Good morning Anne and welcome, can I start by asking you a little bit about yourself?
Where do I start? Difficult this, as I’ve lived a full and varied life and if I was to go into details, we’d be here forever. So, here’s a potted history. Early childhood (the late 1940s/early 1950s – yes, I’m that old!) spent with my parents in domestic service, worked for six years as a weaver in the Lancashire cotton industry, spent a brief time living and working in the United States, lived all over the country, did various secretarial jobs until I ended up in an Admin role at a northern university where I met my third – and the best – husband. We’ll have been married 25 years later this year.
When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer and how did you begin that journey?
I don’t think I ever made a conscious decision that I wanted to be a writer. It just sort of happened. For most of my childhood, I was an only child – my brother came along when I was in my teens – and living in other people’s houses, I didn’t have much opportunity to mix with other children. So I made up imaginary stories with my dolls and cuddly toys. As I grew older and became interested in boys, I’d imagine romantic scenes with whatever boy I fancied at the time being the hero! By the time I was working, I was writing the stories down in exercise books and I certainly never thought about publication. As I reached adulthood, my heroes tended to all look like the British film star, Dirk Bogarde!
I’ve already mentioned living and working in the United States. This was in the early 1960s. So life-changing was the experience that I wove a fictional novel around it and naïvely sent it out to various publishers. With no luck, of course. It was still, I now realise, a long way off publication. By then, I was hooked on the love of writing. In the intervening years, I wrote another two novels, now all gathering dust on the shelf, probably the best place for them. I also got involved in tracing my family history and wrote articles, many of them commissioned, for various journals and national magazines. I really only took my writing seriously after taking early retirement. Last year, I self-published my debut novel, A Suitable Young Man, with some moderate success, I’m pleased to say. You can see details of it here http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00OXUYOUA
How would you describe your writing process? Do you plan your chapters in detail or sim ply sit and let inspiration wash over you?
My first three novels (the one’s gathering dust on the shelf) were written without any kind of planning whatsoever, which shows how naïve I was about the process of writing. However, now that I’m more experienced, my books tend to be a combination of planning and ‘pantsing.’ The first draft might well be just written as it comes to me but subsequent drafts are juggled with and added to as further ideas occur to me that might develop the story further. After the first draft, I do write a scene list, calculating how many scenes each of my protagonists has and balancing this where necessary. I do admire writers who plan meticulously but, unfortunately, my mind doesn’t seem to work that way. A Suitable Young Man took innumerable drafts and the circumstances of my two main protagonists changed several times before it became what I hoped was publishable. I write in the family/regional saga genre.
Can you tell us something about your current WIP?
When writing A Suitable Young Man, I started wondering what would happen to certain characters who were left in limbo. I included an epilogue in that book, which hinted that the story of one of the more minor characters, would continue. In Bittersweet Flight, it’s 1956 and Sally Simcox is a girl in trouble, at a time when having an illegitimate child is considered shameful. The father, Nick Roberts, had offered to marry her but, knowing he was in love with someone else, she’d told him she’d had a miscarriage. Sally has fled to the anonymity of Blackpool, not knowing what she’s going to do there or how she will cope with her situation. On the day of her arrival in Blackpool, she meets a young RAF serviceman. He seems familiar and it isn’t long before Sally realises that he’s the last person she needs to meet for he is Nick’s younger brother, Phil. And he has no idea who she is. Yet it seems that their paths are destined to cross. I would describe Bittersweet Flight as a nostalgic tale of self-discovery, courage, loss and love. I’ve no firm plans in mind for a further book. However, the first novel I ever wrote is still very dear to my heart and I may well come back to it now that I’m a more experienced writer.
Bittersweet Flight is now available for pre-order on Amazon:
If money was no object, where in the world would you choose for a special holiday?
Without doubt, it would have to be New Zealand. The country, with the South Island’s snow-capped mountains and the more sub-tropical North Island, has long fascinated me. My first husband and I had even looked into emigrating there in the 1970s but our plan never came to fruition. New Zealand is, because of its geographical isolation, unique in its flora and fauna. And the indigenous Polynesian people, the Maori, with their own language, mythology and distinctive craftwork, only add to the country’s attraction.
And lastly if you could invite four celebrities for dinner, who would they be and why?
Definitely Tom Jones! I’ve always been a fan of his golden voice and, having just read his autobiography ‘Over the Top and Back,’ he comes across as a warm-hearted man. Another favoured guest would be the TV presenter, Simon Reeve. He puts such enthusiasm into whatever subject he is discussing and he’s not afraid to show his emotions, as when he came across refugees in his recent series about Greece. I would have to include the author Jojo Moyes. Her books are always subtly different which I think would be very challenging and I’d love to ask her how she does it. Lastly, I would like to include the opera singer, Dame Tiri Te Kanawa, because I understand she has a Maori background and would be interesting to talk to.
Thanks, Jo, for asking me to participate in your Tuesday Talk. It’s been a pleasure!
Thank you for taking time to talk to me Anne and for some great responses to my questions.