Big society: Surrey novelist

Round & About

society game

Shamley Green pilot-turned-author Heather Lanfermeijer explains more about how her experiences of motherhood led her to write her debut novel The Society Game.

My daughter suffered the onset of the “terrible twos” before she was one. Although, perhaps a better way of putting it is: I suffered my daughter’s terrible twos earlier than I expected.

To remedy this my mother suggested I take up knitting, my friends suggested I take up drinking. I don’t have the patience for knitting and I’m too vain to drink the amount of calorific wine needed to drown out tantrums. Instead I vented my frustration on paper on the odd occasion when my beloved was quiet.

Writing down my bugbears about exploding dirty nappies, supermarket screaming and continual sterilising of baby bottles was cathartic and helped me face another day and another tantrum. These baby annoyances merged into writing about other daily grievances; dog walkers’ inability to pick up their dog’s mess, the bollards my car keeps backing into (I swear they weren’t there when I got in the car). From there, my frustrations morphed into things that really irritate me about aspects of our society and thus began my book.

I used to live in an area along the A3 full of million-pound mock-Georgian houses with new supercars on display in the driveways. To my jealous eye, the women who lived here enjoyed blissful, carefree days with only the odd First World problem to bother them, such as: “the cleaner has dusted my pictures and left them wonky and I now have to straighten them before I go out!” (genuine conversation!). Over the years, I noticed a pattern emerging: between the ages of 30 and 40 these beautiful ladies seemed to me to spend their days in coffee shops with their baby (always) asleep in the pram. From 40 to 50 there were no children only coffee but they looked strangely younger than their previous 30-something self. By 50, the Botox and fillers left these women with a mannequin face I could no longer relate to. And sadly, coffee is replaced with Prosecco from wine bars as they fight to find husband number two (or three).

Possibly a cruel summation but it occurred to me that our society favours a beautiful façade over a happy marriage. So, the social defect explored in Olivia, is about our generation’s obsession with how we look as we are led to believe success is not just about keeping up with the Joneses but now keeping up with the Kardashians.

Olivia is based around true stories collected over the years from friends’ tales, stranger tales and pub tales. The book is moulded into one story based on my perception of our society. For those intrigued then maybe check out my website I write a weekly blog including excerpts from this and future books where I invite debate as I assume some may disagree with my view but that’s OK; art is just another person’s perspective on life and Olivia is my art.

  The Society Game, by H. Lanfermeijer, is out now.