Forty-year-old air stewardess Emily Forsyth has everything a woman could wish for: a glamorous, jet-set lifestyle, a designer wardrobe and a dishy pilot of a husband-in-waiting to match. But when he leaves her to ‘find himself’ (forgetting to mention the bit about ‘…a younger girlfriend’), Emily’s perfect world comes crashing down. Catapulted into a mid-life crisis, she is forced to take stock and make some major changes.
She ditches her job and enrols on a drama course in pursuit of her childhood dream, positive that, in no time at all, she’ll be sexily sporting a stethoscope on ‘Holby City’, and her ex will rue the day he dumped her. Wrong! Her chosen path proves to be an obstacle course littered with rejection and financial insecurity. If she is to survive, she must learn to be happy with less, and develop a selective memory to cope with more than her fair share of humiliating auditions. She tells herself her big break is just around the corner. But is it too late to be chasing dreams?
You know those many emails I receive? One day, I found one in my inbox from new author Jane Lambert. “I am a former air stewardess and now an actress and writer…” the email started. She went on to say that she had recently recorded the audio version of A Parcel for Anna Browne, and checked out the bloggers on Miranda’s list – she wanted to plan her own blog tour in advance of speaking at Blackwells’ Writers at the Edinburgh Fringe on August 18th. We chatted a bit, and I really liked her – and the look of her book Learning To Fly. now available in paperback and for kindle.
I’ll let Jane tell us some more about what inspired her to write the story:
While on tour in the play “Lettice & Lovage”, I was invited to give a talk to a class of final year drama students about the life of an actor. I told them in a no-frills, yet humorous way how it is for the majority of performers: working at mind-numbing day jobs, toe-curling auditions, struggling to pay the bills, and yet all the while holding on to self-belief. I was concerned that I may have been a little too honest, but the Principal told me in these days of instant celebrity, it was good for the students to know that success comes from hard work and sacrifice and suggested I write a book. So the seed was sown. Whilst sitting in the wings waiting to go on, draughty dressing rooms and grotty digs on tour I began to write the novel I had been carrying around in my head for years. Learning To Fly is best described as a romantic comedy of self-discovery.
There’s also a lovely description in one of the early Amazon reviews – “both a romantic comedy and a self help manual for women of a certain age wondering if it’s too late to follow their dreams”. And the message behind the story?
The comedy aside, Learning To Fly has a serious message. It opens with the following quote by George Eliot: “It is never too late to be what you might have been” – this is the moral of the story – don’t give up, ignore negative feelings or comments and have a go – you never know where the unknown path may lead.
If you’re anywhere near Edinburgh on 18th August, do go along and see Jane – it’s a free event, but ticketed, and the link to obtain tickets is here. Angela Jackson, Toni Jenkins, Rob Ewing and Lucy Ribchester will also be appearing that night.
And do follow the other stops on Jane’s blog tour:
Fancy reading a short extract from Learning To Fly? My pleasure…
‘Cabin crew, ten minutes to landing. Ten minutes, please,’ comes the captain’s olive-oil-smooth voice over the intercom. This is it. No going back. I’m past the point of no return.
The galley curtain swishes open — it’s showtime!
I switch on my full-beam smile and enter upstage left, pushing my trolley for the very last time …
‘Anyheadsetsanyrubbishlandingcard? Anyheadsetsanyrubbishlandingcard? …’
Have I taken leave of my senses? The notion of an actress living in a garret, sacrificing everything for the sake of her art, seemed so romantic when I gaily handed in my notice three months ago, but now I’m not so sure…
Be positive! Just think, a couple of years from now, you could be sipping coffee with Phil and Holly on the This Morning sofa…
Yes, Phil, the rumours are true … I have been asked to appear on Strictly Come Dancing. God only knows how I’ll fit it around my filming commitments though.
Who are you kidding? A couple of years from now, the only place you’ll be appearing is the job centre, playing Woman On Income Support.
This follow-your-dreams stuff is all very well when you’re in your twenties, or thirties even, but I’m a forty-year-old woman with no rich husband (or any husband for that matter) to bail me out if it all goes pear-shaped. Just as everyone around me is having a loft extension or a late baby, I’m downsizing my whole lifestyle to enter a profession that boasts a ninety-two percent unemployment rate.
Why in God’s name, in this wobbly economic climate, am I putting myself through all this angst and upheaval, when I could be pushing my trolley until I’m sixty, then retire comfortably on an ample pension and one free flight a year?
Something happened, out of the blue, that catapulted me from my ordered, happy-go-lucky existence and forced me down a different road…
‘It’s not your fault. It’s me. I’m confused,’ Nigel had said.
‘I don’t understand,’ I said, almost choking on my Marmite soldier. ‘What’s brought this on? Have you met someone else?’
‘No-ho!’ he spluttered, averting my gaze, handsome face flushed.
‘But you always said we were so perfect together…’
‘That’s exactly why we have to split. It’s too bloody perfect.’
‘What? Don’t talk nonsense…’
‘I don’t expect you to understand, but it’s like I’ve pushed a self-destruct button and there’s no going back.’
‘Self-destruct button? What are you talking about? Darling, you’re not well. Perhaps you should get some help…’
‘Look, don’t make this harder for me than it already is. It’s time for us both to move on. And please don’t cry, Em,’ he groaned, eyes looking heavenward. ‘You know how I hate it when you cry.’
I grovelled, begged him not to go, vowing I’d find myself a nine-to-five job so we could have more together time, swearing that I would never again talk during Match of the Day — anything as long as he stayed with me.
Firmly removing my hands from around his neck and straightening his epaulettes, he glanced at his watch, swigged the dregs of his espresso, and said blankly, ‘Good Lord, is that the time? I’ve got to check in in an hour. We’ll talk more when I get back from LA.’
‘NO!’ I wailed. ‘You know very well that I’ll be in Jeddah by then. We’ve got to talk about this now. Nigel… Nigel…!’
About Jane Lambert
I studied French & German, taught English in Vienna then travelled the world as air crew before making the life-changing decision to become an actress. I have appeared in Calendar Girls, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and Deathtrap in London’s West End. Learning to Fly is my debut novel: the audio book will be available in the Spring. I am in the process of writing the sequel, Marriage, Mafia & Mozzarella.