I dream for a living.
It’s a strange job, but one of the many bonuses is that it gives you chance to try the things you’ve always wanted to do – mainly on the page, but occasionally in real life too.
The first dream to make it into a book goes back to when I was eight years old: my life’s ambition was to become a Brownie (preferably a Pixie, but I’d have settled for being a Sprite). But we lived in the Netherlands where cycling and skating were what kids did.
By the time we moved back to the UK, I was too old to become a Brownie, so I joined the Guides, which was a bit too serious for my liking. Plus, the Scouts always sniggered when I said I was a Swallow, and I couldn’t work out why…
But old dreams never fade away. A couple of decades later, I was chatting to a friend who had earned an armful of badges, and I began to wonder how those early skills might influence the adult you became. I imagined six former Brownies reuniting twenty years on – and of course, I had to write about them as girls, too. Soon, I was immersing myself in promise ceremonies, Hostess badges and camp fire songs. It was the closest a thirtysomething woman can get to being a Pixie.
After Brown Owl’s Guide to Life was published, I had loads of letters and realised I wasn’t the only one who sometimes dreams of the days when you could measure your achievement in fairy cakes.
The next dream is, frankly, all about vanity. I’ve always been curvy, and writing full time has made me curvier still, due to the proximity of the biscuit tin, and the little-recognised importance of Hobnobs to plotting.
And yet, I dream of being a beach babe. So… I decided to endure my worst nightmare to achieve my dream – by going on a week’s military-style fitness boot camp. With eight hours’ exercise a day, I’d be in dreamy shape. And while I was there, I’d research a novel about women doing the same thing.
It didn’t work. My dream body remains covered by a stubborn extra stone or two. I’ve always had a problem with bossy people, so after a week of being bossed about by buff ex-Army types, I returned in rebellious mood and hit the biscuit tin with new enthusiasm as I relived the experience writing The Boot Camp.
Never say never, though. I still dream of trim thighs, and there’s this new diet that is guaranteed to work…
I still have plenty of unfulfilled dreams to try out. So if you spot a new book about a plump writer who fronts a Commitments-style band in a spangly size-eight cocktail dress, you’ll know I’ve been living the dream again – with my head in the clouds and a biscuit tin within easy reach.
Kate’s book, The Boot Camp, is out now, published by Orion. Her website is kate-harrison.com