‘A very funny novel that soap fans will love’ – Woman’s Own
Another novel about the acting world! Kiss and Tell started life as a sequel to Waiting in the Wings. But then Jo, a harassed single mum, appeared out of nowhere and suddenly it became her story. The soap background came from my day job, ie writing features for tv magazines. Having interviewed hundreds of soap stars, I have to say that what goes on when the cameras stop rolling is almost as fascinating as what goes on in front of them! Some readers have suggested that the characters in Kiss and Tell are based on real people. They might think that but I couldn’t possibly comment…
Jo is an actress on the country’s most popular soap, Westfield. It’s a far cry from her West End ambitions, but as a single mother to two young daughters she needs a steady income.
Then the ratings start to drop, and the infamous producer Richard Black, known as the Grim Reaper for his habit of killing characters off, is brought in to reverse Westfield’s fortunes. No one is happy about it, and when Jo fails to create quite the impression she had hoped for, she’s sure her days on the show are numbered…
‘You may kiss the bride.’
Jo smiled up at her new husband as he lifted her veil and lowered his head to kiss her. As their lips touched, a hush fell over the congregation, broken only by the sound of her mother’s sobbing.
Then, suddenly, the doors at the back of the church creaked open and a woman stood there, silhouetted against a shaft of light. All heads turned to follow the elegant blonde as she stalked up the aisle towards them, her high heels clicking on the flagstones, her face hidden by her sweeping Philip Treacy brim.
‘What the – who is she?’ Jo turned to glance at the man at her side. He looked as if he’d been turned to stone. ‘Steve?’
‘Well, Steve? Aren’t you going to tell her who I am?’ the woman turned to Jo, her smile mocking. ‘Perhaps I’d better introduce myself. I’m – ’
‘Cut. Sorry, everyone, the boom was in shot. Can we go again?’
A groan went up from the congregation. All eyes turned accusingly to the man on the other end of the long pole holding the furry boom mike, who looked sheepish.
‘Shit,’ the blonde muttered. ‘That’s the first time I remembered my lines.’ She turned and stalked back up the aisle, slamming the heavy door behind her.
‘Right, if we could just go back to the kiss?’ the first assistant director was silent for a moment, listening to the director’s instructions on his headphones.
This time it went without a hitch. As the first assistant director called cut there was a collective sigh of relief and everyone started talking at once.
The vicar disappeared behind the choir stalls for a cigarette, a make-up girl arrived to touch up the mystery woman’s lipstick, and the actress playing Jo’s mother retrieved her copy of The Guardian from under the pew. As the grips moved in to position the heavy grey camera for the next shot, Jo turned to her husband of three minutes.
‘If you ever,’ she hissed, ‘ever try to stick your tongue down my throat again, I’ll knee you so hard in the balls you’ll be singing soprano. Is that clear?’
Brett Michaels leered. ‘You don’t know what you’re missing, love. I’ve never had any complaints before.’ His muscles bulged inside his morning suit. As macho Steve Stagg, he was Westfield’s resident sex symbol. Millions of women tuned in twice a week just to see him looking sweaty and wearing a vest. He was square-jawed, brutishly handsome and the most obnoxious man on TV.
‘Really?’ Jo smiled sweetly. ‘That’s not what I read in The News of the World.’
That got him. He was still recovering from the Sunday tabloid revelations of his latest conquest, a wannabe glamour model called Linzi he’d picked up during a personal appearance at a Leeds nightclub. According to her, his ego was the only enormous thing about him.
There was a break while the cameraman set up the next scene. Jo wandered outside. It was a muggy July day and she could feel her gravity-defying hairdo wilting under her veil in the damp heat. The crew swarmed around the moss-covered gravestones of the churchyard, their t-shirts and jeans mingling incongruously with the smart suits and pastel hats of the wedding guests, clutching scripts, checking light levels and discussing camera angles.
She pulled at her frilly neckline to cool herself down. She’d been sweltering inside her wedding dress for nearly six hours and her feet had swollen in her white stilettos. She’d been fantasising about slipping them off but now she wasn’t sure she’d manage it without surgery.
She picked her way down the path towards the catering van. Some of the wedding guests gathered around the hatch, clutching styrofoam cups of coffee. Jo joined the queue behind a couple of extras, or background artists as they were officially known.
‘I was at that Coronation Street funeral last week,’ one of them was saying. ‘You know, you really can’t beat Granada’s catering arrangements.’ She took a sip from her cup and grimaced.
‘I know, they can’t seem to manage it here, can they?’ They blocked the hatch, ignoring Jo as she bobbed impatiently behind them. ‘So you were at the funeral, were you? They asked me, but I was a road accident in Peak Practice that day.’
‘Excuse me,’ Jo butted in finally. ‘Do you think I could just get served? Only they’ll be calling me for my next scene in a minute.’
The women stood aside. Jo could feel them looking her up and down as she ordered her coffee and doughnut. As she walked away one of them muttered something about ‘pushy stars’.
‘Looking down on the rest of us just because her name’s in the credits. I’ve been there too, you know. I was one of the first guests at Crossroads Motel.’