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Join Esther Freud to talk about our March Book of the Month, Lucky Break, Tuesday 27 March 9-10pm

(121 Posts)

I am thrilled to announce that March's writer is the stupendous Esther Freud, who started out as an actor (specifically, as an alien in Doctor Who: Attack of the Cybermen) and then went on to write Hideous Kinky, and followed it up with seven more books, including The Wild and The Sea House. In her latest novel, LUCKY BREAK, Esther explores the theatrical world with piercing insight (and a lot of insider knowledge, given her own training and her marriage to David Morrissey).

The story starts with a gauche, anxious group of students at their first day at Drama Arts. Nell, who is no red-carpet queen, feels destined to a lifetime of character parts. Charlie, however, believes success is only her due. Dan has to overcome private fears and the demands of a family to reach his ambition. All of them are made interesting and likeable - no mean feat, given the luvvieness and often ludicrous behaviour of thespy types - by Freud's observant and sympathetic writing. And it is often very funny too. As the Observer put it, 'it is to Freud's immense credit that she has made a profession threaded through by fakery appear so indelibly and excruciatingly real.'

Read more about the book at our book of the month page, plus you can see what the Telegraph says here

The generous folks at Bloomsbury have 100 copies of the book to give away to Mumsnetters. To claim yours, please go to the book of the month page and fill in your details.

We'll post on the thread when all the copies have been sent out but if you're not lucky enough to bag one of those, you can always get your paperback or Kindle version here

Esther Freud will be joining us to talk about LUCKY BREAK, acting, writing and all her novels, on Tuesday 27 March, 9-10pm. So whatever you want to ask and whichever of her books you've read, do come and join us.

Look forward to seeing you all then, and keep posting your thoughts and any advance questions on this thread...

bigbadbarry Tue 27-Mar-12 21:31:20

Just finished it this minute! Phew.
Hi Esther. Hideous Kinky is one of my all-time favourite books (and one of the very few cases where I like the film adaptation as well as the book; it is usually one or the other). I found Lucky Break very compelling: i dont mean to gush but you have a lovely way of writing characters i can fall in love with. It reminded me mostly of "Fame" (which is a compliment from me, i promise!) with the separate characters and jumps in time. Are you Jemma? Acting school, then married an actor, children, writing...
Sorry, I am supposed to write a sensible question. How long do you spend gestating books and characters before you start to write - are you somebody who is constantly making notes or does it spring fully formed to your mind all ready to go?

EstherFreud Tue 27-Mar-12 21:33:04

AbigailAdams

I am over 2/3rds of the way through and enjoying is more than I thought I would. The Drama Arts place was as hideous as I imagined a drama school to be. Was it based on anywhere particular (go on you can tell us!)? I have to say I can't stand Dan (he is an arse), Nell is frustrating me because she seems so unsuited to acting but I do like Charlie (although I think she could use a good talking to from AnyFucker on the Relationship board - as could Nell). I got the impression that Nell had won a place in the 3rd year of drama school but she walked out if the meeting before hearing that. Is that the case?

Even though she is frustrating me, Nell is my favourite character. Was she yours as she seems to be the character you have most developed?

Thanks Esther

I went somewhere called Drama Centre - and it was pretty ruthless. I'd heard you got to write your own characters scenes so maybe I was already thinking of jumping ship and becoming a writer. But I did learn a lot there too.
The thing is, Nell, Charlie and Dan are all teenagers in the forest section, and they'd be a lot less interesting to write about once they became wise and settled. That's one of the reasons I love writing about young people. If they're like me anyway, they make so many mistakes. I do like Nell, but I feel loyal to them all.

EstherFreud Tue 27-Mar-12 21:34:02

MayCanary

My question: Is Charlie's transformation supposed to be taken at face value? It seemed a bit unlikely and out-of-character to me.

I do think people change. Charlie's brush with failure is a real wake up call to her, and I think when she stops thinking so much about herself she becomes a lot happier and nicer.

EstherFreud Tue 27-Mar-12 21:40:40

bigbadbarry

Just finished it this minute! Phew.
Hi Esther. Hideous Kinky is one of my all-time favourite books (and one of the very few cases where I like the film adaptation as well as the book; it is usually one or the other). I found Lucky Break very compelling: i dont mean to gush but you have a lovely way of writing characters i can fall in love with. It reminded me mostly of "Fame" (which is a compliment from me, i promise!) with the separate characters and jumps in time. Are you Jemma? Acting school, then married an actor, children, writing...
Sorry, I am supposed to write a sensible question. How long do you spend gestating books and characters before you start to write - are you somebody who is constantly making notes or does it spring fully formed to your mind all ready to go?

I spend a lot of time thinking about a book before I write it. Sometimes I don't know I'm doing that, but I had the idea for a book set at a drama school years ago and I told a friend who I was there with who said, please don't, it'll be too depressing. But then I started writing short stories based in the world of acting, and once I formed it into a novel I realised I could write a section at the drama school and it would work as part of the book.
I'm so glad you liked Hideous Kinky. And the film too. I felt very lucky that the film was so true in spirit to the book. It's rare. And the little girls were so gorgeous and funny. Last time I watched it with my kids and they kept looking at me in amazement and asking Was that true?!
There is a lot of me in Jemma but in all the characters too. It was great fun writing about what it's like to be married to an actor. In our new born baby photos it looks like I have three different husbands, one with blonde hair, one red with a moustache and another with a perm. and I didn't even manage to get that into the book. I am thinking of a sequel but I don't think I'll give Jemma any more children. someone else on here suggested she deserves an award winning screenplay. So maybe I'll reward her with that.

calypso Tue 27-Mar-12 21:40:59

I really enjoyed reading Lucky Break and it took me back to my days studying performing arts at college. The intensity of the experience really rang true, particularly the chapter where they had to audition to get through to the final year and the poor guy who tries to slash his wrists - so over the top! I think it would make a fabulous film - has there been any talk about this yet? I also wondered what you thought of the film adaptation of Hideous Kinky? As others have said, I thought it was a great adaptation.

Please, please do write a sequel. I immediately started dreaming up future exploits for them all.

Also just wanted to flag up the earlier questions from fifide and HandMade Tail (and apologies if you're already onto them...)

EstherFreud Tue 27-Mar-12 21:44:26

kandinskysgirl

I've just finished it, however I wasn't expecting the end to be the end so was disappointed when I realised it was finished. Like Tilly I started making up endings for characters straight away, I thought Dan's wife might go on to write a brilliant screen play whilst he would have an affair.

I did enjoy it although I found some bits slightly confusing, but I think that was me not noticing I had jumped time periods and I do like books to tell me exactly what is going on <lacking in my own imagination>.

I felt quite removed from the majority of characters like I was peering in the window at them rather than really knowing them (with maybe Nell as the exception) was this a narrative technique done on purpose at all?

I spread the book out over 12 years because I wanted to show how long it can take for an actor's career to get going, and also to include the change in technology. The mobile phone revolutionised the lives of actors, can you imagine what it was like before, having to call your agent at the end of every day, and ask if there is 'any news.'
Also I started writing the book as a series of short stories and then I formed it into a book. The only way I could make that work was to have it in three parts.
I have been thinking of writing a sequel. And I Love the idea of Jemma's success. I thought one of their kids might outshine Dan too. And surely an affair is on the cards? But as a writer you never know for sure what's going to happen. But a baby for Nell, adopted possibly. Who knows. Any ideas gratefully received.

EstherFreud Tue 27-Mar-12 21:44:48

calypso

I really enjoyed reading Lucky Break and it took me back to my days studying performing arts at college. The intensity of the experience really rang true, particularly the chapter where they had to audition to get through to the final year and the poor guy who tries to slash his wrists - so over the top! I think it would make a fabulous film - has there been any talk about this yet? I also wondered what you thought of the film adaptation of Hideous Kinky? As others have said, I thought it was a great adaptation.

Thanks, it is a very intense experience and there are always a few people who can't handle it. There has been talk about a TV series, but I'm not sure if that is going to happen. Quite a few of my books have been optioned for TV or film and scrips written but they haven't been made. I feel so lucky that Kate Winslett happened to have read Hideous Kinky and loved it and wanted to play the mother. She'd just made Titanic so getting funding was no problem. She was only just 22 when she made that. She was so good in it too.

Katn Tue 27-Mar-12 21:47:49

Hi Esther! I was just wondering if you've been to the Lucien Freud exhibition yet - what did you make of it? How is it seeing your dad's work exhibited? Do you have a favourite painting?

EstherFreud Tue 27-Mar-12 21:49:39

areyoutheregoditsmemargaret

Hello Esther, I've read and enjoyed many of your books. Unlike the work of many authors, they (nearly) all have very different settings and periods and often styles. Has it been a deliberate choice to make each book quite different or can you simply not help where your imagination takes you? And do you think your publishers would prefer a more predictable output?

That's nice to hear. I like to think that my books are different, although I know I'm drawn to similar themes. Family relationships, homes, etc. although I think Lucky Break is very different in style. I've never felt any pressure from my publishers to write any particlar kind of book, although I do often discuss my ideas with my editor.

EstherFreud Tue 27-Mar-12 21:50:00

HandMadeTail

Your comments about Jemma, above, seem to imply that she is real to you. Does it seem to you that the characters continue to live after the novel ends?

My characters are real to me. I'm with them for a few years sometimes. It's worrying when they're more real to me than my own friends. People ask me sometimes if I get lonely writing, but I never do. It's so absorbing, writing books. I do feel sorry for the first person I see at the school gates though. Sometimes I can't stop talking.

EstherFreud Tue 27-Mar-12 21:54:04

fifide

Hi Esther,
I really enjoyed your book. It took me a while to get into but once I did I really felt myself drawn by the characters and their lives, so far removed from anything I have experienced! I particularly liked Charlie's character and was intrigued by her sudden involvement in Reiki and her apparent success with it. I couldn't help wondering more about her family (the glimpses were intriguing) and what would happen to her as her career seemed to fade a little. I suppose my question is, once you have finished writing about a particular character such as Charlie, do you still think about them and imagine how their life carried on "without you" ?
Thanks,
Fi

That's very interesting. Usually I don't think so much about the life after book of my characters but as soon as I started doing readings from this book everyone wanted to know what would happen to them next so I started thinking about a sequel. I might try it if I ever finish the book I'm writing now. It would be wonderful not to have to create the characters but just deal with the plot. Often the biggest part of making a book work is finding out who my characters are. Charlie took a lot of work. It was important to me that I knew everything about her mixed race background even if I didn't put it all in the book. And it was important to Nell's character that she was estranged from her father, etc. The paperback is just coming out now so I'm thinking about them all again, while trying to stay in contact with the new people I'm working on.

calypso Tue 27-Mar-12 21:55:54

Thanks for answering my question. Fingers crossed for a TV series - that would be great; Like This Life but with actors rather than lawyers. I have enjoyed lots of your novels and was tthinking how you often write about youth (Love Falls, Peerless Flats, Hideous Kinky) Do you find youth more interesting or fun to write about? Does it become more difficult to encapsulate youth as you get older?

EstherFreud Tue 27-Mar-12 21:56:08

Katn

Hi Esther! I was just wondering if you've been to the Lucien Freud exhibition yet - what did you make of it? How is it seeing your dad's work exhibited? Do you have a favourite painting?

It was very emotional going to the exhibition. I particularly love the painting of my sister and me lying on a sofa. We had such fun, the three of us, while he was painting that.

EstherFreud Tue 27-Mar-12 21:58:04

calypso

Thanks for answering my question. Fingers crossed for a TV series - that would be great; Like This Life but with actors rather than lawyers. I have enjoyed lots of your novels and was tthinking how you often write about youth (Love Falls, Peerless Flats, Hideous Kinky) Do you find youth more interesting or fun to write about? Does it become more difficult to encapsulate youth as you get older?

I still find writing about young people easier, even now. I find it much more of a challenge to write about anyone over 30, not sure why. Children are my favourite. In my current book I have a woman, about 35, and as a reward a boy of 11.

EstherFreud Tue 27-Mar-12 21:58:05

ProfCoxWouldGetIt

Finished my book on Friday morning, and I loved it - I'll definitely be looking for other books that Esther has written

I can't help but wonder if you deliberately left the ending of the book quite open so that we, the readers, made up our own endings for the different characters, as you can see we've already been doing.

I do wish Jemma had gone on to be famous, but managed to juggle her family life better than Dan did (I really did not like him at all), and eventually gacve the miserable sod the boot.

I found Charlies support of Nell at the end, really humbling, it was lovely to see that she had recognised what a great friend Nell had been.

I loved Nell's perserverence, even though she never made the 3rd year (at what sounds like a truely bizzare drama academy - was any of that based on real life) that she stuck with it and never felt a roll was beneath her when trying to make her way to the top.

Thanks for a fantastic book, I really struggled to put it down.

That's a wonderful thing to hear - I really struggled to put it down. That's the kind of comment that makes all those thousands of hours of hard work worth it. I love it so much when I feel like that about a book. But books are so personal. Some of my favourite books just don't have any connection for other people. Anyway, to answer some of your questions:
The Drama School I went to was quite bizarre. Looking back quite unbelievably cruel too. I don't think it would be allowed today, I hope not, but students were under constant threat of being thrown out and this made for a very tense atmosphere. I was in a year of 30 of which only 10 were kept for the third year. I wasn't one of them. It was devastating and I found writing about Nell's anguish very therapeutic. For months afterwards I used to have a recurring dream that they 'd made a mistake and actually meant to say that I could stay. But what I realised after six months or so was that I was better off out of there, in fact life out of education, aged 20, was great fun. By the end of the year, when my other friends were still doing method exercises I was playing an alien in Dr Who.

EstherFreud Tue 27-Mar-12 21:59:59

AlmaMartyr

I finished this last week and really enjoyed it although I found some of the characters quite unlikeable. I was so happy for Nell when she got the role.

It did make me wonder whether the big name actors are ever the talented ones or just the ones that get the lucky break. What does Esther think she obviously knows that world?

I wasn't sure if Charlie's makeover was genuine but I like to think so, she seemed much happier. I hadn't thought before about how just a short spell of bad skin could mess things up for an actor, unless that was just Charlie's neurosis. It made me feel quite sorry for her though.

The drama school seemed crazy and run by people who were pretty nasty at beat but it seemed to be quite prestigious. Since some of the people who stayed amounted to nothing and some of those that were kicked out were successful, it made me wonder if there's any point to going to a prestigious drama school or if they'd have been better off saving their money and jumping straight in?

Sorry my questions aren't terribly clever or articulate, exhausted after a weekend with sick DCs!

I think Nell's success is a bit of a Fairy Tale - although the amazing thing is anything can happen. When I was writing it I thought of how Kate Winslett was teased at school for being fat, and how she became such a star. But you do need talent, and luck too. But luck will only take you so far. Talent is a mysterious ingredient and there's nothing you can do if you don't have it as an actor. It's an odd watchable quality. But other things can influence the success of your career and they're often to do with looks. I had a friend who was sacked from a mini series after an outbreak of acne and told she'd never work again. She did. But it dented her confidence hugely.
As for going to drama school, it's a great opportunity to explore a range of parts, and there are lots of schools that are supportive and encouraging. My husband went to Rada and had a very good time.

EstherFreud Tue 27-Mar-12 22:01:35

southlondonlady

Hi Esther, I liked the book a lot. At the end it says that you interviewed lots of actors while you were writing it. Is pretty much everything in it based on a real person / situation?

There were so many things I already knew without having to research, stories I'd collected up over the years and funny things I'd heard, but I did need advice on what Nell would wear to a premiere for example and how Charlie learnt how to do Reiki. And yes, everything in this book is based on something that really happened. Sadly even the nasty encounter with the big director who assaults Nell.

We've run out of time - it has flown by and been a fantastic discussion. Thank you everyone for all your questions.

Esther, thank you so much for coming on tonight. You have given such detailed, personal and thoughtful answers. Please do write that sequel...and then come back to talk about it with us.

And meanwhile, we'll be keeping our eyes peeled for the TV/film version. As bigbadbarry said, it could be the British version of Fame...

Good luck with the next project, and congratulations again on a wonderful book.

EstherFreud Tue 27-Mar-12 22:03:18

EstherFreud

southlondonlady

Hi Esther, I liked the book a lot. At the end it says that you interviewed lots of actors while you were writing it. Is pretty much everything in it based on a real person / situation?

There were so many things I already knew without having to research, stories I'd collected up over the years and funny things I'd heard, but I did need advice on what Nell would wear to a premiere for example and how Charlie learnt how to do Reiki. And yes, everything in this book is based on something that really happened. Sadly even the nasty encounter with the big director who assaults Nell.

Bye everyone, thanks for some great questions.

EstherFreud Tue 27-Mar-12 22:04:21

TillyBookClub

We've run out of time - it has flown by and been a fantastic discussion. Thank you everyone for all your questions.

Esther, thank you so much for coming on tonight. You have given such detailed, personal and thoughtful answers. Please do write that sequel...and then come back to talk about it with us.

And meanwhile, we'll be keeping our eyes peeled for the TV/film version. As bigbadbarry said, it could be the British version of Fame...

Good luck with the next project, and congratulations again on a wonderful book.

It's been a pleasure. Thank you.

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