I recently had an interesting little book arrive unannounced on my desk and at the time I was in between books. I had a day or so up my sleeve and decided it might be fun – which it was. That book was What Your Mother Should Have Told You and Nobody Else Will and it inspired me to chase up author Natalie Reilly and find out a little about the brain behind the book.
This is what she shared with us.
Can you tell us a bit about what you were doing before the book?
Before I wrote the book I was deputy editor at Sunday Life, the magazine insert in the Sun Herald/ Sunday Age newspapers. I also wrote two columns in the mag. So I was writing a beauty column, which was really just an excuse to try fantastic beauty product, (like the Chanel sublimage revitalising cream which changed my life and if anyone from Chanel reads this, look! Free advertising! Can we talk about something later??) I was also writing Things You Should Know – an advice/etiquette/self-helpy type column.
How did you get started in your advice giving career?
Well! It depends how you define ‘career’. If you mean, how did I begin professionally, then the answer to that is when I first started writing the column. But if you mean personally, I think I sort of started giving advice when I was maybe around 5. I was one of those hideously precocious kids and, being the third of four children I was always after attention so I would go around saying “I think this” and “I think that”. I say in the book that I was 9 when I first gave my mum my ‘insight’ on her marriage to my dad. And that is completely true. My mum was very indulgent! She really acted like she was taking it on board! And I was always the one telling my friends how to run their lives and then telling friends of friends and then virtual strangers…I once saw Bill Hunter in a pub and told him he’d been typecast in too many roles and that he needed to ‘branch out’. Oh, I wish I was lying! He took it well – he hugged me and said “sweetheart, I’ve been in the game 30 years but thanks.” And that is true. Horribly embarrassing, but true.
What prompted you to write What Your Mother Should Have Told You and Nobody Else Will?
The thing is, I got an offer to write the book and as any writer knows a book is the holy grail so I jumped at it!
You write a weekly column for Sunday Life magazine and you have written the book, where do you go for advice?
I worship at the altar of Oprah. I seriously do. I know she’s sometimes cheesy and self aggrandizing but she has really fought for her wisdom. I have a subscription to her magazine. I’m also a psychology fiend – I have every book on every fad and when I’m in a real panic, I’ll vomit my thoughts out to my husband and to my best friend but ultimately, I’ll hop on Amazon and key in something like “what to do when you hate yourself for what you say in interviews” – just for example- and almost always someone wonderful has written a book about it and I’ll order it.
Why should we take your advice, or to put it a little better – Why should we buy your book?
Well, if I was truly zen I would say that I can’t make you do anything, I am powerless over you – you have to want to do it.
But I’m not there yet so I’ll say this instead: I think you should buy my book because a lot of advice out there is kind of out-dated. You know? For example, etiquette experts might tell you how to write a thank you card but they can’t help you when it comes to stuff like how to handle a break up because break ups didn’t used to be that common – especially friend break ups. Or how to navigate internet dating or how to get more followers on twitter.
And then there is other advice which says “you should confront your mother in law in a quiet space and ask her firmly to stop insulting you” and, honestly? That’s wonderful but nobody does that in real life, you know? So my book is realistic in that I give you answers that are practical and up-to-date and solutions you can actually carry out without feeling like a schmuck.
You began giving advice at a young age, how well was your advice received by others in the early days?
Like I say, my mother was always really indulgent of me! She would really tease it out of me and so she gave me confidence. She would send me in to talk to my little sister, who is 6 years younger.
When I was a teenager people would say “I think you might be reading too much into it” because I’d tell people things like “I think you’re speaking out of your fear and shame now and those are ugly colours on you”. But as I got older, (read: less annoying) people would take things on board.
What do you think is the one most important piece of advice you could give?
Ooooh! Ok, let me think! I think the most important piece of advice I ever got was ‘what people think of me is none of my business.’ Because, at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what people say – what matters is how you feel about yourself. Other people you can avoid but you can’t avoid yourself. You can get drunk but you’ll still have to face yourself in the morning! Wow, that sounded like a Community service Announcement just now. Stay off the alcopops, kids!
Where did the inspiration come from to address the situations you did in the book?
They honestly come from real life situations. Almost everything I write about has happened to me or a friend or a relative.
What do you do in your down time?
I really enjoy trawling the internet for pretty tumblrs. It’s my favourite way to unwind! Just beautiful image after beautiful image of some 25 year old necklace designer’s trip to Paris, or some incredibly hip mother who lives in the East Village in Manhattan with a beautiful baby.
What’s next for Natalie Reilly?
I really love how you referred to me in the third person! So hopefully what’s next is me talking about myself more in the third person and everyone being ok with Natalie Reilly doing that. (Michelle’s note: I think this is the best answer I have had to this question and if I was drinking the coffee I feel like right now I think I would have spat it at my computer screen.)
What does being a woman mean to you?
Oh goodness! It means lots of things! Some good, some bad. Obviously it sucks that women are more objectified than men. But the best thing to me is it means that I get to be more open with my emotions. Not that guys aren’t! Lots of guys are – I don’t want to put guys down! It’s just that historically, men are socialised not to show them – to pretend to themselves and everyone else that they are not hurting. But for women, it’s ok if you want to show you’re upset and talk about it. You can be more verbally affectionate – that’s a real luxury. Like, you can call a stranger “love” and nobody thinks you’re creepy. I mean, unless it’s like some random at a bus shelter.
Thanks for stopping by Natalie, it was a pleasure to talk with you and next time I face a dilemma I know where I’ll be coming!