Interview with Female First

Female First

10 Things I'd Like My Readers To Know About Me By Helen Trevorrow

I broke my leg when I was two years old jumping down the stairs. My big brothers were chasing me with wooden spoons in a game that I adored. My first memory is of being held down by a big woman in a dark old-fashioned nurses’ uniform and a plaster cast being put on my leg. In a photograph of my mother and me shortly afterwards I am playing with a wind-up plastic frog that I was bought as a treat.

I was in a band called Shovel and we supported the Auteurs at The Old Trout in Windsor the week that they [The Auteurs] were on the front cover of Melody Maker. We didn’t make it. In a parallel universe I wish that I were Shirley Manson from the band Garbage. However, my absolute favourite rock goddess is PJ Harvey. So much so, that I have named one of my characters in In The Wake after her.

Many of the things that I read and watch don’t really reflect my life and so I wanted to write something that did. I tend to think that a lot of gay characters are either coming out or covering up and so I wanted to write a book, In The Wakethat put gay characters at the centre of a plot unrelated to their sexuality. I wanted to write something about ‘middle-aged’ women behaving badly in a shameless unapologetic way.

I love dogs. Big love to my boy Barney and those boys in the sky – RIP Chas and Rooney. Is it possible to trust people that don’t like dogs?

I have worked in the PR industry for twenty years and so I have set my novel, in that world because I know it so well. Just like the PR stereotype it is true that there are lots of interesting (dodgy) characters and pretensions but it is a world where working class women do very well. I don’t have any figures to back this up but from my experience I would say that the PR industry over-indexes in successful women from working class backgrounds. It has crossed my mind once or twice that might be why we’re taught to dislike PRs so much.

I went to a convent for most of my school years and I loved it. It was strangely subversive where our teachers gave us books that seemed to go over the heads of our matriarchal order of Bernadine nuns. We acted out The Handmaids Tale for our end of year play, and learnt to recite passages by Maya Angelou and Alice Walker. We were also good at rolling up the waistband of our kilts and climbing trees to smoke cigarettes on the Prefect’s Walk. I was the first girl at St Bernard’s Convent to ride a motorcycle to school.

My mother died when I was three months pregnant. We went from a wonderful baby scan in one hospital straight to my poor Mum’s bedside. I showed her the picture of my new baby and she died that night. It has had a profound effect on me. I felt right in the middle of life and death – unable to grieve without being happy – unable to be happy without grieving. I still haven’t quite figured out how to best describe it but perhaps someday I will.

I have a huge telescope but I haven’t looked through it as much as I had hoped. I am in love with the thought of gazing at stars on clear summer nights. I love Star Trek too, and meteors crashing through the atmosphere in obscure Russian towns and when you can see Jupiter or Venus if you look in the right place with a naked eye.

My favourite film is Logan’s Run. I love kitsch 1970s Sci-Fi and dystopia. I don’t like remakes. I love wobbly sets. I don’t mind if you can see the strings dropping the spaceship into land. These were the stories that fueled my mind as a child and the ones that I go back to again and again.

Publishing my first book feels incredibly liberating. I am lucky enough to have studied with Richard Skinner at Faber Academy and I am very privileged to be part of a group of writers who give immense support to each other.