Guest Post by Jessica Ashley Dafoe, Author of The Tantalizing Tale of a Bitter Sweetheart

October 7, 2014

in Books

What Inspired Me to Write My Most Recent Novel, The Tantalizing Tale of a Bitter Sweetheart…
Half the difficulty most writers face in beginning a work, regardless of whether they intend it to be a novel, novella or short story, is finding the narrative voice for the story they wish to tell.  I have these same struggles and suppose that’s why it took me until this past year to finally publish my first novel, The Tantalizing Tale of a Bitter Sweetheart. Leading up to this year I have always been an avid writer of short stories (which I never sought to publish), articles and blogposts.  Although ideas were swirling in my mind for a women’s fiction novel, I just couldn’t find the perfect voice to carry it through.
Instead I chose to abandon the idea of writing a novel of fiction and sat down to try my hand at an autobiographical account of all of the experiences the metropolis of Toronto, Canada’s largest city, has thrown my way since moving here seven years ago. From dating falters and their hilarious and sometimes unwelcome outcomes to career hiccups and the hunt for gainful employment in a fast-paced concrete jungle, it’s been quite the rollercoaster ride. I knew I had a plethora of entertaining circumstances to recount in my writing. I pulled out my laptop and titled the work 101 Dates . I’m just going to add a bit of an aside here and let you all know that I don’t think the number is quite that high, but it sure feels like it’s an accurate estimation. To be honest the term ‘dates’ was used with a double entendre, including the typical date of companionship as well as dates on a calendar measuring the passing of time.  How very deep of me.
I began to attempt to unravel the myriad of circumstances in my head out onto the document in front of me. About two pages in I became aware that the voice of this supposed autobiography was beginning to waver to one that wasn’t even my own.  Fellow writers have always asked me whether I had ever experienced characters in my work taking on a life of their own. I quite honestly hadn’t until this point.  I now know exactly what they had been referring to.  My own experiences ignited the story but I found the narration straying and transforming into what resulted in my leading lady, Portia Delaney, hijacking my attempt at a humorous autobiography and taking it on a fictitious journey.
Once I noticed that my writing had in fact morphed into fiction, I ran with it and was over-joyed that the narrative voice I had been unable to find for so long had finally found me.  Portia’s characteristics and traits are definitely fictional, though some of her idiosyncrasies are most certainly loosely based on my own.  Her tale of setting out to make real her dream of becoming a force to be reckoned with in the fashion world while entangling herself in budding romances are also somewhat autobiographical. My career focus obviously has more to do with writing as opposed to fashion. However, our drive and determination are linked. Portia’s vivacious group of gal pals is also inspired by my own crew of besties that I have been so blessed to be surrounded by throughout my time in Toronto.
The tone of the novel is one of a humorous and frivolous nature. I intended it to be an identifiable story for the young, career-minded woman yet also one that was just a mite exaggerated to remind readers to have a laugh at the scenarios in life that all too often cause us stress and our hair to gray more rapidly.  Humorous fiction is what I generally am drawn to read, and also the genre that I most certainly prefer to write.
When it comes down to it, I now realize that the trick to writing is to actually WRITE. Just because you don’t have the perfect plan laid out in your head from start to finish does not mean that the plan won’t work itself out. Just put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard and write. I waited far too long to find the perfect voice for my novel. Once I abandoned the plan altogether and just went with my instinct to at least write something, what I was looking for came bounding into my mind and out onto my page, resulting in a novel that I am extremely proud of, The Tantalizing Tale of a Bitter Sweetheart.

Excerpt:

“Portia!! Portia!! Get up already! You’re about a zillion minutes late for your first day. Come on you lazy imp!”
Oh, I hate being torn out of a lovely slumber when I’m in the middle of the most wonderful dream; woken up by the horrendous bellowing of none other than my meddling, unbearable roommate, Minnie. The dream was perfection, and waking to a reality that can only be described as the exact opposite of perfection, is highly undesirable, yet this similar feeling each morning as I come to, has been my lot in life.
I slowly open one eye to see a familiar, thin, curly haired red head glaring at me from my bedroom doorway. I quickly shut it and feign being back in a deep sleep. Why oh why can’t I wake up to a dark haired, charming and handsome man as opposed to this?
“I saw that, Portia Delaney!” she sounds frustrated. “Not only are you late, but you’re making me late too, because I’m doing my duty as your friend and roommate to be sure that you don’t screw this one up! Now get on with it! Up, up, up!”
At this point she has found her way to the bottom of my bed and is now dragging me by my perfectly pedicured feet, because you never know when you may end up on a date with a gentleman who is won over by a well-cared for set of tootsies, (although I haven’t been on a date with a “gentleman” in over 6 months), and has just about gotten me to the point of full on bailing off the bed when I give in.
“OK! OK! You maniac! I’m up and I can be ready in 5 minutes flat, so get your skinny rear out of my room and let me get myself together. Thank you and please be on your way now.” I quickly jump to my feet after Minnie has unhanded them, and sternly guide her out into the hall slamming the door behind her. “Have a lovely day!” I manage to say in a sharp and clearly irritated voice.
Minnie is a workaholic, freakishly organized, highly paid executive at an ad agency. Why she still wants or needs a roommate is beyond me. I suppose it’s because work is her life and any ounce of energy she has, she wants to be poured into her career, not her home life or even love life for that matter. Minnie is the power-hungry career oriented woman who honestly, no word of a lie, could not give a damn whether she ever marries or has a family of her own. Sometimes I wish I had that mindset, because I, Portia Delaney, am ever hopelessly focused on finding that one soul mate
Now what? Dressed, yes I must choose an outfit for the first day at yet another mind-numbing, low paying office job at yet another medical office.  I really want to be styling the rich and famous, not to mention designing clothes that are intended to be strutted down the runways of Paris and Milan; not to be stuck in a dead end job that has me working for pompous and self- absorbed doctors, who get to drive off in their luxury cars and head home to their glamorous trophy wives not to mention who give absolutely no notice of the front desk help. Why didn’t I listen to my heart instead of my nagging parents?
Alright, outfit, yes outfit. Well this is the most inexcusable tidbit of all. I’m here selecting an outfit for a first day at a job where my only selection can be from an assortment of various coloured scrubs, when I want to be making a selection between Gucci and Versace.  Lavender it is, I suppose. With that disgruntled decision made, I reach for my terribly ordinary lavender scrubs, quickly pull them on, jet into the bathroom and whisk a brush through my hair while applying a pinch of foundation and blush. A bit of tinted lip gloss and a quick once over with the toothbrush and I’m set to go. Yes to go to my …well…bore of a career. Pay increase or not, just the thought of getting compensated to give up my dreams on a daily basis makes my stomach turn, and anxiety take over.
“But enough of this negativity Portia Delaney” I say out loud to my reflection in the hall mirror, “You are a successful, adorable, intelligent, creative and inspirational woman with amazing potential. For you nothing is impossible!” Ok, so do I actually believe this bunk… not a word. My shrink surely is trying to make me think I do, but let’s face it I’m at rock bottom with S.O.S. carved in the sand and flare guns blazing.
I suppose, however, there is nowhere to go but up.  Work is blah, love life is blah, family life is… well, is what it is. My friends are mostly amazing, but sometimes having great friends, who seem to have it all together, just help to highlight everything lacking in your own life. With that summation of my view on my life circumstance, I slip on my god awful, yet comfy crocs, grab my Mark Jacobs purse, because I must still demonstrate some good taste in my daily wardrobe, and strut out the door while working those lavender scrubs to the max.

Author Bio:

Jessica Ashley Dafoe resides in Toronto where she is an educator by day and a literary enthusiast and writer by night. She attained her BA in English Literature at The University of Ottawa and her B Ed at Brock and Queen’s University.

When Jessica does not have her nose in a book or is not scribbling out her ideas for her newest tantalizing tales, she’s most likely keeping busy trying out various exciting activities and delicious cuisine that the great city of Toronto has to offer or planning her next getaway to her immediate destination of choice. The traveling bug bites her often.

A romantic comedy addict to the core, she enjoys all things silly, frivolous and emotionally endearing which is the reason she writes stories that encompass all of these qualities.

Connect with Jessica!
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Buy the Book!

Successful, lucky in love, taking the world by storm?…..not quite. Portia Delaney is down on her luck, disgruntled in a dead end, mind- numbing career with little prospects and is not even close to finding a stimulating romance to take her mind off her lack-luster situation. Her defeatist attitude and unmistakable idiosyncrasies don’t help much either.

But with rock bottom comes a choice, lie down and enjoy the cold and barren ground beneath, or climb that ladder of success to the top. Portia finally sets out to do just that. With a fantastic group of friends and a bit of fateful circumstance on her side, she begins her trek up and out of the despair filled trenches. But Portia soon finds out that with success, often comes hardships and unwelcome competition.

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Lindsey Renuard is a blogger, YouTube beauty expert, and the Managing Editor of the Skiatook Journal.

{ 1 comment }

Samantha Janning October 7, 2014 at 8:46 am

Thanks for hosting!
Samantha Janning recently posted..The Fall of Our Secrets by Tracy Gardner Beno

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