of charisma and star quality, they are very different personalities. I certainly didn’t base the smooth, uber-vain Dr Lucien on Jerry!
I love the cover. I understand the cover pooch is actually your own Maltese Dolly-Dog, and that the dog in the story is based on her. Can you tell us a bit about Dolly-Dog?
Thank you, I’m very proud that my beloved Dolly-Dog is Reality Rehab’s cover star. She loves the camera and is the double of Gloria Grayson’s dog Baby-Girl, so putting her on the front of the book was a no-brainer!
The only character in Reality Rehab I can confirm the true identity of is Baby-Girl – she is based 100% on Dolly-Dog (though Dolly’s rather slimmer than buxom Baby!) They both hate men with a passion, and every naughty thing Baby-Girl does in Reality Rehab has at some time been done by Dolly-Dog. Thankfully she can’t read and won’t sue me!
Are you a pantster or a plotter? Did you plan your book out when you wrote it or just write ‘by the seat of your pants’?
I found it helpful to have some idea of structure in mind – what needed to happen when – but I wasn’t too rigid with it. I think it’s important not to be a control freak where storytelling is concerned. Your subconscious is a powerful, magical force that can take you on some wonderful tangents if you let it. Some of my most pivotal and surprising plot twists came to me over breakfast – I do wonder if I may have dreamed them!
What did you find the most difficult about writing your book?
Writing is by necessity a lonely business and in the communications age it’s pretty much impossible to be totally alone. Even in a country retreat, miles from anywhere, chances are you’d still have a mobile phone and the internet to interrupt your flow of thought.
For me, social media is a big no-no when I’m writing. It’s too easy to think: ‘I’ll just glance at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc’, planning a five minute browse, then two hours of precious writing time flashes by in a nanosecond! So when I begin a writing session I stay offline and make sure my only companions are my ever present mug of tea and a dozing Dolly-Dog!
What advice would you give other writers?
It’s great to be inspired by your favourite authors but it’s important not to mimic them. Be yourself, not a watered down version of JK Rowling or Lee Child. There’s not another person on the planet who could write the same book as you, that’s exciting! So revel in your uniqueness. Your experiences, genetics and quirks make you a one-off original. Celebrate that, and surprise people!
Great advice, Lisa! Thanks so much for dropping by to tell us about your book.
You can find more about Lisa here:
The Reality Rehab website.
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