I’ve been challenged by Shauna Bickley to join in the Lovely Blog Hop to talk about some of the things that have shaped my life and my writing.
At the end, you’ll find links to some blogs and writers I like. The writers have all agreed to participate in this Lovely Blog Hop.
I think it was having measles when I was three or four years of age. I was very ill, apparently, and didn’t eat for a long time. I can still remember my bedroom (blue rug with a peacock on it) and the high bed (small birds on the cover) and how much I ached all over. My dad came home during the day for something and I could hear him downstairs but by the time my aching muscles would let me get out of bed, he’d gone back to work. I was upset but my mum was thrilled – I didn’t realise until much later that she’d been worried for my survival and my standing on the landing and crying was a big step up from lying in bed like a hot little slug.
My family lived in Cove, near Farnborough in Hampshire, England, at the time. Dad was in the army and stationed at Aldershot Barracks. There hadn’t been an army quarter available for us when we first got the posting and Mum found she liked living out of barracks for a while, so we stayed in the village instead of moving into the camp.
I was slightly late to reading but once I’d conquered the skill I latched onto the world of fiction and it has remained one of my favourite places to be. Although I was a noisy kid with a big social group, I spent hours lying on my bed with a book. I read a lot of Enid Blyton but was reading adult novels by the time I was 9. The first was ‘A Town Like Alice’ by Nevil Shute. I’m still a huge devotee and think I have everything of his that was published – even stuff published posthumously and which I’m convinced he would never have wanted his readers to see. Dad used to vet what I borrowed from his bookcase to ensure it was ‘suitable for little girls’. (Not ‘Lolita’, apparently.) I used to give almost any book a go and made it a mission to finish anything I began. This has reversed itself as I find reading time harder to come by and therefore more precious – I tend to read mainly in the romantic and women’s fiction genres and if I’m not enjoying a book, I stop reading it.
When we first left the army (I was nearly 10) I hated Civvy Street. The kids at my new school had received few ‘new kids’ into their classes. In army schools new kids were generally helped and welcomed because it happened to us all so regularly. But, in my new school, I answered the familiar question ‘Where did you used to live?’ in the way I was used to: Germany, Cyprus, Malta, and, in the UK, Hampshire and London. The response was ‘You’re a liar’ and nobody spoke to me. During that time, the local library was my saviour. I could get three books out a week – nowhere near enough! So I used to sit on the floor or in the window seat and read in situ.
*Footnote: I gained acceptance at my new school by winning a fight arranged for after school. The girl in question (with whom I’m still friends!) came at me with a couple of ineffective slaps. I’d been not only brought up in the barracks but had two big brothers. I punched her in the throat and, when she could breathe again, she ran home crying. The crowd who’d come to see me beaten up then accepted me as if the no-speaking period had never happened.
What’s Your Passion?
Formula 1 racing. I’m a complete F1 bore and watch every programme, report, practice session, qualifying session and race that I possibly can. I love it.
I hated my senior school and, when I was told I would have to stay there for two additional years plus do six years of university if I wanted to be a journalist, I said, ‘I’m not doing that, then.’ I found a secretarial course at the local college and set myself free. On the first day, I learned I could have applied to be a cub reporter at the local newspaper and done my qualifications on day-release. Instead of going home and writing to the paper to ask about positions for the following year, I took the view that the opportunity had gone. I did well on my course and went into a bank, where I also did reasonably well until I left, 9 years later. I have never taken an exam since my secretarial course.
However, I’ve educated myself about writing and publishing! I read writing magazines and books, attend conferences, take workshops, read newsletters, and at one time took a correspondence course that helped me launch my career in short stories for national newsstand magazines. Creating a CV around short stories was planned as a stepping stone to being a published novelist. I’ve sold over 150 short stories, 8 novels, a novella, 5 serials and dozens of columns and articles, so my plan worked – even if the route wasn’t as straightforward as I’d once hoped.
It’s a compulsion. What we call ‘writing’ would’ve been called ‘storytelling’ in the days before most people could actually write. I think that’s what I am first: a storyteller. This concept is something I try to use when teaching creative writing so that people who have a challenge such as dyslexia or interrupted education are not put off.
Here are the links to other blogs from some writers you might find interesting. Not all of my writing friends write in the same genre as I do but they have something in common – they’re lovely. Thanks to Shauna Bickley for nominating me.