Kate Jay-r, Welcome. Fall Of The Flamingo Circus, tell us please what should we know about this book, why did you write it, what motivated you, and when was it published?
Kate Jay-r Many thanks, Shah. It is in diary form and begins when the main character, Lauren, is seven years old. She is from a violent background and gets involved in violent relationships, then she discovers punk. This is essentially a punk novel. I invented this character and felt compelled to write about her. It was first published in 1988 by a UK hardback publisher, then by UK paperback publisher in 1990 and also US hardback. I've just recently re-kindled it.
Shah Fazli Can you please tell us a little bit more about Lauren, who else is there in the book as your main characters?
Kate Jay-r Yes, Lauren is from a working class area in Yorkshire and we are introduced to her many family members, her many brothers and sisters and her father who is very violent. Lauren is subjected to violence and the story begins when she is actually being fostered with another middle-class family who have one child called Kate (not me, by the way!) As Lauren nears puberty she and her schoolfriends are quite nasty to Kate but later, when Lauren discovers punk, Kate rebels against her parents and the two become friends, and remain friends over the next few years. So Kate is another of the main characters as is Lauren's father because of how he has shaped her life and the effect he has on her relationships and young adulthood
Shah Fazli How does the book go round the story, where actually the book begins, in Lauren's family house, or when she is an adult and she is a punk, or somewhere else?
Kate Jay-r It actually begins in Kate's house, through the eyes of a seven-year-old and also the spelling of a seven-year-old! But she only makes two more entries in her diary at the ages of seven and eight before there is a jump and her next entry is at the age of eleven when she is living back at the family house. The diary is chronological with date entries.
Shah Fazli Thanks. What is there for Lauren to hope for in her life, is there someone who is looking after her, a police officer, a neighbour, a relative, and what kind of a character the father is throughout the book?
Kate Jay-r The early part of the book shows the family has visits from Social Workers and various children being taken into care. She does sometimes live with her nanna and also has a good relationship with her step-mum. She has a very ambivalent relationship with her father who is often very apologetic after a violent outburst. But Lauren is a tough survivor and she doesn't really come into her own until the advent of punk. This is the main thrust of the story. It not only influences her dress and music and relationships, but also her attitudes and outlook. She moves to Bournemouth to escape a violent relationship and she and her friends live in a squat in Bournemouth.
Shah Fazli What are the things that she does as a punk, and how does her background affect her life throughout the book, her father, violent brothers, how does her new way of life help her escape her past?
Kate Jay-r At the time in 1977 punk was very daring and shocking, so she and her friends dress and say things to shock and dare to defy convention. They give themselves nicknames, dress outrageously and put two metaphorical fingers up to the rest of conventional society. Her brothers aren't violent, it is only her father - her brothers are her allies against her father. It seems as if she has broken free and found a new family among her fellow punks and dropouts but actually her past always comes back to haunt her. I won't say too much else otherwise I'll give away the ending of the book!
Shah Fazli Can you read a few lines of your book for us to get a taste of your writing and also read a little bit of your story please?
Kate Jay-r April 1977
It came to Anvill last Christmas. I was one of the first I’m proud to say. There was a party on Boxing Day and I was getting ready at Toni’s beforehand. I locked myself in the bathroom and told her not to interrupt. I put liquid soap in my hair. Tried to get it standing upright. Did the works on my face. Pencilled my lips black. Put on my tights with the self-made holes and lacey ladders. Then over my congenital white body I wore a black shiny binliner. I looked fabulously frightful. Toni was stunned. She looked pretty-pretty with her sprig of tinsel round her head. It would have been better if I had an accomplice but she wouldn’t be persuaded. She didn’t have my guts.
I certainly caused a stir that night. You couldn’t ignore me. Kate said about the whole effect “it grows on you”. By the end of the night I knew she was daring herself to have a go too. There was a lad there trying to be a punk rocker but his hair wouldn’t stay up. We were like two cakes — one had risen successfully, the other flopped in the middle and gone wrong. Still, he was bewitched by me. We pogo’d and swopped gig news. He asked me out. I went out with him a couple of times but didn’t fancy him. I like the real thing. It’s the difference between buying real or imitation leather! I got REACTION that night. Stares, laughs, jeers, eeers. Most thought it a fancy dress stint.
Went home looking like it the next day.
Janessa said “Oh you never went to the party as a punk rocker did you?”
“I’m not in fancy dress. This is my new image.”
She just tittered and carried on peeling the spuds. Then she made a point of calling our dad away from his clapped out pose in front of the box. “Come and take a butchers at our Lauren.”
Shah Fazli What have you learnt from writing this book that you want to share it with us, anything that you think we should learn from you?
Kate Jay-r Goodness! That's a difficult one, Shah, I wrote it so long ago but as it was my first successful book - in fact, my most successful book - it gave me confidence and made me realize, I didn't have to write in a high-brow way to have a novel accepted. It also began many years of writing books! I don't know whether I would have continued without that early success!
Shah Fazli Please describe a few sad, happy, kind, or cruel things that happen in your book from time to time?
Kate Jay-r The cruel things are not only from Lauren's father when he punishes her for running away from home by locking her in the coal shed but also at the hands of one of her boyfriends, called Alec, who is a bit of a snob and fancies Kate and then another of their friends Toni. Lauren becomes more articulate as the book goes on and wants Alec to like her. They have a brief fling but he basically looks down on her, so there is happiness, sadness and cruelty in that relationship alone.
Shah Fazli Thanks for being our guest today, Kate, appreciated. You can find Kate's book here. http://shahsightshop.blogspot.de/2012/08/fall-of-flamingo-circus-by-kate-rigby.html
ShahSight Literary Book Shop: Fall Of The Flamingo Circus by Kate Rigbyshahsightshop.blogspot.com
Kate Jay-r Thank you, Shah. It was a pleasure and I enjoyed it very much.