2013 has been a year of living dangerously. Well, if not living dangerously exactly, then a year of challenging myself.
It all started last November, when I began writing my novel The Dare Club, which is to be published later this month. The Dare Club is about a group of four very different people, who meet on a course for the newly divorced and separated. At first they don’t all get on, but as the group begins to gel, they decide to challenge each other to do scary things as part of their recovery process. It was easy for me to use my imagination to write about some of these activities – gate-crashing a stranger’s party, for example. But other things needed to be researched – and not just by using Google. They had to feel authentic, and for that, I needed to experience them myself.
First off, was the Tree Top Challenge at Go Ape in Thetford Forest. For those of you who don’t know, this is a kind of assault course undertaken several metres off the ground. It’s absolutely the type of thing I wouldn’t normally dream of doing. Why would I? I was a wimp at PE at school, I’m not in the habit of going to the gym, and what’s more, I’m very happy on the ground, thank you very much! However, my characters had decided this would be an excellent challenge for them, and I knew it would be an effective way to show not only their individual characters, but also the relationships between them all. So, Go Ape it was.
My highlights of the day included: walking from one moving piece of wood to another piece of moving wood, twenty times over high up in the sky. Dragging inelegantly along on my behind through wood chippings, at the end of the longest zip wire in the history of zip wires. Leaping from a platform towards a Tarzan net and plummeting towards what felt like my certain death. Oh, and then discovering that it actually took a great deal of upper body strength to climb up the net to the next platform – strength I wasn’t 100% sure I had… All ridiculous activities for non-sporty, skinny me. But after I’d finished the course, and hadn’t chickened out at anything, I felt AMAZING. So, thank you, The Dare Club characters – I would never have tried it without you.
Another thing I probably would never have tried without them was stand-up comedy. Colette, one of my characters, was determined to give it a go, so I had to as well. Like her, I did a weekend stand-up comedy course in London, and like her, I returned later to give a three-minute performance at the Up The Creek Comedy Club in Greenwich. It was very scary, but fantastic! People actually laughed, and in the right way too. Did it go as well for Colette? Ah, that would be telling…
By now, I had developed a taste for doing scary things, so recently, I volunteered to be a model in a charity fashion show. The event was a sell-out, with hundreds of women eager for a taste of the clothes they might want to buy. With our hair and make-up done and our outfits chosen for us by Sarah Morgan, the image consultant organiser, we took it in turns to launch ourselves out into the crowd. Walk, smile, count to seven; don’t forget the people in the gallery. More smiles; walk again, repeat three times. I didn’t fall over, my smile wasn’t too wobbly, and I was introduced as Margaret K Johnson, a famous writer. OK, that was a bit of an exaggeration, but I could hardely cry out, “Sarah, you’re exaggerating!” could I? I was busy modelling.
So, what’s next? Well, later this month, a friend and I are going to give Norwich Speaker’s Club a try… Oooh, help!
The Dare Club will be published later this month.
Margaret’s previous novel, The Goddess Workshop is available now from Amazon for download and in paperback.
Link to see Margaret performing at Up the Creek Comedy Club in Greenwich: Youtube
Facebook Page: Margaret K Johnson Author