My parents both loved books, my father read
detective, adventure and espionage stories while my mother read historical
fiction and romance so I grew up with a passion for reading most genres and
this is reflected in my novels which although set in the 20th
Century are a mixture of all these. I write both military history and
historical fiction and the inspiration behind my writing was my father in law,
Ted was conscripted into the Rifle Brigade in
September 1939 and fought in the Defence of Calais in May 1940 after which he
spent five years as a POW. Although he’d never spoken about it we finally managed
to persuade him to talk on tape and received a very sanitised version of the
fighting and his subsequent years in a POW camp. In 2008 Ted suffered a crippling
stroke and ended up in a nursing home. To cheer him up I suggested writing up
his war experiences as a book.
This was quite daunting as I had no background
in military history. So I began the long process of reading everything I could
about the Defence of Calais, which wasn’t much. The battle was totally eclipsed
by the evacuation from Dunkirk and was rarely mentioned, even on the most
recent documentaries. I knew even less about the treatment of the ordinary POW
at the hands of their captors or their lives, having grown up on a diet of
sanitised POW camp films and even one comedy set in a Stalag, none of which bore
any reality to the truth. Like most authors I struggled to find a publisher but
eventually, Ted’s story, Surviving the
Nazi Onslaught, was published by Pen & Sword Books Ltd.
I was now hooked on writing military history
and have written several other books, but I also wanted to write fiction because
I couldn’t find anything I wanted to read. I have always been a voracious reader.
I’d spend hours in the library as a child and spent all my pocket money on
books, progressing quickly from Enid Blyton to Agatha Christie amongst others.
I’d rush home with my latest books, disappear up into my bedroom and not come
down again until they were finished. My Dad always used to say they were a
waste of money because I could get through two or three books in a weekend but
they weren’t. They were my escape from reality and the more I read the more it
fuelled my imagination. As I grew older I read anything I could get my hands
on, crime, thrillers, historical fiction, occasionally romance and science
fiction and of course chic lit! The library was my second home and I would
always come out with the maximum number of books I could borrow and they were
always returned well before the due date.
liked big books I could lose myself in, probably to escape my disastrous
relationships. Prams, pushchairs and my arms groaned under the weight but it
was worth it to stay sane. I often think the most important thing I did for my
children, apart from making them independent, was to give them a love of
reading and without libraries this would not have been possible.
finally extradited myself from the last bad relationship I spent two years on
my own finding myself again and then I met David. I no longer needed to escape
my reality so I stopped reading. I found books by authors I’d always loved no
longer held my attention so I decided to write something I wanted to read and I
had the perfect idea.
Whist writing Ted’s story I learnt that
Brenda, my mother in law, had been a nurse throughout the London Blitz, and she
and Ted were engaged when he went to war. Five long years later he came home
and they were married. Their story fascinated me. They did not have the benefit
of hindsight. Brenda waited even though she had no idea how long it would be or
even if Ted would ever come home. Ted had somehow held onto the belief that he
would come home even though he had no idea how long that might be. I decided to
write up Ted and Brenda’s story including an element of fiction to cover
something Ted did in France.
I soon realised it was impossible to fictionalise
my in laws because they were real people. I couldn’t have them doing things
that weren’t in character nor did I want to alienate the family and have my
husband not talking to me because I had made his mum do something she wouldn’t
have! So I changed their names and although the story is inspired by them and
based on something that did happen, all the characters are now 100% fiction. Lives Apart: A WW2 Chronicle is in 5
books and you can borrow them from your library. This was followed by Betrayed
and my latest series, Obsession. I have just started another series called
Secret Lives and this will be out some time next year.
When I advertise my books on the radio or in
blog posts I always suggest people get them from the library. I prefer to try
authors out first before spending money and what better way of doing that than
via your local library? I still get royalties from books that are stocked by
libraries and if my book is on the shelf it introduces more people to my work.
Libraries are a priceless resource for both readers and authors and without
them I would never have become an author.