A Responsible Forty Year Old


‘Jane admitted, ‘I drank too much wine last night … I know not how else to account for the shaking of my hand today.’ 

Lucy Worsley, Jane Austen at Home


9th October 1999

The phone started ringing and Lisa’s head gingerly ventured out from under the covers, blinking her eyes open in the gloaming.  There had been mornings like this before, since acquiring her love of wine, when her first waking thought was never, ever again.  She flung out her hand to grab the phone and silence its intense ear-splitting brrring, brrring and knocked over the full glass of water on her bedside table.

‘Oh, God!  Call yourself a responsible forty-year-old?  Hello!’

‘Morning, how are you?’ Adele’s breathy whisper was barely audible.

‘Well… let’s put like this… thank God today is Saturday and I don’t have to go anywhere… for two days.’

‘I’m not going to be up for very much today either. Thank goodness we only turn forty once.  I don’t remember feeling this bad since the day after your twenty-first birthday.  I’m going to be spending a decadent day in bed watching my Cold Feet videos.  I have to say the highlight of the evening was you quoting from your book.’

‘My what?’

‘Your book!  I honestly haven’t seen you so pumped about anything for a long time.’

‘Oh… did I… was I?’

‘You certainly did.’

‘Who did I tell?’



‘Well, to be fair, it is a very small restaurant, it’s very easy to hear what your neighbours are saying.  Mario put his name down for a copy along with tables, 10, 8, 5 and 2, I think. Tables 10 and 12, said they would definitely be your Gloucestershire book signing!’

‘Oh… my… God… I can see the headlines in the Standard now, forty-year-old Cirencester piss pot writes book and I suppose I told everybody in my best Elizabeth Goldsworthy-Grant-Foghorn-Leghorn voice?’

‘You did… you were very funny actually, you got a round of applause for regaling a scene about your mother’s attempts to marry you off to The Right Honourable Digby Dashwater!’

‘Oh, shit.  As long as I didn’t refer to him by his real name… he only lives in Bibury. You should have shut me up!’

‘Shut you up?  When you’re in alcohol-induced-full-flow mode? That’s impossible.  Anyway, I’m really excited about the book and it’s such a great title.  They Always Look At The Mother First.

Mmm… I thought it might be a bit wordy.’

‘No, I love it! Inspired or what? You really couldn’t make up a character like your mother, the Ice Queen. She reminds me of Cercie Lannister in that great George RR Martin book you bought me for my birthday.’

The Game of Thrones… mmm, she was a one, Cercie… narcissist and sociopath.’

‘What is it they say about truth being stranger than fiction? That would be your mother. Anyway… it was a really good evening, everybody enjoyed it and it was great to see you so upbeat about life again.  I’m sure you’ll find a publisher for it.’

‘I wish I had your faith.’

‘I assume I’m mentioned in despatches?  What have you called me?’

‘You’ll just have to wait and see.’

Lisa staggered downstairs to make a cup of coffee before sitting at her desk.  She hadn’t checked her emails before going out and sat listening to the Dell noisily connecting to the Internet.

FROM: Darla, Sweeting – Poleax Publishing

SUBJECT: They Always Look at the Mother First

Dear Lisa 

Thank you for sending us your novel, They Always Look at the Mother First, which we read with interest.

You establish a pleasingly light and incredibly readable tone in the opening.  Your description of Cynthia Everett-Clifford’s daughter, Katie, and the way she sees the world already marks her out as a character the reader will want to invest in. 

From reading the synopsis, it does sound like there is a lot going on, and it’s worth making sure that characters are properly developed in order for readers to identify with them, especially as the situations they find themselves in become more complex.

Make sure you amuse, rather than bludgeon the reader with witty lines – less is definitely more when it comes to comic writing. I also wondered whether the title is might be a bit on-the-nose?  Otherwise this is a good beginning, but unfortunately not what we at Poleax Publishing are looking for at this time. 

Best of luck with your writing.

Kind regards

Darla Sweeting MA

‘Knockback number six. Only six more potential it’s a no from us to hear back from and then I’ll start the process again.’


Thank you very much for visiting my niche-less blog! If you have time before you leave, would love you to tell us what you think. All the best, Tessa Barrie

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