Jennifer Gilby Roberts

Women's Fiction/Chick Lit Author

The Inspiration for After Wimbledon

This was written as a guest post for Lipsyy Lost & Found.

Naturally, for a novel by an English writer about the Wimbledon tennis tournament, After Wimbledon was born in Australia.  For the tennis fans: it is the Laura Robson of chick lit novels.

I was taking some time out after finishing my degree.  Having fried my brain by studying physics, a light-hearted romance was all I was good for.  I arrived in Melbourne halfway through the Australian Open and spent most of the next week hanging out in Fed Square watching the action on their big screen.  That was fabulous because it was right in the middle of the city and anyone could just wander down.  I even sat in the Rod Laver Arena (the equivalent of Centre Court) for one day.  Since I was travelling alone, I managed to grab an odd seat right in the front row.  I heard Roger Federer swear, that’s how close I was.

At the same time, I was struggling with a decision.  I’d been dating someone for a couple of years before I went away and had left him back home.  In a twist on the classic tale, he was sure we were for keeps and I was uncertain.  I was only 23 when we started dating and wasn’t expecting to get serious.  Marriage was something for my thirties, if it happened at all.  One morning, in a shower stall at the hostel, I broke it off over the phone.  It was Australia Day, but the fireworks seemed rather out-of-place.

A few weeks later, I decided it was time to write another novel.  My first, The Dr Pepper Prophecies, had been completed five years earlier.  Suddenly, I had something to write about again: tennis and major life confusion.  And out of those things After Wimbledon was born.  The first draft contained much angst.  I reckon I cut out about 30,000 words to get to the final version.  I’m just counting that bit as therapy.  It’s a much better read without it!

And the boyfriend I mentioned?  Reader, I married him.  Only happy endings here…

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Lucy on… (Deleted Musings From ‘After Wimbledon’) #2

A few more paragraphs cut from After Wimbledon.

Lucy on… Making Decisions

Showering off later, I debate the pros and cons of staying on the tour and decide I should.  Then I debate the pros and cons of staying with Joe and decide I shouldn’t.

There, that’s decided.

Then I start debating them again and come up with different answers.

How do people make these decisions?  How can I know what the right thing to do is?  I can argue both sides convincingly, so which wins?  If my feelings on two given days are directly opposed, which are the true ones?

Christ, why is life suddenly so complicated?

I run my fingers through my hair and bring a few strands round to look at.  Maybe I should dye it.  Go blond or something.  Or cut it.  After years in a ponytail it deserves a change.  Maybe if I look different, I’ll feel different too.

And maybe I’ll be exactly the same, only with different hair.

Maybe I could go see a psychic and they can tell me what to do.

Except, what if they’re wrong or just making it up?  What if I did what they said and it was all wrong for me?

Still, at least then I’d have someone to blame.

Oh, forget it.

Lucy on… Her Looks

I dry and dress in shorts and a T-shirt and then set about drying my hair.  It really does need cutting.  It grows so fast I blink and I’ve turned into Rapunzel.  Am I the only one who thinks that someone climbing up your hair would really hurt?

The wall is mirrored, so I’ve really got no choice but to look at myself.  Have you ever looked at your reflection and thought, ‘Is that really me?’  Like your inside isn’t quite reflected in your outside?  Maybe it’s just me.

It’s not hard to guess I’m a tennis player, or an athlete anyway.  5’10” in my socks and I’m far from the tallest on the tour.  Slim, but muscular not delicate.  A fusion of power and speed.  Fit and strong.  Always in trainers, hair flattened back.  Makeup rarely touches my skin, sun cream does in abundance.  Round my neck I wear a silver tennis racquet charm – a present from my dad.  Sports watch on my wrist, diamanté stud earrings.  No other jewellery.  I’m no beauty, but on court I don’t care.  There, I belong.  I look the part.

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Lucy on… (Deleted Musings From ‘After Wimbledon’)

Just a few paragraphs cut from the final version of After Wimbledon, where Lucy muses.

Lucy on… her career

I’m not a bad player.  I’ve won a few titles, made a reasonable amount of money.  I’ve won one grand slam – The Australian Open – when I was 23.  I’d been slowly climbing the rankings since I turned pro, getting further every year, and there I was: the champion.  Next stop, Wimbledon.

But I never made it.  That was my best year.  Second round at the French (always was useless on the clay courts), quarters at the US Open, fourth round at Wimbledon.  I never got any higher.  Though Christ knows I tried.

There are lots of things a champion needs: dedication, first-class coaching, incredible fitness, self-belief, mental strength.  All these things can be possessed by anyone if they put the work – and money – in.  But there’s one thing that can’t.  Talent.  That spark of brilliance.  You only get given so much.  And if it’s not enough, there’s sod all you can do about it.

I don’t have enough.  And now I have three decades of wear and tear to overcome as well.  There are too many other players – younger, more talented, less injury-ridden and more dedicated than I am these days.  It’s over.

~~~~

That’s how I won the Australian Open – luck.  I’ll be quite frank about that, to myself if no one else.  It was a bad tournament for the top players, so bad that virtually none of them were there.  Everything that could go wrong, did.  Glandular fever, a broken leg, a nasty dose of food poisoning, a positive drugs test, a pregnancy, an imploding marriage.  Close relatives dying in droves.  Suddenly, the underdogs were in with a real chance.

We took it.  By the quarters, all the seeded players were out.  The final was me and a Czech girl at only her second grand slam, who’d been playing brilliantly but went to pieces at the last minute.  I won.  I was the champion.

On paper.

Lucy on… Wimbledon

The number one event in tennis.  Grass courts, rain delays, curtseys to the Royal Box (only required now if someone from the Royal Family is there – criminal), full titles for the ladies (Advantage Miss Bennett), Pimms, strawberries and cream and umbrellas.

~~~~

All these years fans have gathered on the hill outside Centre Court to watch matches on the big screen and cheer on the players.  Its name changes for whatever player with (GBR) after their name is on Centre Court.  Henman Hill, Rusedski Ridge.  Once or twice it was even Bennett Bump, a name which in all honesty always made me cringe.  I wonder what they’ll call it for Sam:  Pennington Pouffe?

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Missing Scene From ‘After Wimbledon’ #2

Another scene I cut from the published version of After Wimbledon.  The first part of the book went through quite a lot of reworking, so this scene doesn’t quite fit into the book.  In the final version, Joe plays on Centre Court in the first round so this conversation became irrelevant.  Prior to this scene, Lucy is chatting with Sam and that conversation was absorbed into one of the book scenes.

~~~~

I’ve just got back to practising, and I’m actually starting to feel pretty good, when Joe appears.  He’s striding towards me at full pelt, racquet clenched in one hand, his shoulder-length hair swinging around his neck and dark eyes flashing.

‘Honestly,’ he says, as he approaches. ‘It’s blatant favouritism.’

Here we go again.

‘What is?’ I ask wearily, stopping practice again.

‘Haven’t you seen the schedule yet?’

Yes, I have.  That’s how I knew this was coming.

‘They’ve put me on Court 1 in the first round, while Pennington is on Centre!’

‘They’ll have wanted you both playing last up so you’re on prime time TV.  They probably flipped a coin to decide who got which court.  Why do you always have to take it so personally?’

Joe glowers.  ‘Of course I’m taking it personally, when it’s a personal insult.  When I win the tournament I’ll be world number one again and this time I’ll be staying there.’

‘Of course you will…’ I start to say, then stop.  I can’t announce Sam’s retirement, least of all to Joe. ‘…you’re the better player,’ I finish quickly.

‘Of course I am.’

Excessive modesty is not a problem for Joe.

‘Well, all you have to do is to go onto Court 1 and play brilliantly and then they’ll probably put all your other matches on Centre,’ I say, trying to sound supportive.

Christ, I’m sick of this routine.  I must be crazy to even fantasise about dating another tennis player.

Mind you, I bet Sam doesn’t get himself worked up over crap like this.

‘Of course I’ll play brilliantly.  I am brilliant.’  Joe looks quite insulted.

I have to agree about Court 1.  He shouldn’t play there, his ego won’t fit.

‘Yup,’ I say, starting to bounce the ball again.  ‘So why don’t you go be brilliant on your own court so I can practise?’

Joe isn’t listening, he’s staring intently into the distance.  ‘Did I see Pennington sniffing around you before I arrived?’ he demands, eyes snapping back to me.

I can’t help rolling my eyes.  ‘He was not sniffing around, he just said hello.  We belong to the same club, that’s all.’

Joe’s eyes are narrowed.  ‘I don’t trust him,’ he says.  ‘He’s probably trying to get to me through you.’

I doubt it would work.

‘That’s crap, Joe,’ I say, resisting the urge to bounce the ball off his head.  ‘And you know it.  He doesn’t play dirty and I wouldn’t let him.’

‘Good,’ Joe says.

‘I need to practise.  Later.’

He strolls off.

I could stay on the tour and break up with him.

I go back to serving.

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Missing Scene From ‘After Wimbledon’

I cut quite a bit from the first draft of After Wimbledon, so I thought I would post one of the missing scenes.  In this one, Lucy is helping her cousin Maddy get ready for her date with Sam – the man Lucy dreams of for herself.

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Maddy’s bedroom looks like a tornado has been through it.  There are clothes everywhere.  On the bed, over the chest of drawers, across the chair and on the floor.  Various sparkly accessories hang from doorknobs, off mirrors and under the lampshade.

All this for a drink?  She must really like him.

‘Lucy,’ she says, flopping backwards onto the bed, ‘I’m having a crisis.  What in the world do I wear?’

I look at her.  She’s wearing black underwear with pink ribbons threaded through it, black high heels and a look of utter dejection.

‘Well, more than that,’ I advise, sitting beside her on the daisy chain duvet cover.  ‘Although you’d definitely get his attention.’

An image of Sam eyeing her slides in front of my eyes, like in one of those pairs of fake binoculars with the pictures.  I close my eyes and will it away.

What I need to do is to forget who she’s going out with.  Just focus on supporting her.  Then everything will be fine.

‘You know him better than me,’ Maddy says anxiously.  ‘What do you think Sam would like?’

It was good in theory.

‘Oh, you know,’ I say, waving my hands around.  ‘You should just be yourself.  Wear what you want to wear.’

‘But which me should I be?’ she asks, sitting up and clenching her hair in her hands.  ‘Sophisticated me?  Smart casual me?  Girly me?  Or sporty?’

I am so not cut out for this.

‘Smart casual you,’ I say, picking one at random.  I wrack my brain for what little I know of fashion.  ‘Something that emphasises your best features.’

Maddy looks worried and goes over to her wardrobe.  I’m astonished to find that it’s still full of clothes.  She turns back to me.  ‘What are my best features?’ she asks, biting her lip.

‘Legs,’ I say confidently.  All the Bennetts have good legs, even me.  Which is fortunate, since no tennis outfit will hide them.  ‘Wear a dress.’

That should narrow it down.

Maddy pulls a little black number out of the wardrobe and holds it against herself.  She looks questioningly at me.

‘Great,’ I say, giving her a thumbs up.  ‘And it matches your shoes.’

She doesn’t look convinced.  She puts it back and gets out another.  Dark blue lace.

‘That’s nice too,’ I say, nodding.  I bounce on the bed a little.  This is a really springy mattress.  Will Sam end up jumping on it?

I’d give anything not to have thought that.

Another dress is produced.  Pink cotton.

‘Also… good,’ I say.

I get the impression that this could take a while.

~~~~

Maddy has 27 dresses in her wardrobe.  I know, because I’ve seen all of them.  And which one has she decided on?  Yup, you guessed it, the original little black one.  The dress is on, her hair and makeup are done, a handbag has been selected and her taxi is here.

‘Do I really look okay?’ she asks, as she puts on her coat.

‘Gorgeous.’  And she does.  Already the best looking of all of us, she really knows how to make the best of herself.  Christ knows what she wanted my help for.

‘Have a great time,’ I say, as she climbs into the taxi.

‘Are you sure you don’t want a lift home?’ she calls out the window.  ‘We’re going that way.’

‘I’m sure,’ I call back, already a step away.  ‘I want to stretch my legs.  Bye.’

‘I’ll call and tell you all about it when I get home,’ she says and blows me a kiss as the taxi drives off.

Wonderful.  Then my life will be complete.

I trudge off in the direction of home.  The heartache starts after one step, the tears after two.

What’s wrong with me?  I’m behaving like some love-sick teenager.

Except I wasn’t like that when I was a teenager, because then all I cared about was tennis.

Maybe adolescence has finally caught up with me.  Maybe I’ll break out in acne and get into alternative dressing.  I could become an EMO, although I’m still not entirely clear what they are.

Right now I just need to get back home, get some dinner and forget all about this.

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Songs From ‘After Wimbledon’

In After Wimbledon, Lucy and Sam sing karaoke.  I thought I would share YouTube links to the songs I mentioned:

‘Barbie Girl’ by Aqua

‘These Things I’ll Never Say’ by Avril Lavinge

‘Angels’ by Robbie Williams

‘Gimme, Gimme, Gimme’ by Abba

What are your favourite karaoke songs?

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More posts about After Wimbledon.

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What’s in a Title?: How ‘After Wimbledon’ Got its Name

This was written as a guest post for Dizzy C’s Little Book Blog.

Choosing a title for a novel is a difficult business.  For non-fiction, it’s mostly an exercise in how many key words you can cram in without it looking like that’s what you’ve done.  Plus you can include a ridiculously long sub-title.  For fiction, you’re supposed to encapsulate an entire book and hook the reader in 2-4 words.  And you thought writing the novel was the hard part.

When I first drafted After Wimbledon, which was in 2008 while travelling in Australia, I named it 30 Love.  My heroine, Lucy, was just approaching thirty and falling in love, and I thought it was tremendously clever to reference a tennis term as well (in tennis scores, ‘zero’ is spoken as ‘love’).  Then I searched on Amazon and discovered that great minds think alike (or it just wasn’t that clever), because there were several books with similar titles.  I very much dislike reusing someone else’s book title, so I needed something else.  Also I later revised her age downwards to fit in better with tennis careers, so 30 Love didn’t work anyway.

I came up with a whole range.  It might have been called any of: The Deciding Set, Playing the Decider, Today at Wimbledon, Love on Court and One Game Away.  Some classics such as Love Match, Perfect Match, Love Game and Break Point were eliminated as duplicates.  I did think of New Balls, Please and Change of Ends – referring to Lucy’s transfer from one boyfriend to another – but thought they sounded like erotic fiction.  So could Break Point actually, if it included a little bondage.

The title selection became a democratic event.  I asked my beta-readers for their opinions and ran a poll on my blog.  Unfortunately I’d only just started said blog, so I only got 16 votes.  I should have paid more attention to those gurus who insist that an author platform is vital.

In the end, one of my beta-readers came up with the title After Wimbledon.  It comes from a conversation my lead characters have at the end of one chapter.  The whole book is about Lucy struggling with whether to end her pro tennis career at the end of the Wimbledon Championships.  She also feels unable to end her current relationship during the tournament, as her boyfriend is also a player, which means that her flirtation with our hero, Sam, goes further than either of them meant it to.  I think this title actually does capture the whole novel in two words, which is quite a feat.

At the very least, I shouldn’t get lots of people telling me that they don’t understand the title (as with my first novel The Dr Pepper Prophecies).  This is what you get for naming a novel after an advert without checking it was shown outside the UK.  Plus it’s a bit of a tongue twister.  I’ve thought about changing it, but I dread to think how many hours it would take to change every reference to it on the internet.  Is there a gig on Fiverr for that?

Meanwhile, I’ve already come up with seven possible titles for my third novel and I’ve only written two thousand words of it.  At that rate it should have 280 possible titles by the time I finish it.  Hmm, may need more than one poll…

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‘After Wimbledon’ is Now Available in Paperback!

After Wimbledon is now into print!  Much quicker than The Dr Pepper Prophecies since I knew what I was doing this time around and didn’t make a ton of unnecessary work for myself.  There’s no substitute for experience.

A great Christmas present for anyone who likes chick lit and tennis (hint, hint)!

Direct links Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, local sites, but it’s all linked up with the Kindle version now.

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Locations for ‘After Wimbledon’: Pictures and Maps

Here are some of the places around Wimbledon that Lucy goes to in After Wimbledon, to help you visualise the scenes.

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‘After Wimbledon’ is Now Available to Buy on Amazon!

After Wimbledon is now available on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, local sites.

Spread the word!

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