Enter Miss Manners!

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Today’s up date comes from Iman Sid. A British author with her debut novel, Miss Manners out on shelves worldwide now. Here she talks about the book, her writing and inspiration and much more.

Before I wrote MISS MANNERS, I thought about the new wave of MTV celebrity culture and how it celebrates stupidity, namely socialites like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. Mad Men actor, Jon Hamm, recently stated: “We’re at a place where the idea of being ‘elite’ is somehow considered a negative. Whether it’s Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian or whoever, stupidity is certainly celebrated.” Socialites are not just considered “stupid,” but rude and arrogant too. So I thought wouldn’t it be interesting to have a Ladette to Lady meets Britain’s Got Talent-style televised contest in search of the next headline-making IT girl. And that’s when I got the idea for MISS MANNERS.

I’ve always had a passion for writing for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first ‘book’ at the age of four called The Adventures of Oliver Onion, which I illustrated and stapled together into a little book then tried to sell to my parents. Although I realised it was back to front a few years later, I still felt very proud at the time. After winning my first award at the age of sixteen, I sidetracked into playwriting, producing Tapestry of Fear – a comedy about the tragedy of life – which I took to Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2008. Although it premiered to sell-out audiences and critical acclaim, I couldn’t help but feel restricted by the theatrical medium.

Based on the few terrible pastel-pink bonkbusters I’d read that were bestsellers, I’d developed a hatred for all things Chick Lit, dismissing them as poorly-written pulp fiction for the dim-witted readers. I couldn’t have been more wrong! My first real foray into the world of Chick Lit was after being given Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella for free in a Berwick Street second-hand bookshop back in 2009. It was well-written and very funny – and I loved it!

After falling in love with the genre, I soon discovered that most Chick Lit writers were highly educated women writing about real issues that affect women in their daily lives, namely gender politics and media capitalism. Initially, my switch to Chick Lit was inspired by spite and believing I could do better. But once I started writing, I soon realised just how difficult it actually was and developed a much higher respect for the genre throughout the writing process. When I was writing MISS MANNERS, I spent about six months planning it and six months writing it. A typical writing day would start at 9 a.m. where I’d set myself a challenge to write a certain amount of words per day (2000 – 5000 words per day). I started out thinking writing a Chick Lit novel was going to be a piece of cake based on the terrible books I’d read in the genre, so I started out writing organically. I didn’t really plan it out at all and just sort of went with the flow. Suffice to say it didn’t work and I hit several brick walls. I ended up procrastinating (internet, TV, random DVDs, copious amounts of tea, calorific snacking) and not really getting anything done. So, I decided to plan everything meticulously: plot, structure, characters, dialogue, style and endless topical research before I sat in front of the laptop again. I ended up with dozens of notebooks, A4 notepads, character sketches, storyboards and flow charts!

I guess I really got into writing because I’ve got two left feet, so any attempt to dance would probably cause serious injury. Secondly, I haven’t played the piano in years due to laziness. And thirdly whenever I attempt to paint, it’s almost always mistaken for a pre-school masterpiece. Therefore, writing was the only thing that I was ever remotely good at.

I am inspired by many writers… Paulo Coelho, Kahlil Gibran, José Saramago, Mitch Albom, Ernest Hemingway, Yann Martel, Michael Morpurgo, A.A. Milne, Samuel Beckett, Jean-Paul Sartre…I could go on, but we’d probably be here forever.

For me writing is the free-est form of expression, a blank canvas of possibilities. It gives a voice to the characters of your imagination that would otherwise never be heard. I feel as if I’m the mediator between two different worlds, translating the language of people in the world of fiction for the people in the world of non-fiction. I also think it gives you a sense of power and control to be able to create a whole new world and share it with others.

The response to MISS MANNERS on Authonomy, an online writing community set up by HarperCollins, has been absolutely amazing! It’s a wonderfully supportive community and everyone has been so helpful and complimentary, it’s given me much more confidence in myself and my writing ability! Yes, it’s a little strange that people other than my Mum have actually read my book, but it’s incredibly exciting too. Every time someone says they enjoyed reading it, it’s like a surprise birthday party!

You can read an extract from Iman Sid’s debut novel, MISS MANNERS, on Authonomy at http://www.authonomy.com/books/39355/miss-manners

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