On writing The Godmother
I wrote ‘The Godmother’ over twenty-five years ago, back in distant pre-digital days when people used fax machines instead of sending emails, and ‘mobile’ phones were cumbersome office gadgets used by the rare few. It was my fifth novel and I was in my mid-thirties, raising two very young children between finding time to write.
I picked advertising as the career for my heroine, Rachel, because it was the industry I had gone into after leaving university and therefore a world with which I was familiar. I had found it a fun and well-paid career, but also hugely stressful, mostly from being – like all workspaces then – a male dominated world. I loved being able to create my single, feisty, capable heroine, Rachel Elliot and plant her in the middle of it, ready to take on all challenges, giving as good as she got – or at least doing her best to. ‘What Rachel Elliot wants, Rachel Elliot gets’, as an envious friend remarks at one point; which is what Rachel believes of herself, until life – reality – starts to get the better of her.
It is a curious business re-reading something you wrote a quarter of a century ago – a bit like meeting a person you once knew, of whom you feel inordinately fond, while seeing all their flaws! What struck me most on returning to ‘The Godmother’ however, was the fact that all the difficulties – some of them deeply disturbing – that Rachel has to grapple with, at work, in relationships and in society at large, have not really changed. That pressure on women not to cause a fuss, not to assert themselves, while still being multi-tasking domestic/work goddesses – sadly, it’s a battle still being fought. Indeed, Rachel Elliot, in many ways, was ahead of her time. She takes some dire wrong turns, but she is fearless and true to herself – which is what we are all aiming for in the end.