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Writer Wednesday: Mary Roulston

Mary Roulston (nee Byass) was born in Yorkshire in 1976. After an unremarkable but deliriously happy rural childhood riding ponies, she went to Aberdeen University and perfected the art of sliding down banister rails under the influence of alcohol.

After miraculously graduating and emerging unscathed the bright lights of London and all its banisters beckoned. There she met up-and-coming celebrity Lou Young. Mary's experiences with Lou are documented in her book Twinkle, Twinkle...

She then packed her suitcase and set off for a gap year in Madrid returning to the UK ten years later with a husband, a dog and a baby daughter. Having taught English in Spain and enjoyed a brief foray into publishing, courtesy of an English language newspaper she and her husband and other friends set up, editorial work for Macmillan Education was a natural progression.

All the notes, news clipping and recordings she had garnered whilst shadowing Lou Young were written up between teaching classes in the early noughties and typed up a few years later. Thanks to the serendipitous combination of more time on her hands (thanks to maternity leave) and Lou Young becoming too skint to sue this hilarious warts and all memoir, Twinkle, Twinkle... is finally available.

Mary lives in Oxford with her husband, daughters and dog.


1. Why did you want to become a writer?
It’s really hard to pinpoint as it wasn’t a childhood ambition (I wanted to be an Olympic gold medal winning horse rider!). There are probably two things that contributed to me wanting to become a writer; the first was meeting my future husband. He was a journalist and so I started thinking of a career in writing. The second thing was a beautiful ruined house I walked past on my way to work when I lived in Malaga. It was the height of the Bridget Jones phenomenon and I thought that if I could write a book I’d be able to afford the house and do it up... *rueful chuckle*

2. What's the toughest part of the writing process for you?
Getting started. There’s a quote by Gertrude Stein (I think) likening writing to plunging into icy water: so hard to get into, but once you’re in and swimming around, it’s a great feeling of happiness and achievement. 

3. What's the most enjoyable part of writing?
Editing. I love it when everything you want to say is down and there to embellish and cut as you wish. It probably helps that I’m an editor in my day job as well. It’s also very gratifying as a writer of humour to still laugh at a sentence or passage even when I’ve read it a gazillion times before.

4. Out of all the amazing books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why?
That’s hard as I love so many books for so many different reasons. I wish I had written any travelogue by Michael Palin as it would have meant that I would have done that incredible journey. 

In terms of fiction, I wish I had written Bridget Jones’s Diary as it’s so funny and took the “chick lit” genre into a whole new level. (And it’s made huge amounts of money…)

5. If you could only save one of your characters from fictional calamity, who would you pick and why?
I’d let them all drown. Every last one of them. No, I think I would have to save Jim as a lot of him is based on my husband.

6. If you could spend the day with your favourite character (not from your books), who would you spend it with and what would you do?
I would spend it with Jane Austin’s eponymous Emma. We would pass an enjoyable day verbally sparring (flirting) with Mr Knightly and an evening at a dance verbally sparring (flirting) with Mr Knightly and drinking potent fruit punch. In fact, sod Emma; just Mr Knightly and me!

7. What can we expect next from you?
There are exciting times ahead as I’m about to leave my job in publishing to work freelance. Even though I’ll be mainly taking on editorial work, it will give me more time to write. I’m thinking about writing something from the point of view of one of the other Twinkle, Twinkle… characters, so Lou Young would still feature but not be as central.

8. Is there any particular writing advice you wish you'd been given at the start of your writing career? If so, what is it? If not, what advice would you give to someone starting out?
Be patient and, if you’re even slightly unsure of grammar and punctuation, get someone else to edit it. And then swallow your pride and plug away at the promo.

9. Tell us what a typical writing day involves for you.
Email, Twitter, Facebook, Twitter, write, email, make cup of tea, Twitter, write, Facebook, Twitter, email, write… ad infinitum.

Actually when I was writing Twinkle, Twinkle…, it was so long ago that there were none of those distractions (well, maybe email and cups of tea – I’m not that old!). I wrote the first draft long-hand between teaching classes of English. 

10. Finally, what are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading Oh Dear Sylvia by Dawn French as I heard her talking about it on the radio and it sounded an interesting premise. I’ve also started a book on my Kindle called Sealed With A Kiss by Rachel Lucas, which I downloaded out of curiosity for other “indie” books out there. I love it so far as I really like the fish-out-of-water concept surrounding a small island community.

Thanks, Mary!

About Twinkle, Twinkle... 

Cast your mind back to a time before reality TV; when celebrity reality and scripted reality were barely a twinkle in a lazy commissioner's eye. A time where the gossip magazines had to fill their pages with real celebrities like page three girls, the "sexy girl" from TFI Friday, Rod Stewert's girlfriend and, of course, TV presenters.

Welcome to the early Noughties where we meet Lou Young honing her "craft" presenting a Saturday morning kids' show. During a brief spell, Lou dominated the pages of magazines and gossip columns thanks to her romances, nocturnal antics and controversy, also bouyed along by the fact she tipped the press off whenever she so much as blew her nose.


During this time Lou employed me to write her autobiography (oxymoron? You've not read anything yet!). I had an access all area pass to her showbiz life and she did not disappoint. Now finally able to publish all the juicy details (she's bankrupt so can't afford to sue), I give to you this warts and all account of my year observing the implosion of a little star. 


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