'The H.E Bates of our time... the same earthy, bucolic charm.'
I've written all my life, but only became a published novelist in 1997. Before that, I wrote short stories and newspaper articles for pin money while doing a series of naff jobs. In fact I've had twenty seven jobs and been sacked from nineteen of them for writing when I should have been working. I've been, among other things, a shop assistant, waitress, cleaner, secretary, factory worker, market-researcher, nanny, bookseller, night-club dancer, civil servant, blood donor attendant, fruit-picker and barmaid. I'm now, apparently, a Real Writer.
Writing for a living is wonderful - a dream come true - and I now manage to combine writing novels, short stories and articles with not doing the housework, not doing the gardening, not cooking much, but at least attempting to look after my husband - the Toyboy Trucker - and my daughter and our houseful of rescued cats.
I was born in Oxford and have lived in Berkshire, Bedfordshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Northumberland, London and Jersey. I blame my parents both for my itchy feet and my romantic soul. My Dad was a circus clown - Poor Billy, Prince of Laughter Makers - and my Mum who trained as a teacher, came from an army family, and had lived in six countries before she was 15. They met and fell in love while the circus was off the road and my Dad was working as Santa Claus in a department store. My Mum, at home for Christmas, was the fairy in his grotto. I was entranced by the way they met, that they were from such different backgrounds, and that their love for one another managed to survive every obstacle and objection thrown in its path. Every book I've written has their story at its core.
I grew up in a Berkshire village, in a tight, happy, secure and very working class community. My childhood was idyllically happy, and my friends from those days are still my best friends now. My novels reflect this community spirit, and all have small groups of people - crossing class, age and gender - who are friends and work together through the roller coaster ride of life. Also, because the women I grew up with were, by necessity, tough and go-getting with a sense of humour, my heroines are gutsy and strong. Real women in real situations. And the fact that the backgrounds to my books mirror my own past experiences is no coincidence, either.
My parents were great storytellers and avid readers, and taught me to read long before I started school, so I started writing my own stories at about five years old without thinking it in the least odd. Writing was an obsession, a friend, a way of life. I had my first short story published at 14, still blissfully unaware this was unusual. However, having a novel published was my life's ambition - and one that took another thirty writing years to achieve.
Having won a couple of awards for my short stories, I joined the Romantic Novelists' Association in 1993, and was lucky enough to be voted runner-up for the New Writers' Scheme Award at my second attempt in 1995. Dancing in the Moonlight was published by My Weekly Story Library, and as it didn't have an ISBN wasn't classed as a novel. I was, of course, ecstatic at this literary elevation - and it was at the RNA Awards Lunch that I was approached by an agent who suggested I should try writing full length commercial fiction. Going the Distance was the result, and amazingly it was sold to a publisher straight away and then, equally amazingly, chosen for the 1997 WH Smith Fresh Talent Promotion - and I haven't (touch wood and fingers and all other extremities crossed!) - looked back since.
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“The H.E Bates of our time… the same earthy, bucolic charm…” - Katie Fforde, The Independent’s Top 50 recommended books
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I've included my beloved cats - all rescued - on my website because they are such an important part of my family life. They've all had their names used for characters in my books and now think they're media stars