Why is my new series of novels about a hairdresser?
As all good story ideas begin, I was in the shower. I was washing the dye out of my hair, having spent the last hour and a half contorting myself by applying the goo evenly, sitting around with a plastic bag on my head stinking of ammonia and whatever else they put in that stuff, waiting for it to work its magic and banish the grey hairs from my scalp. And as you do, if you’re a story-maker, I asked myself a ‘what if?’ question. What if someone invented a potion you could drink that turned your hair back to its original colour? Ooooh, how awesome would that be? No more awkward patchy self-application and hours in the bathroom washing it out. No more nasty chemicals seeping into your system all in the name of ‘beauty’. No more sitting in the hairdressers for three hours and walking out two or three hundred dollars lighter.
But actually, I thought, it probably wouldn’t be such a great thing for a hairdresser if no one needed their hair coloured anymore. And there she was. A kick ass, sassy, bighearted, detecting hairdresser, who belongs to a secret hairdressing organisation putting right that which must be put right. Now, bordering on the edges of middle age myself and SERIOUSLY contemplating letting my hair go grey, my protagonist, Sylvia Scutlash, was around 60. I wrote her crazy story, ‘Silver Lining’, as she battled the evil Trim Kreeper who was about to launch this nasty potion into the world. But in writing this adventure, I realised that Sylvia had lived a whole life of missions all over the world.
Now maybe it’s because I’m INFJ, a perfectionist or slightly OCD but I like things to Be. In. Order. I realised that I had to tell Sylvia’s story from the very beginning. So before I even edited Silver Lining, I put it to one side and began the tale back in 1977 when she was in her 20’s.
In ‘Dying Roots’ Sylvia goes back to England from Australia to:
1. Solve the mystery of the malfunctioning hair dye for the great Vitale Sassoon, which if she solved would result in her inheriting the Wavy Lady hair salon, and
2. Find out about her dead parents and where she came from.
I would like to add that I am not a hairdresser. Definitely not a hairdresser, will never, ever be a hairdresser, in fact, I'm scarred for life from an early ‘hairdressing’ incident that still echoes around my family, never to be forgotten, never to be forgiven...
My mum was a seamstress and in her sewing room she kept, among other interesting things, a pair of pinking shears. Don’t you just love the name ‘pinking shears’? Magic scissors that cut the fabric in a delightful wiggle. One night, when we should have been in bed, my little sister and I were up, desperate to keep playing. We decided (although it is reported that I was the instigator) to play hairdressers. “Wouldn’t it look good to have wiggly hair?” I ask my sister, who is about 5 and until recently had been called Donald Pleasence after a very bald actor, until only a few weeks ago when her hair had finally grown somewhere into the region of her shoulders.
She wholeheartedly (yes, you did, sis) agreed and I set to work. But hair doesn’t act the same way as a piece of cotton fabric and every time I got around to one side, I had to start again to straighten up the other side. After what felt like hours, I looked at her reflection in the mirror. One side was roughly level with the top of her ear and the other with the bottom of her ear. I sensibly stopped. With an unpleasant feeling in my gut and a faint notion of being somehow duped by the pinking shears, I went downstairs to my Mum.
“Um, Mum, I think something’s happened to Em’s hair.”
It’s not pleasant to watch your Mum sit on the edge of the bath and sob at the sight of her cropped daughter, nor is it pleasant to live with the story doing the rounds FOR EVER.
So perhaps my writing about a hairdresser is some sort of cathartic healing but this time I’m happy for the story to do the rounds as far and wide as possible!