I think I’ve always been a writer. I had encouragement from my mother, who made me learn poems off by heart and write my own. After partly retiring from a working life in the field of mental health, I gained an MA at Edge Hill and was commissioned to write two self help books. Novels and stories followed.
Ideas for novels and stories come from the notebooks I’ve kept, conversations I’ve overheard, scribbled notes I’ve found on the bus, and, of course, the tales people tell you when they know you’re a captive audience. It’s a bit like pulling a piece of string; the story unravels slowly, bit by bit, and I often don’t know what’s going to be at the end of it. With the idea comes the research. This is something I love. I didn’t do a great deal of research for Losing It, because I had plenty of notes about the lonely caravan site in Belgium, and about the special hospital the main character Jane is housed in. I had also worked with staff, who filled in details of events and procedures (and inspired me with their care and courage) when looking after deranged, psychopathic and distressed human beings.
We had a large family, plus lodgers for a long time, and it was often difficult to fit in writing as well as work and household tasks. I managed it somehow. Now I write for two or three hours every day, often in an empty house, and I also write poetry, as well as fiction. Mantle Lane Press recently published some of my short stories as A Far Cry, stories I had written in spare moments. The novel I’m writing now needs a longer spell of concentration which I will have to negotiate.
I admire originality and craft in other writers, get impatient with bad grammar and overused phrases, and try to be aware of reader-response. Detail is important. So is structure, voice and authenticity. I think I’m a champion of lost causes and underdogs, since I often write about them. ‘Child With No Name’ is about an orphan of the Boxing Day Tsunami, ‘The Poison Garden of Dorelia Jones’ has a small albino toxicologist in the driving seat, and ‘The Marsh People’ follows displaced survivors in a dystopian landscape. The truth for me is in the basic nature of my characters, and what they do, which is what I want to get across. More than anything, I hope people enjoy and are interested in what I write. Now to crack on.
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