‘Ladies, the arses in here are seriously getting out of control. Come on. I’m only saying what everyone is thinking. There is no way the New York Abercrombie store stands for this sort of shit.’
My jaw is on the floor and I desperately want to give this jerk who’s name I don’t even care to remember a vicious glare, but my eyes stay pinned to my computer screen and my fingers quickly dance across the keys as I record everything he says.
This is a typical moment from my life working at Abercrombie. And I am ‘using it’ as they say in the acting world. Actors often choose to ‘use’ sad or terrible things to recreate that emotion whilst portraying a particularly upsetting scene. I remember sitting on a step outside my acting school in New York with my arm around my sobbing friend who had just received news of her grandfather’s passing. Another girl approached us and said ‘Oh My God, what’s wrong?’ A bizarre hint of excitement slipped through the mask of concern she was wearing on her face. In a gentle, compassionate tone I explained what had happened. The girl blinked at us and responded with ‘Well at least you have something to use in your scenes. I’m finding it so hard to get upset at the moment.’ My friend and I laughed about it later, but at the time we were fairly horrified. I’ve never really felt the need to ‘use’ things as an actor. I am a bit of an open wound and can cry almost on command. In fact it can be quite embarrassing. I would make a terrible politician. I tend to be quite affected by a story in and of itself, that I would find it distracting and off-putting to go thinking of something from my own life to feel emotion. This is perhaps fortunate, as I have thankfully (and touch wood) had quite a pleasant life. So I wouldn’t have much to draw from.
But I have employed this concept of ‘using it’ many times while writing. In fact I find myself ‘using’ real life experiences almost all the time. I barely have to employ my brain at all it seems. For that reason jobs like Abercrombie have been a blessing. That’s the ‘glass half full’ perspective anyway. If I were speaking bluntly I’d say it’s a fairly vile place to work. But I did write a good portion of my book there, so I suppose I will have to give it a verytiny nod in the acknowledgements section.
Another establishment that deserves a wee nod is my local pub in Notting Hill, the Portobello Gold. Because large sections of the book are set in a pub, the first-hand experience I got working there proved quite inspiring. Not that that was my initial motivation for applying of course – I was skint and needed a job. But every time I got sassy with a troublesome local or whacked someone for attempting to touch me inappropriately, or the many times I cleaned up vomit, I convinced myself it was all research for the book. It was necessary and I was being a dedicated little wannabe-author diligently doing my homework, not cutting corners. But the six pounds fifty an hour was also sadly necessary. How anyone is supposed to have any quality of life on that money is beyond me. Heaven forbid they try to bring up children on that rate of pay.
I’m proud to say that at this stage, however I was doing well for myself. My pay at Abercrombie had been increased from six fifty to seven pounds an hour. I got a letter telling me I was an exemplary employee. I have no idea how, as most nights I was closing the pub at two or three am and then arriving into Abercrombie at nine am with bags under my eyes and tequila breath. Then any spare moment I got was spent writing my book. I think they discovered I was on telly in Ireland. Because not only had they inexplicably increased my pay by the very generous fifty pence, but they also moved me from the upstairs back room to the top of the stairs, a position usually reserved for slightly hotter girls. Not the hottest girls though – they’re displayed at the doorway so you see them as soon as you come in, to give the ‘best’ first impression. But I had been moved to a slightly hotter position so I guessed they had gotten wind of my small-time Irish fame.
My book ‘The Art of Scandal’ was certainly a labour of love, but the writing itself didn’t feel like labour. The labour was the research, and the keeping myself afloat while I wrote it. The time and effort put in while garnering the many experiences I ‘used’ in my writing. But looking back I am glad I did it all. Every experience weaves together to create not only what is hopefully an interesting read, but also what continues to be a fun and varied life.
(c) Susan Loughnane
About The Art of Scandal
Uninspired artist Katie’s life in New York, and almost everyone in it, has been about as genuine as a Prada handbag from Chinatown. When it all comes crashing down she flees back to Ireland. There she finds her dormant artistic inspiration unexpectedly reignited in a small rural town.
However, it is not the beautiful landscape that has captured her imagination. It is the local men.
Katie sets out to create a collection of nude male portraits but before long the story of her project grows a skin as it winds its way in whispers and murmurs around the town. Speculation is rife about what she is offering the men in return for their life-modelling. Assumptions and accusations soon turn Katie’s utopian escape into a minefield.
About Susan Loughnane
Susan Loughnane is an award winning Irish actress,author and columnist. She is best known for playing the lead role of Debbie in the hit RTÉ drama Love/Hate opposite Aidan Gillen, for which she won the 2013 Irish Film and Television Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her first fiction novel ‘The Art of Scandal’ is being published by Poolbeg Press in October 2014.
Loughnane’s first role was on the Irish hidden-camera comedy TV series Anonymous as the daughter of Pamela Flood’s character Doreen. While training in New York City, Loughnane starred in the short film 50 Ways, which debuted at the Traverse City Film Festival in July 2010. She then appeared as Elaine in Single-handed for ITV and RTE. Prior to this Loughnane was also a contestant on Britain’s Next Top Model. Susan has completed filming Love/Hate season 4 and Loving Miss Hatto for BBC and also feature film ‘The Food Guide to Love’. She also played the guest role of Chloe in Hollyoaks in August 2013, but will return for a longer stint in November.