How to be Brave, my debut novel, was a lifetime in the making. A dream come true after a long, long journey. When Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books offered me a book deal on 9th February 2015 I quite literally cried. I will never forget how it felt. And since that moment it has been one magical experience after another, from seeing this beautiful cover for the first time to the incredible launch party to the amazing reviews to reaching the top ten on Amazon.
The tale that began as a short story would not stay small. It had always been in my heart, I just had to find the best way to tell it. And first I told it to my daughter when she was having a hard time with her insulin injections. I’d tell her a little of Grandad Colin’s incredible sea survival in exchange for her accepting the needle. And I knew this was something that might inspire others too.
Here’s the blurb…
All the stories died that morning … until we found the one we’d always known.
When nine-year-old Rose is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, Natalie must use her imagination to keep her daughter alive. They begin dreaming about and seeing a man in a brown suit who feels hauntingly familiar, a man who has something for them. Through the magic of storytelling, Natalie and Rose are transported to the Atlantic Ocean in 1943, to a lifeboat, where an ancestor survived for fifty days before being rescued. Poignant, beautifully written and tenderly told, How To Be Brave weaves together the contemporary story of a mother battling to save her child’s life with an extraordinary true account of bravery and a fight for survival in the Second World War. A simply unforgettable debut that celebrates the power of words, the redemptive energy of a mother’s love … and what it really means to be brave.
The Mountain in my Shoe is my second novel and will be published on Kindle 15th July and in paperback in September, by Orenda Books.
It turns out I accidentally wrote a psychological thriller with this one. I never write with a genre in mind, I just sit down and set off, so it was quite a surprise. This book – much like my first – was inspired by something I experienced; my time spent volunteering with children in the care system. I learned that most of these vulnerable kids have what is called a lifebook, in which all their foster careers, adoptive parents, and social workers record their childhood, so that when they reach adulthood they have their history. It occurred to me what an incredible way this might be to tell a story. And so a lifebook forms one of the narratives in the novel.
And here’s the blurb for you….
A missing boy. A missing book. A missing husband. A woman who must find them all to find herself …
On the night Bernadette finally has the courage to tell her domineering husband that she’s leaving, he doesn’t come home. Neither does Conor, the little boy she’s befriended for the past five years. Also missing is his lifebook, the only thing that holds the answers. With the help of Conor’s foster mum, Bernadette must face her own past, her husband’s secrets and a future she never dared imagine in order to find them all.
When I was fifteen I bet my mother ten pounds that I’d be published by the age of thirty. Ten pounds was quite a bit to me then. I felt like it was a fair deal, one where she’d have to pay me. After all, I’d always been a writer.
I wrote stories in notepads from as young as seven. I wrote a sequel to my favourite book Heidi when I was ten, with diagrams and chapters and everything. I completed my first teen novel at fourteen. Everything inspired me. My sound of my father’s guitar playing. The smell of my mother’s lap, her yellow dressing gown, as I tried to soothe her tears. The sight of clouds against blue sky.
So I knew my mother would have to hand over ten pounds on my thirtieth birthday.
I continued writing in early adulthood but never quite dared send my work anywhere. Thirty approached. I sent a few articles about being a mum to our local newspaper. When the editor called me, I thought it might just be for feedback, but he wanted me to write a weekly column for them. I was overjoyed.
My first piece was published two months after my thirty-first birthday. I had to smile. Better late then never; because this gave me confidence, and I began having more faith in my writing, and haven’t looked back since.