Review of 'Invisible' - Lindsay Woodward
Alice Bloom has shut herself away from the world for years. But all that changes when three men come into her life. Firstly there's the rather disgusting Karl, who has the key to her problems but turns her stomach. Then there's smooth and sexy Ethan, whom Alice falls head over heels for, but she just can't seem to get time alone with him. And finally there's her lovely, supportive friend Dan, if only they could ever actually get to meet. Because the biggest problem of all is: Alice is invisible.
The complications become more and more hilarious as Alice tries to steer her way through her conflicting emotions and find her way to happiness. Will she succeed or will life always get the better of her?
When I agreed to review Invisible I was lucky enough to get one of the guest post spots. I love it when I get to read these because they give you an insight into the author's mind and you consider aspects of the book you may not otherwise have done. Here are Lindsay Woodward's thoughts on 'the rather disgusting', Karl.
The Last Man You’d Want to Date
I knew I wanted to write a story about someone who was invisible, and I knew it had to be a romance. I’m such a sucker for romance. But I thought rather than Alice, our invisible girl, meeting the love of her life, the first obstacle she’ll have to face is getting stuck with a man she can’t stand.
When I started to plot this book I decided that Alice would go out one night and bump into Karl. As soon as he’s in her presence, she pops back into view and is visible once more. Alice quickly learns that it’s only when she’s in the company of Karl that she can be seen. But he’s not a man she particularly wants to spend time with. In fact Karl is going to be the last man she’d ever want to date.
I had all my ideas in place, but now I needed to bring those characters to life. Now I needed to create Karl.
I was very wary that although this is a comedy and can be a bit silly, I didn’t want to make Karl a caricature. I didn’t want to go over the top with how disgusting he was. Alice most definitely had to hate every second she spent with him, but I wanted it to all feel real.
First came Karl’s looks. I was deliberately vague with his looks. He obviously couldn’t be handsome, but I knew straight away that I wanted my readers to imagine him mostly for themselves. All I wanted to convey was how unstylish he is. He’s naïve, almost like a boy, and has a slightly unpleasant aroma around him, but we don’t learn too much more about his physical presence.
But looks, as we know, are only skin deep. If Alice really was going to be irritated by him, I needed to think about how he was going to act.
If it had to feel real, I decided to draw on real life experience. The first thing I did was jot down memories of annoying men who have approached me at nightclubs to get some inspiration. I once had a man ask me to kiss him, but he was so drunk he was actually dribbling down his shirt. You’ll be pleased to know I respectfully declined. On another occasion, I was queuing at a busy bar. After a very long wait, I casually mentioned to the man standing next to me, who had also been waiting ages, that we might never get served, when his eyes lit up. The very fact that a girl had spoken to him seemed to excite him, and then he followed me around for the rest of the night, assuming we were somehow on a date. Sadly, this wasn’t the only time something like that happened. On more than one occasion I’ve been polite to a man who has chatted me up only to find the next thing I know he’s telling all his mates I’m his girlfriend.
I wanted to inject some of these things into how annoying and desperate Karl was. He needed to be the very opposite of cool and charming.
Then I added in a bit of dribbling too. I had to.
I send my books out to beta readers before they’re published and more than anything I was keen to know what people would make of Karl. Would readers find him gross or would they think Alice was just cruel for her dismissal of him?
I was very relieved when my readers came back to share that they didn’t like Karl at all. One reader even told me that she’d had a nightmare about being stuck on a date with him. I loved that!
Karl was a lot of fun to write, even though at times he made me grimace. Much of the comedy at the start of the book is based around his relationship with Alice, and I was very pleased that readers responded well to it. It can be hard to make such a comical character three dimensional, but I did a lot of work on his back story. So much so, I could write a spin off! Who knows, Karl could clean up his act and become quite the Casanova. I might have to write that down…
I'd certainly be interested to see if Karl can become the hero of his own story. He is incredibly irritating and it's no surprise that Alice wants nothing to do with him once she's visible. However, there is something about him that still elicits sympathy. He's the kind of person society as a whole might see as 'disposable' - the kind who never seem to make an impact on life and drift from friendship group to friendship group without ever really making a connection or being included. He's the kind of man who would have hung around the 'cool' kids at school and not realised they were laughing at him and bullying him. Nevertheless, much as I disliked Karl, I couldn't help feeling sorry for him. In many ways he is as much deserving of our sympathy as Alice is, because in his own way he is just as 'invisible' as she is.
The issue at the heart of Invisible is an interesting one. When Alice shuts herself off from the world she slowly becomes invisible, even to herself. As she begins to rediscover herself, that changes, but it doesn’t take much to set her back. This concept is something that is of particular interest in light of the events of the past year or so. Whilst the book fits comfortably in the romantic comedy genre, it can also be seen as a commentary on the nature of anxiety, depression and social isolation. It is clear from the beginning that Alice blames herself for her invisibility, but as she realises by the end of the book, it’s far more complex than that.
When people suffer from mental illnesses that cause them to withdraw from social occasions, they often find that people they considered friends also withdraw from them. Their anxiety/depression is sometimes viewed as attention seeking or a lack of interest in their peers and they are treated accordingly. Thus, their anxiety fuelled belief that no one is interested in them is confirmed and they retreat further. It’s a vicious cycle. In Invisible, Lindsey Woodward has simply taken that feeling of invisibility and turned it into a literal condition.
When I read it, I found myself irritated with Alice at times – she doesn’t always behave towards others in the way I felt she should – but when I put myself in her shoes, that behaviour became utterly believable. When people are desperate they often behave in out of character ways. Perhaps as a society, we need to be better at recognising these subtle clues that perhaps all is not well with someone. When our friends are maybe not on social media as much as usual, or they are posting things that are at odds with what we expect to see, or they go quiet in a group chat, rather than condemning them as ‘flaky’ or cutting them off completely, perhaps we need instead to question if they are struggling but don’t feel able to ask for help. Having been on all three sides of this issue, I know it doesn’t take much to inquire. I know how much worse the feeling of being abandoned makes everything. I know how much it means to hear, ‘Are you okay? We’ve been worried about you recently.' Suddenly, you’re not invisible. People see you and you matter to them. This is the lesson Alice learns.
We tell ourselves we are strong, independent people and we don’t need the validation of others. Ultimately, however, this is a fallacy. We live in a society. We are all, to a greater or lesser extent, social animals and we need the support of the people around us, especially in times of grief or stress. Invisible may be a romantic comedy (and it fulfils all the criteria of that genre) but read on another level it strikes right at the heart of both individual and societal struggles with mental health issues.
Don't forget to check out the other blogs on Lindsay's tour - these are listed on the banner below.
Author Bio –
I'm a British author who lives in Warwickshire with my husband and cat. I've had a lifelong passion for writing, starting off as a child when I used to write stories about the Fraggles of Fraggle Rock.
Knowing there was nothing else I'd rather study, I did my degree in writing and I've now turned my favourite hobby into a career.
I write love stories with a twist, always leaving readers guessing right until the end. They're far from your normal romance stories, but a love story runs through the heart of all my books, with a sprinkling of something weird thrown into the mix.
When I’m not writing novels, I’m a Marketing Consultant specialising in copywriting, so words really are my world!
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