Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author Angela Cobbin about her career, what inspires her, and the writing process behind her new book, My Name Is Not Wigs.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I’m Angela Owen and I write under the name of Angela Cobbin. I began my working life in the 1960’s at the age of fifteen as an apprentice hairdresser in Brighton because my parents having both been performers in the theatre had steered me away from anything remotely connected with it as they thought it would not be a stable career but contrary to this, fate took a hand.
I first realized that I wanted to work in the artistry of wig making because I was inspired by finding a picture in an old book, it was a hairstyle of an 18thcentury wig. To find out where I could go to achieve my aim I had to write to costume and wig establishments in London. Nathan wigs, the costumier in Drury Lane was where I started to learn the craft of dressing wigs from the 1940’s back to the 17thcentury and beyond; a dream come true.
I learned to make wigs at Madame Tussauds but after two years continued my career by the offer of a job quite by chance working in the wig dept. of the Royal Opera House and subsequently the National Theatre. I became an independent wig creator/designer in 1994 also working periodically in film and TV.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
When I realized that I’d had a long and very interesting career doing something I enjoyed, and that it could be the first book in the UK about the life of a wig maker in the theatre.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I had the beginnings of an idea a few years ago while I was making the wigs for the American touring version, the Phantom of the Opera which ran for six years visiting locations across the USA and Canada.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
More than two years because there were constant interruptions of wig making and new productions both here in the UK and abroad. It has been a long slow road and as with my wig making, I’m always trying to reach perfection.
What made you want to write My Name Is Not Wigs?
I’ve had such a fantastic time with my work, travelling, meeting so many talented people over the years, working alongside designers, directors, colleagues and performers throughout the industry and thought that I should share my hugely enjoyable career with everyone and encourage any young people interested in the Arts
What were your biggest challenges with writing My Name Is Not Wigs?
Trying to present a true picture of myself to the reader but also having to find a time of day for writing, which in my case was truly undisciplined. Most writers I believe start their day at the crack of dawn but being used to staying up late like most of us from the theatre, the early morning routine was definitely not for me so it was a difficult part of the process.
What was your research process for My Name Is Not Wigs?
I have a good many reference books on hair styling and wigs through the centuries but the constant reference to the theatre, film and TV productions I was involved in took up a good deal of time during the writing making sure that the details were all correct but inevitably slowing down the days output of words.
How did you plan the structure of My Name Is Not Wigs?
I had some very good tips from the author Martin Lake such as who was I writing the book for and where to start so I decided to make it as straightforward as possible by starting from my childhood but to make it a little more interesting for the reader I would take them to and fro on the journey of my working years with anecdotes on the way, so as not to read like a diary.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did My Name Is Not Wigs need?
I had some very positive minor editing support throughout the book
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
A good opening is essential to draw the reader in and to know what kind of reader it is that you’re aiming to captivate.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I’d like to write a follow up to Angela’s Footsteps, a book of my poems and ditties which I published in 2014.
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Yes, I am. In fact, I’m over the moon about such an accomplishment and I’ve had such a lot of encouragement from many sources including my husband and so I’m more than pleased to have written My Name is Not Wigs! And I’m delighted that I managed to finish it.
Find More From Angela Cobbin:
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