Initially, for me, the answer is that I had a burning desire to put my heart on the page and write about something that began in 1966 when I met someone who was to have a huge impact on my personal life. The subject? Young love revisited twenty years later but at what cost?
I started writing ‘No One Comes Close’, in 1997, chronologically in longhand, taken from my original diaries. I filled three A4 notebooks. Initially this was a cathartic exercise. However, concerned that this story could upset the people closest to me, I hid these notebooks away in a cupboard hoping to do something with them in the future.
Cut to 2008. My husband and I had moved to Cornwall but instead of enjoying our new home and environment I found it stressful. One day I noticed a poster in our local post office window for a creative writing course. I decided to take the plunge and put my name down. In the back of my mind I was hoping that it would help me to turn my notebooks into a publishable manuscript. What I hadn’t realised was how much fun this course would be!
‘Finding Your Voice’ ran over six weeks and was a total revelation. Our tutor was a very inspiring lady, an author of many children’s books, who made our lessons exciting and playful. She covered a variety of genres, a different subject each session, and one of the things that came out of this was that I found I had a flare for writing magazine articles. I emailed This England and had my first article ‘A Day Trip to Ely’ published in 2010. I was overjoyed! Someone wanted my work!
During another exercise I came up with the beginning of what was to be my first novel, ‘Where There’s a Will’, although I didn’t know it at the time. I ran with it and after a few weeks I had written 50,000 words. A whole new world had opened up and I forgot about my problems.
Having been bitten by the writing bug I joined three writing groups. One of these was extremely helpful when it came to my memoir. We were invited to talk about our writing and to critique members’ work and I learned a lot. I transcribed my memoir into Word, printed off some extracts and gritted my teeth. I hadn’t anticipated their reaction. I felt like a schoolgirl who had been given a gold star! It initiated a lot of stimulating discussion – should I publish it in its present form or turn it into a novel? I decided on the former; I changed the names and wrote a disclaimer and left it once again on the backburner.
In 2014 we were going through another house move and to take my mind off the exasperation of the conveyancing I embarked on NaNoWriMo. This is a competition to write a novel in a month in November each year. I completed 50,000 words in the given time and received the certificate. One of the prizes was to have your novel bound in a hardback book for free. It’s a lovely keepsake but I have since redrafted the story to become my family saga ‘Bay of Secrets’. This novel is set in my favourite part of Cornwall and inevitably has some autobiographical elements.
But my memoir was still tapping me on the shoulder. I went through it again, played around with the format and talked it over with my editor friend who gave it the once-over for which I was immensely grateful. Next I approached some literary agents, none of which were prepared to represent me. I finally self-published ‘No One Comes Close’ in 2017. I have some very favourable reviews.
Having got that one under my belt I went on the self-publish my rom-com ‘Where There’s a Will’ in 2018. This is a rags to riches story set in SE London and the Yorkshire dales where elements of my family history come in.
Last but by no means least I published my family saga ‘Bay of Secrets’ at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic. Perhaps we writers produce our best work during stressful times?