It gives me very great pleasure to welcome another Linda to Linda’s Book Bag today. Linda MacDonald is the author of Meeting Lydia which is about to be released on Audible. Today Linda tells me about the inspiration behind her novel in a wonderfully personal guest post.
Meeting Lydia is available for e-book and paperback purchase and Audible pre-order here.
Marianne Hayward is having a midlife wobble. When she finds her charming husband has befriended the glamorous Charmaine, she is seized by jealousy. Her once-happy marriage begins to slide.
Insecurities resurface from when she was bullied at a boys’ prep school. Only one boy was never horrible to her, the clever and enigmatic Edward Harvey; her first crush.
Daughter Holly persuades her to join Friends Reunited where she searches for Edward convinced he may be the answer to all her problems. But she is unprepared for the power of email relationships.
Narrated by the talented voice actress Harriet Carmichael, Meeting Lydia is a book about childhood bullying, midlife crises, obsession and jealousy and will appeal to anyone interested in relationship dynamics.
The Long Shadow of School Bullying
How I came to write Meeting Lydia
A Guest Post by Linda MacDonald
When I was 5 years old and living in Cumbria, my parents sent me – as a day girl – to a boys’ prep school. They thought it would be less rough than the local primary. They were wrong. Girls were scattered thinly throughout the school and between the ages of 9 and 10, I was the only girl in the class. I was bullied. It was the usual stuff: name-calling, stealing equipment, being left out. No single incident was what you might call ‘serious’, but it happened hour upon hour, every day. And if someone makes fun of you often enough, you begin to believe it.
In the past bullying was accepted as a rite of passage, even ‘character building’. But does it really help children to cope better as adults? The Kidscape children’s charity thinks not. In a survey of 1000 adults, they found early bullying experiences often led to a lack of self esteem, depression, shyness, and less likelihood of success in education, the workplace or in social relationships. Most said they felt bitter and angry about their experiences.
These results are supported by a longitudinal study by a team from Kings’ College, London, who examined data on 7771 adults born in Britain during a particular week in 1958. At age 50, those who had been bullied showed greater incidence of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts and reported poorer physical health. The findings have provoked some researchers into saying that the effects of bullying are as serious as physical abuse or neglect. Those victimised were found to be less likely to have qualifications and/or to live with a spouse or partner and their cognitive IQ was also found to be lower than one would expect when taking their childhood IQ into account. Worryingly, it is speculated that school bullying could lead to premature ageing.
For me, I knew even the comparatively low level bullying I experienced had affected my confidence well into midlife and I can only guess that it may have played a role in some of my adult health issues. I always found it difficult to talk about and I pushed it to the back of my mind. But I had written stories since I was a child and through a hazy curtain, there was always a whispering that I should write a novel with a bullying theme. The problem was, I didn’t have a plot, and it wasn’t until 2001 – way into my midlife – that an idea struck.
Friends Reunited was hitting the headlines. It was the first of the major social networking sites and there were hundreds of exciting tales of people getting in touch with old classmates. In the class where I was the only girl, there was one boy who was never horrible to me. He was very clever and enigmatic and somehow different from the others. And he was the only boy I would write too – if I could find him.
It was some weeks before I saw his name on the site and I sent a tentative email. I was delighted when he wrote straight back and over the next three weeks we exchanged lots of emails – mostly about the past. He empathised with my situation, but also reminded me of the good times.
And in that short time-span of email exchanges, something strange happened. I realised the baggage I’d been carrying around for most of my life had gone. It was like a miracle – but I suppose revisiting the past had been like being in therapy.
As the weeks passed by and the emails continued, an idea began to form for the novel I had always wanted to write. I thought, if I spice up the reality, perhaps create an ‘only girl in a class who has a crush on the boy who was never horrible’ situation, then it would give potential for a much more interesting story if they met via the internet in later life.
So Meeting Lydia came into being and although the children in the story are very much inspired by my own experiences, the adults and their lives are fictional. I hope that the book may help others who have been bullied as children face up to what happened to them and perhaps find a way, as I did, to let go of the past.
The modern world brings new bullying threats in the form of cyberbullying. The founder of BeatBullying says that this threat could be even more damaging to future generations. In the past, children came home from school and shut the door. Now there is no escape. It is therefore ever more urgent that we try to find imaginative ways to address this problem and there are no easy answers. Ideally, bullying needs to be tackled at source, but that requires overturning thousands of years of evolution where humans have learned to establish a pecking order with the strong dominating the weak. Parents and schools must play their part, but their influence is limited and bullying is often hidden. Keeping anti-bullying in the news via celebrities and sporting role models may be a way forward. The message needs to be clear: ‘Bullying is So Not Cool’.
(What a fabulous post Linda. I’m so glad you have been able to move on and that there is a positive outcome in the form of Meeting Lydia for you.)
About Linda MacDonald
Linda MacDonald is the author of four independently published novels: Meeting Lydia and the stand-alone sequels, A Meeting of a Different Kind, The Alone Alternative and The Man in the Needlecord Jacket. They are all contemporary adult fiction, multi-themed, but with a focus on relationship issues.
After studying psychology at Goldsmiths’, Linda trained as a secondary science and biology teacher. She taught these subjects for several years before moving to a sixth-form college to teach psychology. In 2012, she gave up teaching to focus fully on writing.
Linda was born and brought up in Cockermouth, Cumbria and now lives in Beckenham, Kent.