With the release of ginger-friendly novel Red tucked neatly under her belt, red-haired author Alison Cherry has found time in her busy schedule to reflect on her book’s protagonist, Felicity, and the challenges she faces during the book.
Before you read Alison’s open letter to Red‘s leading star, let us set the scene.
Red tells the tale of a world where redheads rule all, named Scarletville. Within this redhead sanctuary, having red hair is all that matters. Gingers hold all the power – and everybody knows it.
Enter Felicity. A top student, beauty queen, and girlfriend to the hottest football jock at Scarletville’s high school; she’s got everything, and it’s all thanks to her flowing auburn locks.
But Felicity has a red hot secret. And if anyone finds out, she’s finished.
She’s a natural blonde.
You’ve got it rough right now. Trust me, I know – I’m the one who created all these problems for you. I know you’ve spent your whole life keeping secrets. You feel pressured into doing things you don’t enjoy for fear of disappointing everyone around you.
You’re so afraid that if people ever see past that protective layer of hair dye and find out who you really are, they won’t like you or respect you anymore.
I’m sorry you’ve had such a hard time. But I want you to know that even if your secret gets out, you’re going to be okay.
I know it doesn’t feel like that right now. I know you probably don’t even want to talk to me—I bet you’re rolling your eyes and going, “Why should I listen to you? Your red hair is natural. You don’t know what my life is like.”
And it’s true, our problems aren’t exactly the same. But even so, I promise you that I’ve felt what you feel. At some time or another, nearly everyone has felt what you feel.
Let me tell you a story. When I was in college, I used to design the lighting for theatre and dance shows. That meant I spent almost all my time with Theatre People. They were so shiny and funny and loud, and they seemed to make friends more easily than regular people. They cursed like sailors, drank like fish, gossiped like fiends, and always seemed like they were having more fun than everyone else.
I desperately wanted to be one of them, so I never turned down an opportunity to hang out with them after rehearsal. I learned the rhythm of their cursing and their speech and their gossip, and I went to their parties and put on a bright, happy face, trying desperately to look like I was having fun.
But here’s the thing, Felicity – I hated those parties. I hated the cattiness and the showboating and the late nights full of drunk people. That’s not the kind of girl I am at all. But I just smiled and ignored my feelings, because I knew that if I went home early to the restorative silence I craved, they’d notice I wasn’t really one of them, and they’d reject me. There was no place for a quiet introvert in that crowd.
So I never let anyone see my real self: the girl who liked the theatre best when it was dark and empty, when I could sit on the catwalk by myself and imagine the worlds I could bring to life on the stage. No one else seemed to seek out solitude, and I wondered what was wrong with me.
After I graduated, I spent four more years working in theatre, trying to be a girl the Theatre People would love and accept. It was absolutely exhausting. But then I discovered writing, a new way to tell stories that was full of space and peace and silence.
And when I started meeting other writers, I discovered that most of them were quiet, introspective people like me, ones who preferred observing the world than talking over it.
All that time, I’d thought my personality was wrong, that I was lacking in some vital way. I thought I needed to cover it up until I found a way to fix it. But I just needed to find the right people, the ones who saw me for who I really was and liked me for it, not in spite of it.
That discovery set me free to have a life I loved, to spend whole days lost in my imagination, and to create people like you from nothing.
You are so much more than your secret, Felicity. Someday, when you find your people, you’ll wonder why on earth the colour of your hair seemed so important when your intelligence, strength, creativity, compassion, and bravery matter so much more.
No – don’t argue with me. You’ve got all those things in you. Maybe you can’t see them yet. But I can, because I made you, and soon other people will, too.
Just trust me, okay?
Red is currently available to purchase worldwide as paperback from the Ginger Parrot Store for £6.99.
More info can be found at www.quercusbooks.co.uk