It is our pleasure to introduce internationally bestselling author, Maggie Alderson, to AusRom Today.
Describe The Scent of You in one word:
We meet The Scent of You‘s main character, perfumer blogger Polly Masterson-Mackay, at a time where her life has suddenly become quite difficult—she’s gone from being happily married with two adult children, and a thriving business when her husband suddenly declares he’s taking time out from their marriage. What sparked this story idea for you?
I always find my characters – and then my story – by tearing pictures of people and places and animals out of magazines. I pull out loads and then I go through them choosing the ones that just seem to come to life.
I found a picture that said ‘the husband’ to me very strongly and then I found some others – a pair of chunky boots, a man standing alone in a house, a man’s torso in a rugged jumper – and they all fitted with the original man, bringing him to life. Ruggedly handsome sort of chap who’d be good at building a tree house for the kids, but read the paper with heavy specs on.
The only problem was that the man in the original picture looked really grumpy. I kept thinking I should look for another husband for her, but then I decided I would make him a grumpy man and that lead to the whole story.
I hesitate to say ‘Poor Polly’ but it does seem an awfully difficult situation to thrust Polly into straightaway! Did you consciously decide to give Polly a difficult base to work from as a means to challenging her character depth and direction throughout the novel?
I don’t do anything consciously – it all happens in my sub conscious, the big compost heap in the deep part of my brain which quietly works through everything I see, hear, read, smell, touch etc and then sends it again through my fingers and onto the computer screen. I think subconsciously, as I had decided to make her a perfume blogger, which is a pretty fluffy thing to do, I knew there needed to be some grit in her life, or she’d be a bit nauseating.
As Polly grapples with the changes that have been thrust upon her, she relies on a few new friends to keep her head above water. Enter an enthralling cast of characters who are equal measures eclectic, energetic, and wonderful. Do you draw on your background in the fashion industry when creating characters?
I have met amazing people in all walks of life. One of the great things about being a newspaper reporter, as I was on the Sydney Morning Herald and the London Evening Standard is the sheer variety of people you meet. There are a lot of wonderful nutters in fashion – and I probably drew on them more in my books which are set in that world, such as Handbags and Gladrags, but they’re everywhere if you keep your portals open. I met one of the funniest people I’ve ever encountered doing a vacation job when I was a student, filing medical records in a hospital. She was hilarious.
How does your background as a journalist, columnist, and editor of magazines such as British ELLE influence your fiction storytelling style?
Ooh, that’s an interesting one… I think having had a very rich life in those fields has given me a mountain of material to pull from.
That’s certainly where the glamourous element in my books come from. Doing those jobs I had experiences you’d have to be a gazillionaire to pay for yourself, like flying in private planes and staying in the best hotels in Paris and New York and I’ve been around a lot of very rich and very successful people.
Writing the Style Notes column for Good Weekend was what made me dare to try to write fiction. I had such wonderful freedom to play with writing in that column, both my editors there were amazing and the more fictional in feel it got the more people seemed to like it and that gave me the confidence to start writing my first novel. Up until then I’d been too scared to start.
The perfume theme of this book was drawn from helping my best friend out with her business The Perfume Society. I go to lots of amazing perfume events with her and write for their magazine, The Scented Letter.
What was your biggest challenge in writing The Scent of You?
Fitting it all in! It’s slightly longer than all my other books, because I’ve got so many different strands going on in this book it’s crazy and I do slightly wonder why I gave her two great professions – a yoga teacher and a perfume blogger – I could have used them in two different books.
But it just seemed right for Polly to have lots of dualties in her life. She’s go two jobs, she’s married but she’s not married, she’s a mum and looking after her mum… I didn’t plan it, but it seemed right for her as it came through.
I don’t plan anything. Apart from the bare outline – which is one issue I want to explore, what the heroine does for a living and where she lives – I just let the rest come along on its own and I go with whatever comes up.
I’m one of those people when I’m following a recipe, if it says ‘one teaspoon of ginger’ I always think two must be better.
What’s next for you?
A new novel! It’s nearly time to start going through some magazines looking for people… but before I do I need to travel somewhere I’ve never been before, which is one of the ways I stimulate my brain to start the process. I need to get some more stuff on that compost heap.
The Scent of You
Perfume blogger Polly is in crisis. Will her husband’s absence break her … or make her? A novel of perfumes, exploring life, love, loss and forgiveness – Maggie Alderson’s new bestseller.
Are you still married if you haven’t seen your husband for months?
Polly’s life is great. Her children are away at uni, her glamorous mother – still modelling at eighty-five – is happily settled in a retirement village, and her perfume blog is taking off. Then her husband announces he needs some space and promptly vanishes.
As Polly grapples with her bewildering situation, she clings to a few new friends to keep her going – Shirlee, the loudmouthed yoga student; Guy, the mysterious, infuriating and hugely talented perfumer; and Edward, an old flame from university.
And while she distracts herself with the heady world of luxury perfume, Polly knows she can’t keep reality at bay forever. Eventually she is forced to confront some difficult truths: about her husband, herself and who she really wants to be.
WIN one of two paperback copies of Maggie Alderson’s latest release, The Scent of You, thanks to HarperCollins Australia. Simply leave your name, postal address (so we can post you the book if you win) and your email contact below.
About the Author:
Maggie Alderson is the internationally best-selling author of nine novels, four collections of her newspaper columns and a children’s book, which was short-listed for the Prime Minister’s literary award.
Before becoming a full-time novelist she worked on magazines and newspapers. She was editor of British ELLE, Cleo and Mode. In newspapers, she has worked on the Evening Standard and the Sydney Morning Herald and was a columnist for The Times. Her Style Notes column ran in Good Weekend for 14 years.
After spending nearly ten joyous years in Sydney she moved back to the UK to be near her family and currently lives in the seaside town of Hastings south coast with her husband and daughter.