A pleasure today to join the blog tour for Pink Ice Creams, the debut novel from Jo Woolaston, now available via Amazon in the UK (in paperback, and for kindle) and the US (paperback and kindle). My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation: I’m just rather sorry I couldn’t manage to read and review this one, because I very much like the look of it. See what you think…
Intent on fixing her broken marriage and the alcohol-fuelled catastrophe that is her life, Kay Harris arrives at her grim and grey holiday let, ready to lay to rest the tragedy that has governed her entire adulthood – the disappearance of her little brother, Adam.
But the road to recovery is pitted with the pot-holes of her own poor choices, and it isn’t long before Kay is forced to accept that maybe she doesn’t deserve the retribution she seeks. Will the intervention of strangers help her find the answers she needs to move on from her past, or will she always be stuck on the hard shoulder with no clear view ahead and a glove box full of empties?
Pink Ice Creams is a tale of loss, self-destruction, and clinging on to the scraps of the long-lost when everyone else has given up hope.
I’m guessing that might not quite be what you were expecting from the title? I’m delighted to welcome Jo as my guest today – does a main character need to be likeable?
It took me by surprise when a reader friend told me they didn’t ‘like’ my main character. I was wounded. It wasn’t that I intended for Kay to be ‘likeable’- she is after all (on first impressions) a sociopathic self-pitying drunk who you might happily cross the street to avoid – and my aim had never been to draw a new best friend, or create someone to curl up in a cosy bed with. Bad things (and good things) happen to unlikeable people, and I am simply telling her story, isn’t that enough? But the remark still hurt. So I asked myself, do I, as her creator, ‘like’ her?
She has a barrier up, that’s for sure, a galvanised steel one that few will penetrate. Everybody she meets is instantly dismissed – Brian an ‘irritant’ and his ‘fat, whey-faced’ wife Miriam are the first to experience her indignation, when all they have done is offer her a cup of tea and an invite to a night at the Bingo. Quiz night compadres become ‘sanctimonious gits’ and ‘stinky-arsed cretins’ in seconds, and even the Nan who raised her in her teenage years is wished under a pile of rubble. So yes, perhaps ‘likeable’ seems a stretch. But I do. I do like her. She is flawed, but she is flawed because. And yes, she is hard to love, because she hides behind the blockade of her own design, a clear defence mechanism from losing those she once held close – in order to prevent future hurt. Kay feels that she doesn’t deserve to be loved, or liked, by the characters that surround her so perhaps she is also holding the reader at arms’s length too?
But it is these flaws that humanise Kay – her crippling self-destructive streak, poor decisions that lead her into further trouble, her neuroses, brokenness, the things she thinks but does not say, these are the traits that take her from the 2D into the fully fleshed and whilst this may, to some, make her ‘unlikeable’ it does go some way into making her recognisable – we identify these characteristics within ourselves, our family, our friends – whom we try to like, and love, despite of them, don’t we?
Piqued, I asked my reader friend which (if any) character she did like in Pink Ice Creams and her answer once again surprised me – Jen. Kay’s tireless and all-knowing (in my and Kay’s opinion – bloody annoying) self-righteous ‘best’ friend who has picked Kay up from the floor time and time again but has lately washed her hands of her – for her ‘own good.’ And the answer to why this character in particular struck a chord was a simple one – ‘Because I think I am her. I am Jen. I am the sensible best friend.’ Quite simply, she could see herself in Jen – she could relate, whereas Kay was an alien species to her.
So, like Jen, had my friend abandoned Kay because she just couldn’t cope with her anymore, as her own life would be much easier without this dead weight she’d been dragging along without thanks? Thankfully, no. Whilst she admitted to not ‘liking’ her ‘as a person’ and feeling unable to connect with Kay through commonalities, still she willed her on to achieve some form of closure – and hoped that her story would end positively, just as I had when I started writing it. She cared deeply about what would happen to her, and likeable or not, that is all we really want for our creations.
Excellent post Jo – and one that makes me really want to read the book. Wishing you every possible success… and here are the other stops on the blog tour:
About the author
Jo Woolaston lives in Leicestershire, England with her extreme noise-making husband and two lovely sons. She tries to avoid housework and getting a ‘proper job’ by just writing stuff instead – silly verse, screenplays, shopping lists…
This sometimes works in her favour (she did well in her MA in TV Scriptwriting, gaining a Best Student award in Media and Journalism – and has had a few plays produced – that kind of thing) but mostly it just results in chronic insomnia and desperate tears of frustration. Pink Ice Creams is her first novel, she hopes you like it.