After a traumatic schooling experience; being racially bullied, Anoushka Beazley left school with two GCSEs. She tells us how this inspired her debut novel The Good Enough Mother, which is now stocked in Waterstones and Foyles…
My parents were from Sri Lanka, came over in the fifties, first landing in Notting Hill which was not the suave leafy enclave it is today, so when my mother found out she was pregnant with me they decided to move to Surrey, a much more civilised place to raise a child. Which it was, if you were white. If you were Asian, not so much. I remember spending my formative years anxiously pulling up long socks because in my school my exposed brown flesh was like a red rag to a racist bull.
After four and a half years the bullying got the better of me and I left with only two GCSEs but a lot of material on not feeling good enough. With much to express and no science subjects to my name I unsurprisingly gravitated toward the arts. Who knows if all my choices would have led to the same end if I hadn’t have had the interventions I did along the way. Nevertheless, the arts gene was formidable and so began a journey through film research, to television presenting, into acting.
It is New Year’s Eve. I’m at a party with friends, substantially inebriated and I kid you not, as the clock edges toward midnight and the crowd becomes more excited, I can literally hear nothing but the sonorous chimes of my biological clock. This missive has arrived out of nowhere. Suffice to say, I have a new mission. I can’t tell you what the old one was but the new one is to have a baby.
Was my own mother good enough? Are perceptions of being good enough and not being good enough genetic?
Yes, there I said it. I was one of those women. I had not ever been remotely interested in kids, I’d never played mummies and daddies as a child, I hadn’t spent a second thinking about being a mother or wanting a baby and yet that night I received the message loud and clear. As did my then boyfriend of three years and no, he did not protest. Nine months later we have a little girl.
I decide to take a break from the acting before Hollywood calls offering me that lead role with Bradley Cooper and a year away from my newborn which I am loathe to take but… you know… I can get to know her later, can’t I? An MA in Creative Writing will occupy the creative juices, I think. I write two novels over seven years and have a great agent but still the dream of my book being on a shelf in Waterstones picked up to be read by a total stranger eludes me.
Then in 2012, my father passed away. Nothing can prepare you for how you might feel when you lose a parent, and it must be said Papa was not big on parenting in any conventional sense. He was an alcoholic, a depressive, a dreamer and a wonderful eccentric. He was also a fan, of me. He liked me and being liked by a parent is not always a given.
This is who I remember and who I miss and in the darkness that was to settle around me after his death I wrote The Good Enough Mother. A novel inspired by a childlike feeling of otherness, being the outsider and never good enough. Heightened by my own feelings toward motherhood; an emotionally overwhelming time which brought to the forefront my own story of being mothered. Was I disappointed by my experience? Was my own mother good enough? Are perceptions of being good enough and not being good enough genetic? And finally, fortified by a wider, more existential question.
With the loss of my father, of someone whose character I’d always been likened to, for good or for bad, was I good enough to be in the world? These were the predominant themes omnipresent when I wrote the book and though it poured out of me quite forcefully in many ways it had been slowly piecing itself together for years before any of the characters formally introduced themselves.
Self-publishing wasn’t a route I would have chosen in the beginning; like writing and motherhood I seemed to have been steered toward it via a process of elimination
My earlier rejections with my other novels led me to self-publish. More than anything I wanted to make the novel accessible so that if people wanted to read it, they could. Like with everything, I released my grip on my expectations and got what I wanted after that. I pounded the streets with my three kids and a suitcase full of books and went door to door to all the bookshops pitching The Good Enough Mother.
Writing and publishing your own book is one thing but marketing and distributing it yourself is another. Self-publishing wasn’t a route I would have chosen in the beginning; like writing and motherhood I seemed to have been steered toward it via a process of elimination from everything else but the book started to become successful when people started reading it and that’s what it’s all about.
After Waterstones and Daunt Books took it on so did Foyles and other independents. There were appearances at Chiswick Book Festival, Archway Literary Festival, features in The Bookseller, and many more articles and reviews, all on my website www.anoushkabeazley.com. I am currently working on my next novel.