Lipgloss by Liam Gammalliere
Lip-Gloss is a fiction novel exploring the world of a seventeen-year-old-girl who finds herself in an abusive relationship. The saddest part about this book is that these types of relationships exist. I normally would not gravitate to this type of story, in fear that it would be too morose for me to handle, but Lip-Gloss explores these connections in a manageable fashion. This book sheds light on how anyone, even the strongest person, can find themselves manipulated to the point where they allow themselves to be mistreated. Gammalliere’s writing is cohesive. The book has dark elements but there is humor in the main character’s inner monologue. A very enjoyable read!
Before we talk to the author, let’s read the synopsis for Lip-Gloss:
Set against the regeneration of East London, Lip-Gloss, follows the life of a seventeen-year-old-girl in the weeks leading to Christmas in 2011.
She is defined by the people in her life. Particularly her boyfriend, James. Controlling, possessive and manipulative, James’ behavior becomes increasingly desperate and aggressive as she tries to find her own identity into womanhood. She struggles through adversity inflicted by her environment and is supported by her vivacious best friend, Nancy. But rising tensions between Nancy and James makes appeasing those closest to her increasingly difficult.
Fraught with anxiety and indecision, constant flashbacks reveal the domineering nature of her recent past. Meanwhile, James’ intentions grown darker, and there seems to be no limit to what he will do to keep her; until circumstances reach a point from which they may never return.
J.C. - Hi Liam! In the Before Reading section of your book you touch on your observations on relationships. I thought now would be a great time for you to take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers.
L.G. - I’m Liam Gammalliere! I’m 31 (depending on when you’re reading this) and I live in London. I guess I’d consider myself a writer/thinker/philosopher/poet – although at least two of those things are too pretentious to refer to yourself as… But, I do all of those things, so… I graduated from University of London with a BA Philosophy and I read everything I can get my hands on. I speak to anyone who will listen and I listen to anyone who has something to say. I live in the creative sphere. If I’m not writing, I’m playing drums, ukulele, and harmonica (all at the same time, obviously). I travel when and where I am able, but can usually be found milling around London looking at things.
J.C. - Where did you come up with the idea to write Lipgloss?
L.G. - The idea for ‘Lipgloss’ came from real life. It was fuelled by my interest in ideas and people – particularly how people organise themselves and interact with others. The storyline itself came from what I perceived to be a conflation between what people considered ‘normal’ and what was ‘common’. In some instances of how people organised themselves and interacted with one another, I saw that what was ‘common’ was being perceived as being ‘normal’. I took objection to this, and decided to play out a story that would assume that facets of a relationship that should be avoided would continue to fester beneath the surface – experimenting with what would happen down the line at their logical conclusion.
J.C. - This book is written in first person POV of the main character who is a seventeen-year-old-female. What made you want to write from her perspective?
L.G. - I chose to write from the perspective of a seventeen-year-old girl for a few reasons. Firstly, I like a challenge. It wasn’t easy to put myself in the shoes of a character whose life was so far removed from my own. She struggles through a lot of difficulties that I’ve been fortunate enough to have not dealt with, so writing from this perspective was an exercise of empathy which I wanted to immerse myself in. Secondly, I felt that the trajectory of the story could move in different directions with this character – allowing the plot to gravitate around the idea of a potential pregnancy.
J.C. - The main character begins to date a boy, named James, who becomes manipulative. Quite quickly that manifests into quite an abusive relationship. The MC knows it is wrong but can’t seem to leave. Sadly, this is something that happens in real life. How important is a healthy relationship to you?
L.G. - A healthy relationship is really important – and it’s hard to get right. In the book, the main character touches on the pressure that she feels to pair up with someone at a young age. This sexualisation of young people is something that has grown increasingly over time. The story is really an exploration of that; the naivety of a first relationship. Generally speaking, you have little idea what to expect, what you will be willing to tolerate, and also, what about yourself is intolerable to others. Before the first romantic relationship, most people spend time with their families and close friends. There’s a level of necessary reconciliation in these relationships. The compromise starts at a young age and boundaries are set by parents. A mutual respect, reciprocal malleability, and unconditional love usually underpin these relationships. In a romantic relationship, these foundations aren’t ready made. We have to work on them. So, how much is it appropriate to compromise? What parts of ourselves should we be willing to forsake for someone else? It’s untraversed terrain, and we have no idea when it might collapse beneath us and leave us broken.
J.C. - Have you considered writing this story from James’ point of view?
L.G. - I have considered writing the story from James' point of view. From the feedback I get, people respond to him with unanimous abhorrence. He wasn’t created to be a particularly likeable character, but we have to ask ourselves why the main character is with him. These traits weren’t always something he had, so when and how did they develop? He has a back story that is very briefly touched upon, and it would be interesting to get in amongst that and explore him as opposed to the perception that he allows the reader to see.
J.C. - The main character also had a turbulent childhood living with a mother who is battling her own demons. This is something that I identified with on a personal level. From my own experience, I feel you can either grow up and become what you know or learn from it and move on to a better life. It’s not always easy but having a best friend to pull you through can help. Tell us a little bit about Nancy and how important she is to the MC.
L.G. - Nancy’s relationship with the main character is a strange one. They’ve been friends for years. On the surface, there’s very little about them that’s different. The main character makes a lot of comparisons between them. The main character is a product of her environment and has largely allowed her circumstances to shape her a lot more than Nancy has. Of course, the main character has a lot more to contend with through her turbulent relationship with her mother. With the exception of that, they’re very similar. What the main character compliments Nancy for, she insults herself for – and vice versa. The only thing that truly differentiates the two is their outlooks and their reactions to circumstances. We know that, without Nancy, the main character has no one. This makes it pretty clear that her relationship with James isn’t as meaningful as her relationship with Nancy.
J.C. - Who has been your biggest support system while on this writing adventure?
L.G. - This is a difficult one, because this is a layered answer. My immediate family were the most supportive while writing. It was only through living at home that I was afforded the luxury of being able to invest so much time into the project. My creative hours for writing this project were at night, and I would start work as early as 06:30. The jobs that I’d had while at university were desperately low paid, so living with my parents at the time was invaluable. I would constantly bounce ideas off of my older brother and younger sister, and have them proofread bits and pieces as I wrote them. So, primarily, my immediate family have been my biggest support network and they’re still my cheerleading base to this day. I sat on ‘Lipgloss’ as an eBook for several years as I was very apprehensive to cement it in a paperback. This was ultimately due to my having (then, undiagnosed) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. When I met my girlfriend, we spoke at length and I decided to see a psychotherapist. It was at this point that I really began to get my life in order. Upon discharge – and being able to acknowledge and manage my symptoms – I took the plunge into finally getting ‘Lipgloss’ in print and marketing it to a wider audience… And I haven’t looked back since. For this reason, my girlfriend and my psychotherapist have been instrumental in supporting me to take the next step. As you can imagine, there are a few people to be thankful for!
J.C. - Finish the sentence. In ten years I’d like to…
L.G. - Be able to give a decent answer to this question! I guess I’d like to have a body of work to look back on and be really proud of. I like to think I’m on my way to getting there!
J.C. - Will there be a sequel to Lipgloss? If not, do you have any other projects in the works?
L.G. - I’ve had a lot of feedback that has indicated a desire for a sequel – particularly given the nature of the ending. I have toyed with the idea of doing this. Initially, I considered it to be a standalone piece. As a reader, I genuinely want to know where the characters might be today, and how they came to be the way they are. I haven’t dismissed the idea, but I am working on other projects at the moment. I will be releasing a poetry book soon which is also centred around people and their varying states of mental health.
J.C. - Lastly, where can readers find you and your work?
L.G. - At this moment, due to the limits of self-publishing, my published work is only available on Amazon – in Paperback and eBook format. I do have a view to expanding this by setting up my own online space; but, for now, Instagram @liam_gamma is my means of communication with my readership. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some really supportive, funny, and interesting people here. In a world where there are so many great pieces of literature that people have access to, I don’t take any reader for granted. I’ll do my best to make every project meaningful and worthwhile. Although I don’t necessarily write to entertain, I do write to make people think. I think the world needs a little bit more of that!