Guest Post | “How I Came to Write ‘Meeting Lydia'” by Linda MacDonald whilst talking about bullying, internet relationships & midlife

Posted Monday, 13 February, 2017 by jorielov , , 0 Comments

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Hallo, dear hearts! To be perfectly fair – when it came time to start to host ‘Meeting Lydia’, I had completely forgotten I had signed on to host a guest (author) feature, until of course, the day arrived where my particular guest feature was arriving by email! This intriguingly current topical essay landed in my Inbox, much to my chagrin – as how was it possible I was receiving a guest feature, I honestly had no memory of sending off to be responded too? I must confess – somewhere between November and now, my memories are a bit ‘altered’ by circumstance(s).

Quite pleasantly, as I was reading over the proof of the draft sent to me, I noticed the author touched on some key cornerstones of not only her life but the life of Lydia, her lead protagonist. I did not quite agree with some of the sentiments shared as being someone who was bullied in school and outside of it, I had different takeaways – for instance, I came out of being bullied a bit differently. If anything part of what inspired me forward to graduating as early as I could was to be free of the confines of school, where in effect bullies can thrive because it’s a ‘closed shoppe’ of situations limited in scope to the school grounds. It’s much easier to ‘walk away’ when you have freedom of movement and accessibility of exit options. I never felt due to being bullied, I was ‘less than’ my peers – if anything, the words stung, the assaults on my character hurt my soul (how could they not?) but throughout the bad days, I had two wicked fierce supporters in my corner: my Mum and Dad. They picked me up when life dragged me into the gutters of emotional anguish and angst – they gave me a renewed sense of self and they helped me dodge my worst aggressors by changing schools or districts. In essence, they were my advocates before I gained the strength to voice my own advocacy and stand up for the rights I knew were innate and inherent to all.

Each of us who is bullied has a different response mechanism and each of us is bullied in different ways. I still have moments where bullies find me and try to find a way to erode my serenity… even online, you will find bullies who seek to destroy you (as I have found since being a book blogger and tweeter); however, the key is always to strive to live your own personal truth, own your truth and not to let others change your perspective on who you are nor the worth you have within you to share to the world. I can only hope those who are bullied can find strength in their selves as I have over the years, and may they have a blessed supportive network of friends and/or family such as I have as well.

As a side note, I was one of the first girls who integrated into an all-boys secondary school – it turnt out to be the best year of my life, because the boys and I respected each other to the degree of learning more during our 6th Year than any year which came after it straight through high school graduation. I realise this might sound unique – but for me, the co-ed classrooms were in their infancy and due to the gradual way in which girls’ were being added to the student body, allowed us a bit more flexibility to find our wings to fit in with our peers. It wasn’t without it’s hurdles, mind you, as it was a large campus and entertained seven different grade levels – however, for my own personal sphere and grade, it was heaven. I felt bad when I learnt of the author’s own experiences – as apparently, the school she attended was going through more growing pains with the transitional period than my own.

Also, I never heard of ‘bullying’ being a rite of passage – if anything, it was the unspoken, often ‘unaddressed’ behaviour of childhood. Similar to learning difficulties being cast aside for the attempt to mainstream children without addressing their individual learning needs and/or help them learn at a pace which befitted their own intellectual abilities. The old standby of ‘one method of learning’ for everyone never sat well with me. I find it heart-warming and remarkable, the author found a cathartic self-ending resolution to her years being bullied – to turn inward and outward within the vein of writing a novel had to be quite remarkable seeing the words light up the pages – turning personal strife into a release of positive energy to touch other lives and tell a portion of her own story in the process. Writers are fuelled by personal experiences, memories and the internalisation of everything we can breathe through our souls whilst we live our lives – to find a way to use transformative narrative to set a back-story for a character is writerly bliss – especially if it taps into something a lot of people can relate too, even if circumstances differ – we can all be empathic to the shared reality.

I hadn’t realised the story-line was going to delve into bullying – as at the time I signed on for the tour, I was focusing on the two other aspects of it’s narrative: midlife, second chance romance and the hormonal changes a woman goes through during menopause. Mostly as I grew up watching “The Golden Girls”, ached to watch “Maude”, cheered for Diane Lane in “Under the Tuscan Sun” and “Must Love Dogs” and have found mid-life stories and second chance romances of characters past thirty-ten to be some of my most beloved finds as both a reader and a film appreciator. Not everyone has the chance to meet their true love or find their true happiness in both life or life at a younger age where longevity in marriage might feel either daunting or an exciting adventure. 

To have the story layered through strife and self-esteem issues is an interesting angle to dissect. I also appreciated the author taking the lead on this essay and giving me a though-provoking ‘start’ to share with everyone following the blog tour. I look forward to your comments in the threads below – especially if you can relate to the topic today and/or are interested in listening/reading the story. If you’ve already read the story, I’d be keen to know your reactions to the author’s guest post. Due return in a few short days, as I’ll be revealling my own impressions on how ‘Meeting Lydia’ resonated with me. Until then, brew a cuppa and enjoy the author’s revelations about how she approached writing this novel.
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Meeting Lydia by Linda Macdonald

Edward Harvey. Even thinking his name made her tingle with half-remembered childlike giddiness. Edward Harvey, the only one from Brocklebank to whom she might write if she found him.”

Marianne Hayward, teacher of psychology and compulsive analyser of the human condition, is hormonally unhinged. The first seven years of her education were spent at a boys’ prep school, Brocklebank Hall, where she was relentlessly bullied. From the start, she was weak and frightened and easy prey for Barnaby Sproat and his gang. Only one boy was never horrible to her: the clever and enigmatic Edward Harvey, on whom she developed her first crush.

Now 46, when Marianne finds her charming husband in the kitchen talking to the glamorous Charmaine, her childhood insecurities resurface and their once-happy marriage begins to slide. Teenage daughter Holly persuades her to join Friends Reunited, which results in both fearful and nostalgic memories of prep school as Marianne wonders what has become of the bullies and of Edward Harvey. Frantic to repair her marriage, yet rendered snappy and temperamental by her plummeting hormones, her attempts towards reconciliation fail. The answer to all her problems could lie in finding Edward again… But what would happen if she found what she seeks?

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School Bullying, Internet Relationships and Midlife Love

How I came to write Meeting Lydia

Guest post by Linda MacDonald

When I was 5 years old and living on the edge of England’s Lake District, my parents sent me as a day girl to a boys’ private boarding school. They thought it would be less rough than the local elementary. They were wrong. Girls were scattered thinly throughout the school and from the age of 9 to 10, I was the only girl in the class. I was bullied. It was the usual stuff: name-calling, stealing equipment, being left out. No single incident was what you might call ‘serious’, but it happened every day. And if someone makes fun of you often enough, you begin to believe it.

In the past bullying was accepted as a rite of passage, even ‘character building’. But does it really help children to cope better as adults? The Kidscape children’s charity thinks not. In a survey of 1000 adults, they found early bullying experiences often led to a lack of self esteem. Some reported depression, shyness, and less likelihood of success in education, the workplace or in social relationships. Most said they felt bitter and angry about their experiences.

For me, I knew it affected me well into later life, and through a hazy curtain there was always a whispering that I should write a novel with a bullying theme. The problem was, I didn’t have a plot and it wasn’t until 2001 – way into my midlife – that an idea struck.

Friends Reunited was hitting the headlines. It was the first of the major social networking sites and there were hundreds of exciting stories of people getting in touch with old classmates. In the class where I was the only girl, there was one boy who was never horrible to me. He was very clever and enigmatic and somehow different from the others. And he was the only boy I would write too – if I could find him.

It was some weeks before I saw his name on the site and I sent a tentative email. I was delighted when he wrote straight back and over the next three weeks we exchanged lots of emails – mostly about the past. He empathised with my situation, but also reminded me of the good times.

And in that short time-span of email exchanges, something strange happened. I realised the baggage I’d been carrying around for most of my life had gone. It was like a miracle, but I suppose revisiting the past had been like therapy. An idea began to form for the novel. I thought, if I spice up the reality, perhaps create an ‘only girl in a class who has a crush on such a boy’ then it would give potential for a much more interesting story if they met via the internet in later life.

So Meeting Lydia came into being and although the children in the story are very much inspired by my own experiences, the adults and their lives are fictional.

Email Relationships

In addition to the bullying theme, I wanted to explore the psychology of internet relationships. I thought this would be of interest to readers and also form the backbone of a plot. Before social networking, it was most unlikely we would have contacted someone we hardly knew by phone or letter and it certainly wasn’t the thing to phone or write to an ex. Suddenly, this became legitimate and without thinking of the consequences, many people began email relationships with people from the past. And soon after, another wave of stories became big news: stories of broken marriages and heartbreak.

If our existing partnership has lost its excitement, finding a lost love can be thrilling. According to Dr. Nancy Kalish, we are often imprinted on the first person we fall in love with and getting together later in life can start things off again. We reminisce, we remember the laughter, the awakening of passion, and email may stray into flirting. Any confirmation that we are still attractive and desirable is extremely powerful and can be addictive, providing an escape from our dull midlife world. We might suggest meeting. This may of course burst the bubbles because emails present an artificial view of the real person and are an unreliable indicator of whether we would really get on. But if the old flame is rekindled, where do we go next?

Some rekindled relationships are successful and if the individuals involved are single, separated or bereaved, then this is wonderful. But the flip side is of broken relationships that were otherwise steady and heartbreak for partners and children. Sometimes these newly kindled affairs are wonderful in the short term but once the magic of love has worn off and real life sets in, they break down – often for the same reasons as they did in the first place.

In situations of no previously existing romantic relationship, mailing and even meeting carries less risk, but is not risk free. Flirting can still start by email or during a meeting, and even if there is no threat of attraction or infidelity, problems can occur because partners feel excluded and can feel threatened or jealous.

Nancy Kalish warns that if contacting old lovers, ‘Don’t do lunch.’ I would add to that, be very careful if in an email relationship with anyone else.

About Linda MacDonald

Linda Macdonald

Born and brought up in the town of Cockermouth in the Lake District in England, Linda MacDonald has a degree in psychology from Goldsmiths’, London University, and a PGCE in biology and science. She retired in 2012 from teaching psychology in a 6th Form College in order to focus on writing, and has now published three print novels, the first of which is now an audiobook. She lives in Beckenham in Greater London, and travels to speak to various groups about the inspiration behind the ‘Lydia’ series and the psychology of internet relationships.

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 This blog tour is courtesy of Audiobookworm Promotions:

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Monday, 13 February, 2017 by jorielov in 21st Century, Audiobook, Audiobookworm Promotions, Author Guest Post (their topic), Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Dating & Humour Therein, Indie Author, Modern Day, Realistic Fiction, Sociology, Women's Fiction

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