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Don’t give a monkey’s about Manolo Blahniks: Dale Tyler

By Sophie Erskine.

3:AM: I interviewed your colleague Roger Frederick six months ago about his interest in post-punk fiction – he gave some fascinating answers here. What’s your view on post punk literature – are you as down with it as Roger is?

DT: I’m a big fan of anything that breaks the norm, tests the boundaries, and dares to be a bit left field, edgy and rebellious. Most books follow an almost template-like formula, so much so that once you’ve read one you’ve read them all. The characters are predictable, dull and not even that likeable. It’s time that literature got a shake-up!

I’ve always hated the abundance of mainstream, Stepford-wives-style novels that grace every shelf of every bookshop you go in. There have been so many occasions when I’ve really fancied sitting down with a good book on a sunny day, going to the library or bookshop, and every book I’ve picked up is about some woman who strives to find Mr. Right ‘with hilarious consequences’. Which are, let’s face it, not so much as mildly amusing in truth. It’s the same with chick-flick movies. You can tell what’s going to happen from about five minutes in. Let me guess – she’s going to marry ‘the best friend that was under her nose all along’ and the film will end with either her wedding, or her pregnant or pushing a pushchair. I always end up buying some crime novel instead – not exactly light summer reading!

I’ve always struggled to identify with the characters in those sorts of books, too. Speaking to other women I know, they all agree that there are hardly any ‘novels for girls who don’t like chicklit’. They seem to have us all down as living to find a man, go shopping and drink whichever wine is fashionable at the time. Which I’m sure is what a lot of women are into, but not all of us. With Out Of The Picture, I’ve tried to create something for girls like me – who drink Coronas, and play pool, and have male friends, and don’t give a monkey’s about Manolo Blahniks!

3:AM: Tell me about your work Out Of The Picture. What inspired it?

DT: I was going through a difficult relationship at the time. My partner’s ex-girlfriend was hanging around too much for my liking. She came around to the house one day and was standing at the top of the stairs. I was talking to my friend on MSN and I said ‘I’d like to push the stupid fucking bitch down the stairs!’ And in that second the whole idea for the book just came to me. I realised how many girls there must be out there like me, who had some nightmare ex still hassling their boyfriend. How many of them could have got themselves into a heated situation in a fit of rage and ended up lashing out? Usually, in books, it’s the ‘other woman’ who is the bad guy who gets their comeuppance. In this book I wanted to portray it from the eyes of the new girl.

There are cameos for a lot of people close to me in this book – in fact, Rocco is based on my own best friend.

3:AM: You started writing to combat the non-existence of women’s literature that wasn’t about romance, weddings and babies. I totally agree with you there and actually feel physically sick (well…) when I think of the number of samey chick-lit novels that are out there. Do you feel that you’ve changed that situation in your own way? Or do you think the situation has gotten better on its own anyway?

DT: I don’t think the situation is getting any better. I just think that sort of crap sells. It fulfils a certain market, because there are loads of girls out there that love mainstream romance tatt. But there isn’t anything for the rest of us. I’m still buying blokes’ books. Last time I went for a summer read I came back with The Dice Man! I’m hoping that one day writers and publishers will start filling that void. Hey, maybe I’ll start the ball rolling!

3:AM: Hmm, I wonder. Do you think it is your freelance journalism for women’s magazines, or your novel-writing, that is more effective in creating a healthy literary space for women? Which form do you think is more suited to the task, and why?

DT: Although I probably shouldn’t say it, I still don’t think that a lot of magazines out there set a good example, particularly for younger girls. There are too many features about so-and-so getting fat, and too much emphasis on looks. I’d like to think that my characters, flawed as they are, will help girls learn to accept that fitting a certain stereotype isn’t the way to go.

3:AM: I’m interested in your own personal experience but also your opinion of the world in general (naturally!), so I’ll ask this question in a general way. What do you think are the biggest obstacles that women writers face today? Are they different from those that men face?

DT: I don’t think it’s any different for women. I think it’s just really hard to make publishers and agents sit up and take notice of anything that isn’t the usual formulaic nonsense. It’s a risk for them – sadly enough woman + shoes + Mr Right + Baby = big sales.

3:AM: 50p from every sale of your book No Big Deal was donated to Breast Cancer Awareness. I think that’s a bloomin’ fantastic idea and wish that literature was more generally linked to directly helping the lives of others. What motivated you to sell your work in that way? Was it based on your own personal life experience of cancer, or a more general altruistic desire?

DT: I always feel that giving something back is important. We could all be there one day. I’m a big believer in karma, too, so you should always give out as much good as you can.

Dale Tyler
pays the bills with freelance magazine writing and is studying to become a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist. She lived in France for two years, until the allure of KFC, decent conversation, and real proper pubs became too much and she returned to the homeland. Out of the Picture is her second novel. One too many formulaic chick-lit novels pushed her to decide that, if she wanted a job doing, she’d do it herself. She now wants the world to see that you don’t have to look like a librarian and wear tweed and elbow patches to be an author. Dale lists friends, family and being ‘a little bit rockstar’ as her biggest inspirations.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, July 13th, 2009.