I’m delighted to welcome fellow Accent author, Colette McCormick, onto my blog today. Colette is interviewing her character, Susan, from her latest novel, Ribbons in her Hair.
Jean seems the perfect wife and mother but she struggles to love her daughters whose material comforts mask emotional neglect. When the youngest daughter, Susan, brings ‘shame’ on the family, Jean can think of only one response. She has to make the problem disappear. Finding the strength to stand up to her mother for the first time in her life, Susan does the only thing that she can to save her baby. What Susan doesn’t realise is that her mother’s emotional distance hides a dark secret of her own. Examining the divide between generations, between mothers and daughters, this emotionally charged novel asks whether we can ever truly understand another, however close our ties.
It sounds a fascinating story, doesn’t it? Let’s move on to Colette’s interview with Susan now. Over to you, Colette!
Thanks, Karen. Hello Susan, thank you for visiting today.
It’s my pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Can I ask how you and your mum get along these days?
Very well, all things considered. I mean, I’ll never forget what happened, you know, what she did, but I have forgiven her. I understand her better these days. She’s changed a lot too, she’s not the same person she was.
Do you regret leaving like you did?
Never – not for a second.
But you were so young. Where did you find the strength to do what you did?
It was an easy decision really because I knew that I was doing the right thing. I wouldn’t have chosen to get pregnant when I did but once I was I had to do what was best for my baby. I know that there’ll be people out there that will say that the best thing I could have done for my child would be to give her to a family that could have given her the things that I couldn’t, but no-one could love my daughter more than I do. I think that love means more than all the things in the world.
What would you say was the hardest part of going it alone?
I was incredibly lucky with the people that I met. Mandy has been such a great friend to me. We were both in the same position so we understood what the other going through. We were able to help and support each other. Having said that, the evenings after Mary had gone to bed could be lonely.
Do you ever wish that you’d found someone to share your life with?
A man? Well, I suppose a husband would have been nice but it wasn’t meant to be. Mary was my priority not finding a man. Anyway, I think I’d struggle to trust one after Tim. I know you can’t tar them all with the same brush but… let’s just say that I was never ready to take the risk.
How do you feel about becoming a grandparent?
I was thrilled when Mary told me that she was pregnant. She has found herself a lovely bloke in Jack. He loves Mary very much and I know that he’ll look after her and their daughter. She found out that she was having a little girl the other day.
Your reaction to Mary’s pregnancy is very different to the way that your mother reacted to yours. How does that make you feel?
Times change don’t they. Anyway, now that I know what happened to Mum I can understand her reaction. I still think she was wrong but I suppose in her eyes I was making the same mistake that she had and she didn’t want me to face the same future she had. She and Dad are happy enough and I know that they love each other in their own way but I’m not sure that they would have got married if Helen hadn’t been on the way. Mum didn’t want that for me and I can appreciate that now. Oddly enough she seems happy for Mary. I think she’d rather there’d been a wedding first but I caught her knitting a pink cardigan yesterday and there was definitely a smile on her face. I guess that in itself is an indication of how much she has changed.
What does the future hold for you?
Who Knows? I’m going to enjoy being a grandma and I’ll just play the rest of it by ear.
Thanks again Susan.
Here is a short extract from ‘Ribbons in Her Hair.’
One of my first memories is of coming out of school when I was about five or six and seeing my mum waiting for me at the school gates. It was a sunny day and she was wearing a red cardigan. It has been more years than I care to remember but I can still see her there at those paint-chipped gates, standing out from the other mothers in her red cardigan. It wasn’t that she was prettier than the others, or that her clothes were better, that made her stand out from the rest. What made her stand out was that she was my mum and she was waiting for me.
Mum didn’t like waiting for anything and I don’t think she liked taking me to school either. She took me every morning and picked me up every afternoon; ten minutes there and then ten minutes back, that’s all it was, but it was like it was an inconvenience to her – time wasted that she could have better spent doing something else.
In the morning she was always in a rush to get me to school because she ‘had things to do,’ and in the afternoon it was the same because she had to get home to ‘get the tea on’. Sometimes I would have to run just to keep up with her.
When I looked at the other mothers with their children I had a feeling inside me that I didn’t understand. I would look at them and think why can’t we hold hands? or why don’t you talk to me? And I would have this feeling in my chest. I now know that feeling was jealousy, the old green-eyed monster, but back then I just knew that it made me feel sad.
As soon as we got home from school she would tell me to go upstairs and get out of my school uniform and she would disappear into the kitchen to ‘get the tea on’.
I once heard her say to one of the neighbours that my dad had never come home from work and not had a meal waiting for him and I think that was probably right. When she wasn’t in the kitchen cooking, Mum would be cleaning something. Thinking about it now, there was always a lovely smell in our house, one that I can only describe as the smell of clean – well cleanliness; that floral disinfectant smell of a room that’s just been cleaned – though it was probably more carbolic than floral back in those days. Mum was very houseproud, the house always sparkled, and like I said, Dad’s tea was always ready when he got in from work. Dad worked in a factory and Mum’s job was to be the perfect housewife. And you had to hand it to her, she was good at her job; she was the perfect housewife. She just wasn’t much of a mother.
Mum would get on with her chores and I would sit, usually in my bedroom so as not to make the living room untidy and play on my own. I sometimes thought she forgot I was there at all and maybe that was what she wanted; you know, if she ignored me long enough I might go away.
She treated all three of us the same though, it wasn’t like she singled me out. Helen and Julie were my older sisters and Mum didn’t show them any affection either.
Helen was eleven years older than me so by the time I was old enough to go to school she was at the other end of her school life and had already moved on. She went to college to learn short-hand and typing. I didn’t really know what either of those things were but Helen used to say that they’d mean she could get a good job and get away from ‘this place’. Sometimes after college she used to go out with her friends and Mum would ask her if there had been any boys there. Helen always said that there hadn’t been but I sometimes heard her and Julie whispering about a boy called John, though they’d always shut up when they realised I was there.
Julie was two years younger than Helen and went to ‘Big School’. Julie talked about boys a lot. When she was going to do her exams, Mum said that she needed to forget about boys and concentrate on her school work.
‘What for?’ Julie used to ask, ‘I’m going to be a hairdresser and you don’t need qualifications for that.’
‘Never mind hairdressing,’ Mum would say, ‘you could stop on.’
But Julie didn’t want to stop on. Julie hated school and couldn’t wait to leave.
So you see, for all there were three of us, in a lot of ways I was like an only child. My sisters were moving on to college and work and I was a little girl just starting school. I didn’t understand anything about their world and they didn’t appear to want to know anything about mine. We didn’t even look alike. Anyone could see that they were sisters; they were tall and blonde, slim and pretty, while I was short and fat and had mousy hair. Mum used to say that I was ‘big boned’ because God forbid that anyone in the family should be fat, but I knew what I was and that was chubby at best.
You know how some things from your childhood stick in your mind? Well, the thing that really sticks in my mind is that my mum never did pretty things with my hair. I don’t even remember her washing it let alone plaiting it or putting it in ponytails. Thinking about it now she must have washed it when I was very young, or someone must have, but I don’t remember it. I only ever remember washing my own hair. And that was fine but why didn’t Mum brush my hair and tie pretty ribbons in it? All the other girls in my class used to have their plaits and ponytails tied up in gingham ribbons, but not me.
If, like me, you want to read more then you’ll be pleased ot know that Ribbons in Her Hair is available in paperback and on Kindle on Amazon
Colette McCormick is and will always be a Yorkshire lass at heart who now lives in the middle of nowhere in County Durham. When she is not writing or working as a charity shop manager she will probably e cooking, gardening or walking the dog. She has a husband and two grown up sons and is now enjoying good health after a scare in 2013 and making the most of life.
Thanks so much for dropping by to talk to us, Colette. Good luck with your book!
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