There has to be, I thought to myself, some advantage in having had such a disastrous love life. From the age of 16 to 31, almost half a lifetime, I had a succession of short-lived relationships, lasting from a month to a year and a half. I wasn't so much a serial dater as a serial disaster.
While my friends in stable relationships directed their energies into having families or brilliant careers, I was wasting all mine on these terrible men. Of course, those very friends were delighted that I could regale them with my "anecdates" (sometimes I went out with men merely for the re-telling), but there had to be more to my life.
What better way to exploit your misspent youth, you could say, than to write a book that uses all this hard-won experience. My novel, Cyber Cinderella, has the protagonist Google herself and find a mysterious website devoted to her so far ordinary life. In order to track down the anonymous person behind the site, she starts by visiting all her ex-boyfriends. Surely in writing such a plot, I'd found the perfect way of getting some value out of all of those wasted years. With these men finally under my control, I could wreak my revenge for phone calls not made, assignations missed and other women wooed. In my novel, I would be the all-powerful puppet-master and they my helpless playthings.
Well, yes and no. I soon discovered that putting in the knife into your ex-boyfriends and writing believable, interesting characters were two very different things. There were those men who if I portrayed them accurately would have been dismissed as utterly implausible. There were others who were frankly too boring to be included.
Then there were those that were just too nice. One lovely friend and ex, whose professional life was mined but not his personality, has avoided me ever since publication, assuming I'm sure that the less appealing characteristics of one of Izobel's exes belong to him (sweetheart, you are so much better than that, honest). Some of Izobel's paramours took elements from dirt dished on friend's evil exes, but mostly they were composites formed of people I knew, my imagination and even traits drawn from women.
For my hero I did draw on aspects of my husband Alex. He read the first draft and shook his head in disbelief. Well, maybe there was a little bit of wishful thinking in there too.
I worried that someone would think themselves ill-portrayed in it, but I've only had the opposite problem. In a strange case of life imitating art, an ex who'd been long out of contact Googled me out of the blue. He then read the book and emailed me, most aggrieved. "Christina," he said. "I'm so offended. I can't believe you've included every single other boyfriend you've ever had, but that there's nothing about me."