Charlie Matthews’ love story begins in a pebble-dashed house in suburban Bolton, at a time when most little boys want to grow up to be Michael Jackson, and girls want to be Princess Di. Remembering the Green Cross Code and getting out of football are the most important things in his life, until Auntie Jan gives him a gift that will last a lifetime: a seven-inch single called ‘Lucky Star’…
On his ninth birthday, Charlie discovers Madonna, and falls in love. His obsession sees him through some tough times in life: being persecuted at school, fitting in at a posh university, a glamorous career in London, finding boyfriends, getting rid of boyfriends, and family heartbreak. Madonna’s music and videos inspire him, and her fierce determination to succeed gives him the confidence to do the same. Ultimately, though, he must learn to let go of his idol and find his own voice.
Charlie’s story is Billy Elliot meets Beautiful Thing wearing a conical bra – a story for anyone who ever sang their heart out, looked for love and dreamed of more… The Madonna of Bolton will make you laugh, cry and Get Into the Groove. It’s a book to Cherish and a Ray of Light, and it even has a little Hanky Panky.
Guest Post – “How Do You Create Characters?”
Someone once told me that when you think you’re ready to start writing a novel you should wait another six months – because you often think your ideas are fully formed in your mind and ready to come bursting out and onto the page but usually this isn’t the case. I think this is true of characterization more than anything else; for a character to be convincing and consistent he or she really has to be fully formed before you start writing. Occasionally I’ve started writing minor or supporting characters too soon but I’ve only had to go back over my manuscript to fill them in and even them out, which can be really fiddly and a pain.
Some authors try to pin down their characters by fleshing out their physical appearance but I often don’t have much idea about this till the very end of the process. I prefer to delve into what really moves my characters as people and what inspires them to do whatever actions drive forward the plot of the book. Often this is determined by their backstory, so I like to have this worked out in my head before I start writing. This is particularly the case with characters who are responsible for any kind of bad behaviour; I’ve always been intrigued by what makes inherently good people do bad things and I like to explore this in my fiction. But if you want readers to empathise with a character who behaves badly you really have to justify this by explaining what it is in their past that turned them sour. If you can get this right the empathy will flow, as let’s be honest, we’ve all found ourselves on the verge of giving into bitterness and anger sometimes.
When I start creating a character, I take a double page of A4 paper in the notebook I’ve devoted to whichever novel I’m planning. Then I brainstorm around them and write down everything I can think of – this can be the character’s favourite music, hair colour or means of keeping fit, or people they might remind me of in real life. I also think about their turns of phrase or some of the words they might over-use in conversation, as everyone speaks differently and dialogue can be a great way to really help define a character on the page. (Think about something simple like whether a character would call you ‘mate,’ ‘darling’ or ‘sweetheart’ – people usually have a favourite they stick to rather than using all three). Then I read over my ideas several times before whittling them down to those I consider essential, often starting a new double-page spread as the character evolves further and further away from my original ideas.
Finally, I really enjoy naming my characters and this is one of the last things I do that really helps crystallize them in my mind. I like to name characters after people in my family but I have to be careful that this still fits how I see them in my mind – or how the readers will see them. It seems silly but certain names like Emily and Lucy can sound warm and sweet while others, like Valerie or Violet, make you imagine some kind of brittle ice-queen. All this can help as you want to engage your readers straight away – and in particular you want them to be drawn into your central character’s story from the very first page so they’re rooting for them all through the novel, willing them on to whichever end they’re chasing.
About Matt Cain:
Matt Cain was born in Bury and brought up in Bolton. He spent ten years making arts and entertainment programmes for ITV before stepping in front of the camera in 2010 to become Channel 4 News’ first ever culture editor. His first novel, Shot Through the Heart, was published in 2014 and his second, Nothing But Trouble, followed in 2015. As a journalist he has contributed articles to all the major UK newspapers and is currently Editor-in-Chief of Attitude, the UK’s biggest-selling magazine for gay men, and its sister publication, Winq. In 2017 he was voted Diversity in Media’s Journalist of the Year. He lives in London.