So here we are, at the end of yet another month. As always time scoots by and now, after surviving flu and Covid shots (one in each arm, at the same time), it’s all been about Halloween and pumpkins. And beyond that November and, dare I say, the countdown to Christmas. This month I decided to chart my life in books – not as a writer, but as a reader. Of course, to include everything I have read would be impossible, and to do so would end up making it sound like an inventory in a library. But here are those which had the most impact, and maybe gradually nudged me towards becoming a writer.
LIFE AS A READER
Very often when choosing something to read by a writer new to me, I check out their bio. More often than not, they always say they have either read or written from an early age. Me too, I think. One of my childhood memories (when I was very young) was being taken to church on a Sunday and sitting between the adults with an Enid Blyton book – normally Noddy and Big Ears. So while the vicar stood in the pulpit imparting the weekly lesson to his flock, I was engrossed in the goings on in Toy Land.
Starting school, I began reading lessons with books involving brother and sister Janet and John, which I’m sure many will remember. And by the time I’d reached seven or eight, was pulled into the worlds of the Famous Five and Secret Seven – also written by Enid Blyton. One of my uncles, a teacher, regularly sent me books for birthdays and Christmases. I got though all the standards – Black Beauty, The Secret Garden, The Children of the New Forest, The Jungle Books and The Wind in the Willows to name a few. To receive a book token meant I could check out the children’s book section in W H Smith and purchase something new to read. I also joined the library in town and regularly took books out. Those early days were filled with the ability to escape to new and magic worlds.
My next real book memory came when I was in Year 11 (fourth year in pre-National Curriculum days ) at senior school. Competing with teen magazines and anything that had to do with the Beatles, copies of the Pan Book of Horror stories were very popular, and regularly swapped in class.
During my later teens it was all about music and socialising. It meant reading got put on the back burner for a while, although during my years at college I wrote regularly for the College Magazine. At the time, though, I never ever contemplated attempting to write a novel of my own.
Into my twenties, my reading taste became anything from horror and thrillers to historical fiction. I read Penmarric while on holiday in Cornwall one year, which for me, added to the magic of the story. My daily train journey to work in Bristol also gave me time for reading – and I made good use of it. I dipped into horror with Carrie and The Exorcist – and Peter Benchley’s Jaws (which everyone on the train seemed to have a copy of). Jeffery Archer, Rosemary Rogers and Jean Plaidy also featured in my TBR list of the time.
Over the years, I’ve enjoyed a wide variety of reads. I’ve never lost my love for historical fiction (Phillipa Gregory has taken Jean Plaidy’s place). Wilbur Smith was another favourite with his mix of South African history and saga. Currently I enjoy crime and psychological thrillers alongside contemporary fiction.
There are great romance writers out there too, so it’s a bit of a pick and mix for me, dipping in and out, from one genre to another as I find a book, read the blurb and decide on a download. As well as writing, I read and review and each year take up the Goodreads Challenge. This year, so far I have completed 61 reads.
The desire to become an author came in the noughties, when Sting’s Fields of Gold triggered thoughts of writing a romantic saga set in the West Country where I live – clearly his reference to fields of barley was an influencing factor. It was a huge challenge to undertake. I had worked on a couple storylines prior to this, after attending creative writing classes but nothing had come of either. This, however, felt more serious and I soon began working on a plot. I then began writing, not knowing whether the whole thing would fizzle out, or as I hoped, I would eventually get to the part where I could type THE END. Well, it was by no means an easy journey, but I did it, and my first book ‘When Tomorrow Comes’ charting the lives of four young women growing up in Somerset in the 1960s, was published in 2009. Four more in the series followed, then two set in Devon, three in Cornwall, with The Secrets We Keep, my final Cornish novel due to be published early in the New Year.
So what’s next? Honestly, I’m not sure at the moment. I do have the outline of a new story worked out, but need to give it some more thought. Until then, it’s all about seeing The Secrets We Keep through to publication. Next month I will be revealing the cover….yes, it’s definitely happening.
Until next month, enjoy Halloween and stay safe.