Recently widowed Janet is a dark and embittered woman with a troubled past. Determined to throw off memories of her life with deceased husband, Frank, in the new year of 1990, she returns to her beloved job within the soft furnishing department of Masons retail store, to forge a new life for herself safe behind the mask of customer service.
But Janet’s newfound happiness is soon threatened by a feisty young co-worker in the form of Marian whom she loathes. Sparks fly between the two women and they are forced to go head to head for a management position to gain the upper hand. When a triumphant Janet wins, their tempestuous relationship intensifies, which ultimately forces Janet to confront her own past and the death of her husband. She soon needs to recruit family and friends to help resolve a painful decision she made in her youth which shadowed the whole of her married life, as well as keep herself out of prison!
As she fears losing control, her antagonistic relationship with Marian escalates and proves to be more challenging than Janet could ever imagine. Will Janet be able to face her own demons? And what will her future hold?
Targeted Age Group:: women ages 35 to 80
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The plot of After Black developed from my first having conceived of a hard and embittered middle-aged female character, named Janet, who is itching to get back to work after her husband dies. I used my own experiences of working in an elitist department store in the 90s to make this the environment which Janet adores and in which she is most comfortable wearing black. The plot developed through imagining what life experiences, events, and secrets may have made Janet so ‘hard’, so ‘black’, and I also loved the idea of her ‘comfort’ being threatened by a feisty young co-worker who she hates and to explore what may transpire between them. What came to the fore in the writing are the deep hurts in Janet’s past which have shaped her in the present. I wanted to drag those shadows into the light and allow Janet to grow as a person – to find her true self again and to make amends. So the theme become very much about midlife transformation, and a quote of Carl Jung’s was perfect to adapt for the subtitle for the novel – turning the shadow into light.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I came up with the two central characters of Janet and Marian from my time working in a posh department store in Cheltenham in the early nineties. It was a highly disciplined place with a Victorian underbelly in the architecture, full of dark passages which only the staff ever ventured down on their way up to the surface of the bright and shining public domains. So the idea of dark and light developed as a theme in the novel. The two main characters in the novel, as well as many secondary characters, were distilled and blended essences of real-life characters I knew from my time in this store, and I really enjoyed working with them and putting my life experience to use in my fiction writing. The empowerment of women was another important theme that evolved through the characters, which echoes the socio-cultural context of the times.
She wanted him to know everything now that she’d opened her padlocked strong box, rusting and creaking at the hinges, to pull out the tattered and torn memories she’d sealed up like old clothes over the years, one after the other after the other, out for an airing at last.
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