I suspect I've always been a writer. Long before I was capable of committing more than a few laborious sentences to the page I routinely developed long and complex stories in my head, peopled typically with fairies, princes and princesses and the sons and daughters of red-Indian chieftains. And at primary school, instead of the usual playground games, I forced my friends to enact these dramas.
Only a few pages long, my first attempt at actually writing a novel was set on a manned lighthouse ‘in the olden days’. A visiting party of ladies was trapped there by bad weather. Following the young hero's fall on the rocks outside, which confined him to a couch being nursed by my young heroine, my imagination and energy failed.
I began this flight of fancy when I was ten, inspired by my fifteen year old sister, whose ambition was to write a Regency romance. It was the only book she has ever written (so far), but at least she finished it. I never finished anything, but I'm nothing if not persistent and once I'd caught the writing bug I carried on throughout my teenage years making many beginnings to various, and increasingly morbid stories. Doubtless I was compensating, through my romantic fantasies, for my lack of a real love life.
The ‘love on a lighthouse’ story was a one-off. Though I loved to read those Regency romances that had inspired my sister, my own writing swiftly settled into a more contemporary style, and dwelt in a darker, seamier world than the one Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer inhabited. It was a world I had no experience of and I had to rely entirely upon imagination.
My parents were both artists. They never discouraged my writing, but it was ignored. Their interest in my notebooks was not engaged by my literary pubescent outpourings, but by the doodles and illustrations which lavishly embellished them. It was clear where they thought my talents lay. In my early adult life I stopped writing – writers were clever, educated people. I was neither. I'd left school at 16 with just enough exam passes to go on to art college. I now realise that, although I am on the mild end of the spectrum, I was then and am now almost certainly dyslexic.
My career was in advertising where I worked as an illustrator. When I stopped work to have my son, I started writing again. Given my subsequent experience, I now find it amazing that the first two novels I ever finished were immediately taken on by a new independent publisher. The first, Just Before Dawn, though unconventional, followed most of the of the tropes of the category romance. But with the second, Desires & Dreams, I let my hair down and wrote the novel of my heart. It was still a love story, but it revisited the darker world of my teenage imagination and was a novel which subverted the ‘romance’ stereotypes. I was able to design my own covers.
My publisher failed to achieve the marketing, promotion and distribution necessary to achieve success for itself or for its new authors. It folded after a few years and since those days the world of publishing has changed completely. This is why, in a time when publishers and agents are increasingly risk averse, I have decided to self-publish.
Even now, many books later, I cannot follow any kind of formula in my writing. Love may still be the engine of the plot, not that my characters are necessarily aware of this, but I try to write honestly, refusing to romanticise the downsides and the pitfalls in modern relationships.
My new book, Torn is a contemporary story, which faces up to the complexities, messiness and absurdities in modern relationships. Life is not a fairy tale, it can be confusing and difficult. Sex is not always awesome, it can be awkward and embarrassing, and it has consequences. You don't always fall for Mr Right, even if he falls for you. And realising you're in love is not always good news. It can make the future look daunting...
Or, what happens when a ‘sex and the city’ girl meets a ‘cider with Rosie’ boy?
Jessica Avery has made a series of wrong choices in her life – job, men and life-style. Her job came to a disastrous conclusion. Men have consistently let her down. Her life has involved too many pills, parties and promiscuity, and now she has a 3 year old son. By quitting her old relationship and moving from London to the country, she can make a fresh start. Her choice now is to live a steady, responsible life in a tranquil new environment, putting her son's needs and her role as a mother as her number one priority.
But she finds country life less serene than she expected. As an in-comer – and even worse, an ex-investment banker – Jessica is not made welcome by the local mothers. A new by-pass is being planned and she initially favours a new road. When she realises the route it might take, ripping through the landscape she comes to love, Jess is torn between the pragmatic and the romantic decision. The friends she makes represent the opposing positions and attitudes to life. There is Danny Bowman, the counter-culture shepherd; his employer, James Warwick, affluent widowed farmer and father to three year old daughter, Sasha; Gilda Warwick, James's match-making mother; and Sheila, the feminist nursery school owner.
Despite vowing she wants no emotional entanglements in her life, Jess is torn between her good intentions and her own nature. In the face of temptation old habits die hard. A woman who claims she has never been in love, Jess is eventually forced to re-evaluate and to admit to herself that she has indeed fallen in love, but... She is torn between two very different men – the suitable man and the unsuitable boy?
Torn is out now as a Kindle e-book.