Wedding season’s in full swing and not just in real life – this week sees the first Meet Cute wedding when The Boy and the Bridesmaid is released on Thursday 16th June. But as well as one of the couples tying the knot (I won’t tell you which!) there is, naturally, another meeting...
I wrote The Boy and the Bridesmaid not long after my best friend’s wedding, when the excitement and promise of a couple committing to each other was fresh in my mind (they’ll be celebrating a year together on 20th – happy anniversary Jen and Chris!) But of course, along with the romance that is an intrinsic part of any wedding day, there’s also an enormous amount of stress involved. For the bride and groom (and possibly their families too) there’s the expense and the desire to provide a fun and memorable day for both themselves and their guests. For the wedding party there’s the pressure of speeches or readings. For guests there are issues around what to wear, or where to stay, and what’s a suitable amount to spend on a present? All in all, weddings can be stressful.
For Maria, the protagonist in The Boy and the Bridesmaid, being in the spotlight is a big deal. Although she’s delighted to be a bridesmaid and keen to support the happy couple on their big day, she suffers from social anxiety and the thought of being in a crowded room sets her heart and mind racing. She’s petrified she’ll have a panic attack and ruin everyone’s day.
Maria’s story isn’t my own, but I did draw on my personal experiences of depression, anxiety and panic attacks when writing the story. At the moment my mental health is the most stable it’s been in a long time, but I’ve no shame in admitting to having taken anti-depressants on a number of occasions and also speaking to bereavement counsellors – some better than others. One of the sessions I went to taught me some of the basic techniques of mindfulness and it changed my life completely. That’s not to say I’m totally ‘cured’ – I’ll probably always have low self-esteem and a fear of being in large groups – but I have a tool I can use when I feel the tightening in my throat and chest which signals the start of a panic attack. I wanted Maria to be strong and proactive despite her mental health and that’s why she too makes reference to mindfulness. It turns out the seemingly confident boy she’s attracted to also values meditation. It's not a story of 'girl meets boy and suddenly all her problems disappear' but there's an understanding between the two of them and that's what I love most about their meeting.
This is the final story in the Meet Cute series – the end of an era! – but it's so fantastic knowing people have related to the characters and enjoyed the excitement of seeing nine couples get together. Thank you to all the readers who've taken time out of their day to tell me they're following the stories. Your support makes all the difference and I hope you'll all enjoy The Singalong Society for Singletons just as much when it's released this autumn.
The Boy and the Bridesmaid blurb -There's nothing as wonderful as a wedding, especially when it's your sister getting married. But for Maria, who struggles with social anxiety, being a bridesmaid is a struggle as well as an honour and when she finds herself overawed the person by her side is the last person she'd expect to understand…
Published by Harper Impulse, the digital first imprint at Harper Collins on June 16th 2016
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Also available from iBooks and Sainsbury's Entertainment