Who am I?
There's a whole philosophical discussion behind that question but I'll try to stick to the basics!
I've always thought of myself as an average person, muddling through life without any real plan; making lots of mistakes and getting nowhere fast. I recently turned 60, which used to be retirement age for a woman in the UK. It still marks a change in attitude, I think, but now I have an extra four and a half years to work before I can receive any pension from the state. In a way this is good, because I am still looking for the one career that I was meant to follow. Maybe an extra four and a half years might just get me there! It's not that I haven't tried, you understand, but all the things I 'should' be doing just don't do it for me. So far the only thing I like to do, which is writing, has yet to make me any money!
Where did it all begin?
I was born in a council house in Wythenshawe, Manchester to parents who worked hard to keep us children fed and clothed. I was the third child of four and there wasn't a lot of money to go round. My father was a bus driver and my mother worked at the local hospital and my mother is famed in our family for stretching a chicken over several meals for us all.
I don't know where my urge to write comes from. No-one else in my family had been writers or even considered writing as something to do. It's possible that I inherited some genes from my paternal grandfather who had been a very studious man, keen to learn as much as he could. He was an engineer for the railway and taught himself shorthand in his spare time. When I was 11, I passed an exam to go to a good school, although I didn't make the most of it at the time. School was hard work and the only writing I did was the essays I had to write. At the age of 18, I met my future husband and within 6 years we were married with two children - hard work at the time but great now. They were both grown up while I still felt young enough to have some fun. At the age of 42, I simultaneously achieved a BAHons and a divorce. I'm not sure which one I celebrated more.
What did I do before I wrote novels?
Really it would be easier to ask what didn't I do. Like many writers I've done all kinds of jobs, with quantity more prevalent than quality, although I have got some good experience of what not to do, (which would be useful either to a writer or a careers adviser and as they're not letting me into that job I'll stick to this one). I took jobs that fitted in with childcare, then later moved into full time, cog-in-the-machine type jobs, like customer service, call centre worker, office admin. I tried most things. Some were okay, an odd one was great, but most were soul destroying tedium. I like to put forward my ideas for making things work better, more efficiently and I get frustrated when I'm told to just get on with things the way they are when I can't see any good reason for it.
How did I become a writer?
I've always enjoyed writing, I write all the time, always carry a notebook rather than a make up bag and take notes down wherever I am. As a child I made my own diaries out of cast off exercise books or scrap paper, which I then hid so no-one could read them, a trait which I still have when I'm writing, until I'm happy to let it go. My first public success was a winning essay
in a primary school competition when I was about 10. I then went on to grammar school, where the emphasis was on academic subjects and I didn't dare confess to any writing ambitions and I hardly wrote at all until much later.
When my daughter was sixteen we went to a writers' group together where I was encouraged to try again. I did try to write short stories and articles which I half-heartedly submitted to some magazines without success. I've since realised it was the format that didn't suit me. I'm more of a novelist than a journalist. Soon after that life got in the way and it was only during treatment for breast cancer in 2002 that I turned to writing again, keeping a diary of the emotional issues as well as factual details. It was cathartic for me to write but I intended to write a guide for other newly diagnosed women to explain what actually happens to your body and mind following the diagnosis. I finally managed to edit it and it is now available with my other books on Amazon, here
I didn't write much for a while, concentrating on returning to 'normality'. I went back to work and even got promoted then in 2008 I became the first President of my local Women’s Institute. I produced monthly newsletters as well as writing reports and speeches, set up the group website and Facebook page and generally found an outlet for my creative expression. The members have been very supportive and I used our book group's feedback to produce my first story. This has since been published as my first novel, Oh Sharon! The reaction so far has been brilliant! Everyone seems to enjoy the story.
During 2010 I became really ill with a bad attack of shingles and I worried that the stress of working at a job I had come to hate was too much for me. At the same time I spotted an MA course in writing at the other end of the country, and I wondered if I had the courage to take a chance on doing something I love. I quit my job and jumped in with both feet, and although the course was a huge disappointment I did find out that I really love to write.
I have to mention this annual competition which taught me more than the MA, and that is that you have to keep at the writing till you finish the first draft. Improvements come later but if you don't have a first draft you have nothing. Get the words down, people!
NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month, an online writing challenge runs every November. The rule is to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days! It's quite a challenge but it is the best incentive I know to keep at the writing practice every day, producing around 1700 words a day. In 2009 I completed NaNoWriMo with a novel called 'Alternative Lives', which is currently on its 4th draft and should be available as an ebook one day. In 2011 I used the competition to begin the sequel story to 'Oh Sharon!', producing the first draft of about 20 chapters. The novel, Good Men and Mavericks, has now been available as a Kindle ebook since March 2012. The third book in the trilogy about Sharon is called House of Sunshine and has been available since early 2012. Hope you like it.
There's more to come too. There's already a different novel, Call Centre Chaos, and a farce featuring Caribbean expats available on Amazon and, in a change of direction, a booklet about Elizabeth Raffald, the 18th century celebrity chef. Still in progress are a crime novel, a young adult scifi and the novel of Mrs Raffald's story.
I do like to write!