Tag Archives: child

Don’t Quit the Day Job: Philippa East

OK, so COVID-19 is a thing and the UK is enforcing social distancing – thank goodness. With that in mind, lots of bloggers are trying to help people get through the partial ‘lockdown’ with book recommendations as well as introducing you to some new authors.

As part of that, I’ve decided to resurrect my ‘Don’t Quit the Day Job’ series.

Lots of people don’t realise that although you may see work by a certain author on the bookshelves in your favourite shop, many writers still hold down a day job in addition to penning their next novel. In this series, we talk to writers about how their current – or previous – day jobs have inspired and informed their writing.

Today it’s the turn of Philippa East to tell us about how her work as a clinical psychologist helped her writer ‘Little White Lies‘. My thanks to Philippa for sharing her experience with us.

Stay safe, everyone.

Vic x

Philippa East headshot

I first got the idea for Little White Lies when I caught a snippet of a news story on TV – a teenage girl in Spain had disappeared then re-appeared a few weeks later, all under mysterious circumstances. There were many question marks over the case: had she been abducted, or was something else going on? The TV showed the family in a courtroom and I found myself thinking – what on earth are these people feeling now? Do they trust each other at all?

I knew I wanted to write a book about a missing child, I also knew there was a solid precedent of popular books on the shelves exploring this topic. But as a psychologist and therapist, I have always cared most about the pieces of the story that never usually get told. Tragically, children go missing all the time; I was fascinated by what might happen once a missing child came home. 

But what did I really know about this topic? Heartbreakingly, cases of children being found alive months or years after their disappearance are incredibly rare. My story started where most other ‘missing person’ books ended. So how on earth was I going to write about that?

The question really quite stumped me until I realised that, while I had never been involved in a real-life case like Abigail’s in Little White Lies, maybe I did have expertise that could help me, via my work with adult survivors of childhood trauma. In Little White Lies, against all odds, Abigail has escaped and survived her abduction. In the same way, the clients who I was seeing in my work had (physically) survived their childhood experiences. For both Abigail and my clients, a whole new journey would now begin. 

Little White Lies is about a family trying to heal after the very worst of traumas. The book focuses on the relationship between Abigail and her family – her mother Anne especially – both before and after her abduction. The more I wrote, the more I found myself delving into issues of responsibility and guilt, the instinctive desire to avoid what is most painful, and the healing power of acknowledging what went wrong – all themes I had encountered many times in my therapy work. Little White Lies went through many, many drafts as I wrote it, but it was when these themes came together as the heart of the novel that I was able to shape the story into the book you’ll read today.

These days, I am struck time and again by how much being a writer and being a psychologist have in common. Both therapy and writing are all about words and narratives; these truly are the “tools of our trade”. In both fiction writing and in the process of therapy, we share and absorb stories in order to make sense of the world, and try to understand our own complicated human natures. And both characters in stories and the clients in my practice go on profound journeys of change. 

Looking back now, I wonder whether I would ever have had the confidence to write Little White Lies without my background in psychology. To be honest, I am not sure that I would! 

LITTLE WHITE LIES JPEG copy

Britney: how can she know any better?

I have a shameful secret, I am a Britney Spears fan. She has had a lot of ups and downs during her 13 year career in music but I do love the music she produces.

We all know the story of Britney, the girl from America who took the world by storm aged just fifteen, dressed as a schoolgirl in her video for ‘Baby, One More Time’; the girl who’s been married twice and has two kids who she doesn’t have full custody of. Possibly the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of Britney is the bald girl who had a breakdown, who we watched on the news being stretchered out of her home and who then played cat and mouse with paps she thought were her friends. It’s a sad story in many ways.

I have to admit that her work schedule concerns me somewhat. I went to see her during the ‘Onyx Hotel Tour’ in 2004 not long after her marriage to childhood friend Jason Alexander was annulled. I next saw her in 2009 on her ‘Circus’ comeback tour. She puts on a great show but in 2009 I worried that she wasn’t choosing to go on the stage, she was put there by her father and her manager, Larry Rudolph despite her fragile mental state. I also feel that, despite stricter vetting processes for staff since her father’s conservatorship took effect, some people will still try to make money off the back of Britney.

And now someone else is trying to cash in on her. Former bodyguard, Fernando Flores, is seeking $10 million for psychological damages after claiming he was subject to ‘unwanted sexual advances’. Wow, he must be the only guy in the world who didn’t want Britney to come onto him. But in all seriousness, if these allegations are true – how could Britney know any better after being taught how to be nothing other than a sexual object for almost half of her life?

Let’s study some of her videos as examples:

  1. ‘Baby, One More Time’: Britney becomes an overnight sensation thanks to a navel-baring school uniform and pigtails.
  2. ‘Oops, I Did It Again’: The red catsuit, need I say more?
  3. ‘Don’t Let Me Be The Last to Know’: By now, even Britney’s ballads require her to wear bikinis and to snog with a hunk on the beach.
  4. ‘I’m a Slave 4u’: 19-year-old Britney wears PVC pants with her pink lace thong over the top and drips sweat while lip-syncing heavy breathing.
  5. ‘Me Against the Music’: yet another chance to catch girl-on-girl action with Madonna as well as gyrating hips and hair flicking.
  6. ‘Toxic’: Britney plays different characters in this video – air hostess with her knickers on show, black-haired assassin who kills a man by kissing him. Oh, and the naked diamond catsuit also features.
  7. ‘My Prerogative’: Britney lap dances for K-Fed and rolls around a bed in her white bra and knickers.
  8. ‘Womanizer’: Yet more half-dressed, provocative multiple personalities.
  9. ‘If You Seek Amy’: Not contented with the song actually spelling out “All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to F-U-C-K me”, this video shows a sex party involving Britney, who looks trashed but then gets changed and poses for the paps as the perfect housewife.
  10. ‘Til The World Ends’: Brit dresses in yet more leather and bodysuits with fishnets, flashing all she’s got.

So that’s just ten of Britney’s many music videos. There’s also VMA performances to consider, remember the time she stripped off to reveal a nude bodysuit? How about the semi-naked performance with a python? Or the Madonna snog? Then, of course, the 2007 shambles where she appeared in a sequinned bikini and cocked up her lip-syncing and dancing.  

According to a lawsuit filed by Flores, Britney leaned over him, with her breast exposed, looking him in the eye as if waiting for something to happen. Isn’t that what she’s been taught to do since she was sixteen, if not younger, by countless directors, photographers and choreographers?

If, she did walk around her home wearing see-through clothes then bend down to retrieve her lighter, showing that she was wearing no underpants, hasn’t she spent the last thirteen years in a pretty much permanent state of undress in photo shoots and even on stage?

Flores even claims Britney ‘engaged in numerous sex acts in front of’ him. Hasn’t she simulated sex on stage before? Isn’t it part of her act?

I’m not saying it’s healthy but this is not a ‘normal’ situation. Britney has no idea what is appropriate, having spent her life in front of cameras and on stage simulating sex, touching herself and licking her lips provocatively while lip-syncing sexually charged lyrics. This is the girl who is rumoured to have had a boob job at sixteen.

All of her life, Britney has performed to gain attention and approval from others. She has not had a normal life, even before she became famous. Her mother moved to New York to allow Britney to perform on Broadway as a child, as well as a stint in The Mickey Mouse Club. In Kentwood, Louisana, where Britney grew up, she was a celebrity long before the rest of the world knew who she was, performing at every competition and carnival going. Not only this but her parents were in a tumultuous relationship due to her father’s drinking and the debts that threatened to overwhelm the family.

Britney was not allowed to be a child.

Perhaps the rebellion we saw in 2004 starting with the Vegas wedding to Alexander and ending with a marriage and pregnancy to Kevin Federline was an act of rebellion, or an attempt to finally have a normal life.  In 2004, there were rumours of excessive drinking, drug taking, pictures of Britney looking less than stage-ready with her Starbucks drink and fast food. After a knee injury, the remainder of the Onyx Hotel tour was cancelled and Britney jumped into marriage and motherhood – was she just looking for love? After all, she’d had six years of adoration from fans but, in reality, was lonely having continued working after her split from Justin Timberlake.

Some of the claims from Flores are pathetic: that Britney picked her nose frequently, broke wind unapologetically and ‘didn’t fix her hair’. Is that a crime? Would it psychologically damage you? I know these are unpleasant things and we might not want to consider that the polished pop princess is human, but we all do it. Let’s face it, we’ve seen Britney at her lowest – being carried out of her home into a waiting ambulance, we know she has issues. Even Britney’s ex husband, K-Fed, acknowledged – through his lawyer – that Flores’ claims are ‘a product of economic motives’.

Flores also claimed Spears was under the influence of prescription drugs, like Ritalin. Unfortunately we also know she has to be medicated due to her psychological issues. This is why I think Britney is also being taken advantage of by her father and Larry Rudolph, her manager. If she has such serious psychological issues – rumoured to be ADD and/or bi-polar disorder – is she fit to go on a gruelling world tour? Or does she do it because she doesn’t know what else to do? Her whole adult life has been touring, recording and promotion.

Britney is a victim of her own success. She hasn’t been able to enjoy her life because of schedules and fame. She’s tailed by paps constantly and doesn’t understand boundaries because of her sexualisation thanks to the industry she’s in but she shouldn’t be allowed to be taken advantage of.

Vic x