This is a major week for a good friend of mine, Alyson Walsh who you may also know as the writer of That’s Not My Age. After blogging about age-inclusive fashion for almost seven years, today sees the publication of her first book, Style Forever (Hardie Grant, £12.99).
I have an advanced copy and it’s a bit of a gem, an info-stuffed no-nonsense guide, with fab illustrations and interviews with some equally straight-talking style heroines. Here’s how it all came about…
DISNEYROLLERGIRL: When did it occur to you that THAT’S NOT MY AGE would make a good book? And how did you get a publisher?
ALYSON WALSH: I’ve been blogging as That’s Not My Age for nearly seven years now. About three years ago, one of my friends Emma (a freelance journalist who works a lot in book publishing) said, ‘There’s a book in your blog.’ So, I wrote a synopsis and sent it out to a few publishers, had several meetings with people and there was interest, but nothing concrete. It was too soon. I just forgot about it until early 2014 when what the artist Sue Kreitzman calls the Old Lady Revolution was getting quite zeitgeist-y and I thought it was worth giving it another go. I updated my proposal, pinged out a few emails and Hardie Grant, who’d been quite keen initially, came straight back to me and said yes. And after the Saint Joan of Céline happening earlier this year, it does feel like perfect timing.
DRG: How did you decide on the format and how easy was it to approach your interviewees?
AW: The format did change from my initial proposal. I asked Hardie Grant if my synopsis was set in stone and they said it could be quite an organic process and so I introduced some new stuff including ‘Inspirational Women’, a series of short Q&As with some of my favourite style heroines. I’m so glad I did this, it’s one of my favourite parts of the book. I wanted the Inspirational Women dotted through Style Forever to give it a kind of scrapbook feel. These are role models, industry experts and women of substance who I admire, like Iris Apfel, Wendy Dagworthy, Linda Rodin, Kay Montano, Thelma Speirs. I loved interviewing them all.
DRG:. How long did you have to write the book and what was the most surprising part of the process?
Not very long! It was a really short turnaround, I literally had a couple of months to write it – partly because of the very tight deadline and also because I lecture part-time at university and had to wait till the summer holiday to get started. It literally was written in about two and a half months, but it’s a lifetime’s work and contains information and expert advice gathered from many years working in the fashion industry as well as up-to-the-minute feedback through That’s Not My Age.
The process itself was not very enjoyable at all, which surprised me. I’ve written for years – features for magazines and websites, I write for the Guardian and the FT’s How To Spend It, as well as shorter blog posts – but this was a totally different experience, very intense and the time constraints meant that I just had to keep going, to keep writing a certain number of words everyday. It wasn’t easy, and some days I felt like I was really having to dredge anecdotes and stuff up from the depths. It was around this time, I developed a coffee addiction. I just had to keep taking short breaks to give my brain a rest, so I’d head to my favourite local coffee shop and binge drink lattes, or go for a walk around the park.
DRG: How did you manage writing the blog and book at the same time?
AW: That was hard too. When you’re writing a lot, day-in-day-out, the last thing you want to do is write a blog post. And the blog is just me on my own, so I just couldn’t blog as much and my posts were definitely shorter but some how I managed it. Also, there were points during the book writing experience when I couldn’t gauge whether what I was writing was good or bad anymore and I found that going back to the blog, having a read of my older work and writing a quick post helped me recalibrate.
DRG: Having written one book are you planing more?
AW: I would like to – just not at the moment, I’m still in recovery!
DRG: Now I want to talk about the blog. You have an incredibly engaged readership; why do you think your audience has such a great connection with TNMA?
AW: When I started That’s Not My Age, after years of working on a magazine and writing all those prescriptive style rules, I just wanted to talk to women in the way that I talk to my friends. I hope That’s Not My Age is empowering and fun and offers style advice in a down-to-earth way. I’m lucky to have a loyal following who I am eternally grateful to because without them Style Forever wouldn’t exist.
DRG: Do you have a set routine with the blog? How do you choose what to write about?
AW: No set routine. It’s totally random – I work part-time and freelance too so the blog has to fit in around all of that. I have tons of ideas for posts but don’t have the time to get them all down. Sometimes if I’m busy working on other stuff, I just have to leave That’s Not My Age for a few days, which is a shame because I love blogging but I have to pay the mortgage too! Obviously, you can make money from blogging but I don’t want to pimp out a load of product on my blog. That kind of thing is not for me.
DRG: Has the book inspired you to evolve the blog in any way?
AW: I want to update the site. I was in the middle of moving over to WordPress when I got the book deal but had to postpone it because I couldn’t manage that and write a book at the same time. When things calm down again, I’m going to make the move.
DRG: What and who are you other favourite ‘style forever’ inspirations?
AW: In no particular order… Joan Bakewell, Ellen Von Unwerth, Bethann Hardison, David Hockney, Kirsty Wark, Margaret Howell, COS, Maxine Peake, The Gentlewoman, Ines de la Fressange, Nick Cave, Bella Freud, Celine (and obviously Phoebe Philo), Style Like U, Farida Khelfa – and everyone in the book!
PORTRAIT OF ALYSON WALSH BY KRISTIN PERERS