I’m referring to Michele E. Northwood’s “seamless” smooth-reading Fishnets in the Far East: A Dancer’s Diary in Korea. It was a great, riveting read that compelled me to give it a five-star rating (please see last week’s review). I’d gotten so involved in the three women’s lives and mis-adventures, I found myself wondering what transpired after they’d returned home.
I contacted Michele and asked if she’d be interested in doing an interview—she was! If you’ve not yet read Fishnets, please do; you won’t regret it. And if you have and you’re curious to find out more . . . here you go, my friends . . .
An obvious question: do you still keep in touch with anyone from the Fishnet days? If so, who? Do you reminisce? Or do you just not go there?
I’m still in touch with Louise via Facebook. Occasionally, we share photos and reminisce, but as I mentioned at the end of my book, the memory fades and we tend to obliterate the bad experiences and remember the good ones. Although it’s impossible to forget some of the experiences, we usually talk about funny or pleasant times and ignore the negatives. Occasionally, the name of our agent pops up, but I think time mellows a person and I hold no malice towards him.
When did you begin writing the book? What served as the “trigger” to write it?
To answer that question, I have to go back to my time in Korea. I knew from the first couple of days being in that country that we were living through a unique and once-in-a-lifetime experience, so I kept a detailed diary of every single day. I came across the two notebooks I had filled a couple of years ago, and when I sat down to read them again, I realised that it would make an interesting book. I thought that the uniqueness of the situation would be eye-opening, not only for other dancers but for readers interested in travel and the Far East, as well as appealing to anyone with a curiosity to discover the not-so-idyllic truth behind a dancer’s life.
It took me over a year to write the book and it was released in 2019.
What were your takeaways from the experience? Any regrets? Lessons learned?
I have no regrets about doing the contract. Although I went through some unpleasant experiences, the three of us dealt with each episode with a lot of laughter, something that I also wanted to get across in the book. It wasn’t all doom and gloom; we had some good times too.
The experience made me mature and become a much stronger person. I was an extremely naïve twenty-year-old who was thrown into a seedy world that I was ill-equipped to deal with. I soon realised the need to stand up for myself if I hoped to see this contract through to the end. But I was lucky to have Louise as my friend, as she was much more worldly-wise and mothered me for the first few months of the contract.
Some readers have asked me why I didn’t just go home. This would have been impossible. I was on the other side of the world at a time when cheap airfares were nonexistent and a one-way ticket back to the UK was eight hundred pounds. This was a huge amount of money for me at that time, and with our intermittent salary being literally drip-fed to us by our agent, the thought of saving up enough money to buy a ticket home was an insurmountable task.
I think we were all committed to seeing the contract through, regardless of the circumstances. As I said earlier, in between the bad experiences, there were some good times too. These positive experiences kept us all going.
I have no regrets about my time there, I think I grew as a person, particularly mentally, and I learnt to accept that throughout life there is always a Ying and a Yang. We all experience good and bad events throughout our lives and we have to deal with whatever life throws our way.
That’s a great, sage outlook. What happened after? How did the experience affect you?
Well, believe it or not, I went on my next contract with the same agent! This time I travelled to the island of Hokkaido in Japan! (In fact, I’ve just released the second book in the Fishnets series. Here is the link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Fishnets+and+Fire-eating&i=digital-text&ref=nb_sb_noss_2
I guess I felt that if I could cope with Korea, then Japan couldn’t be any worse. Japan was a totally different experience. I enjoyed the contract, but once again I experienced some daunting experiences along with a lot of laughter and weird experiences. To whet your appetite, here is the blurb from the new book:
This amusing, true story tells the tale of four young, professional dancers who travel to the island of Hokkaido, an area steeped in mystery, myths and legendary beasts. When the quartet discovers that they are living next door to an ancient Japanese Indian tribe, they drunkenly decide to conduct a Ouija board session and, from that night onwards, things never seem quite the same again. Not knowing, understanding or really appreciating the ancient Japanese traditions, culture or etiquette, the quartet finds themselves in some hilarious situations as well as living through some shocking real-life experiences. They stumble their way around massage parlours and maternity hospitals, museums and temples, learning the intricacies of the hot baths and the Japanese green tea ritual.
The girls are plunged into a world of secrets and mysteries where nothing appears to be what it seems. People vanish without a trace, and there is the strange disappearance of a large amount of money. What is the big secret on the island? Who is in control? Will the girls manage to keep themselves safe? And will they ever uncover the truth behind these mysteries that seem to enshroud them all?
Sounds intriguing! You’ve certainly sold me; I can’t wait to read it. . . . Have you returned to Korea since?
No, I have never returned. I sometimes imagine going there out of curiosity, to see how it must have changed since 1989. It would be interesting to visit the same old haunts, but as I have a terrible sense of direction, I´d probably never find them again!
How did your sister’s time in Korea go?
As I mentioned in the book, she seemed to have hit the jackpot compared to me. Her agent seemed attentive to the trio and their accommodation was almost palatial compared to our digs. However, her relationship with her agent also turned sour. He became abusive towards the girls and my sister eventually left, leaving the two other girls she was contracted with to work as a duet. She started modelling in Korea which was more lucrative and on her return to the UK, she never danced again.
Good for her; a happy ending, indeed.
Thanks so much, Michele, for sharing this captivating insight into yourself and your fantastic journey. You’ve certainly piqued my interest and I’ll be looking for Book #2!
A few more fascinating facts about Michele—she:
◊ was not only a dancer, but a magician and fire-eater who toured the world for 20+ years in theatre, musicals and circus ◊ went back to school upon retiring from the entertainment world and now has a First Class Honours degree in Modern languages, (English and Spanish) ◊ has been in the Guinness Book of Records, during her years in entertainment for being part of the world’s largest Human mobile while working for the circus of horrors as their first “Girl inside a bottle” (wow!) ◊ rubbed shoulders with Sting, Chris de Burgh, David Copperfield, Claudia Schiffer and Maurice Gibb from the Bee Gees ◊ worked as a knife throwers assistant; assisted a midget in his balancing act; and also taken part in the finale of a Scorpions’ concert.
Michele currently lives in Spain with her Spanish husband, Randy, two dogs and two cats, and is an English teacher, preparing students for the prestigious Cambridge English examinations.
A great concern of Michele’s is climate change, the abundance of plastic pollution, and hates the way man unkindly treats the other species that inhabit this beautiful planet, which we are slowly destroying. She loves living in the countryside with views of the sea and likes nothing better than to sit on the terrace at the end of the day, looking up at the stars and contemplating.
She can be contacted/followed at:
Twitter : @northwood_e
Pinterest board: michele e. northwood pinterest.es https://www.pinterest.es/nextchapterpub/pinterest-board-michele-e-northwood/
Books by Michele:
Fishnets in the Far East: A Dancer’s Diary in Korea (a true story)
Fishnets and Fire-eating: A Dancer’s True Story in Japan
The Blood Red Retreat (coming soon)
The Circus Affair