A Life of Writing

I began writing before I could hold a pen. Before I knew the alphabet. In my head I always made up stories. I remember sitting in the back of the car aged three while we drove through Wales, so small I could barely see over the window edge. For me – to the sound of Don Maclean on the radio – the trees were people, and the clouds were animals, and the sky their world.

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Once my sisters Claire and Grace, and my brother Colin, arrived we made up stories together, inventing elaborate scenarios for our games, which we then played over and over, escaping a disruptive and at times difficult childhood, with our parents’ divorce, mental health issues, and stays in a local orphanage.

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Me aged approximately a year and a half. With my twin sisters aged nine. With my baby brother.

At school I started my own magazine to rival the school mag. I wrote my first full novel at fourteen. Then I got pregnant at nineteen – during my A Levels, no less – which meant everything was on hold while I looked after my son Conor. But I always wrote in notepads. Always had ideas. Always dreamed. Always had this feeling I was supposed to be a writer.

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My son Conor and daughter Katy.

After I got married to Joe and Katy was born – inspired by being a mum – I wrote a few articles about my experiences and sent them to the local newspaper. An editor there liked them so much he offered me my own weekly column. And so began Working Mum, which lasted ten years, and garnered some love and hate responses.

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When our house was destroyed during the UK 2007 floods, and Katy got diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, I gave up my day job in travel to care for her and rebuild our lives. I had more time to write. I wrote short story after short story, dipping into my past, and into my darker imagination. I eventually sent some out. The first rejection made me cry. But slowly I began being accepted by magazines, and winning prizes.

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My short story in the Sunday Express magazine. A proud moment.

This acceptance gave me the confidence to start my first novel, Maria in the Moon, inspired by my work at the Samaritans, and being flooded. It was a cathartic experience. It got me an agent but she couldn’t sell it or my next novel, The Mountain in my Shoe. When she retired in 2014 I was on my own again. But I’m a fighter as a well as a dreamer. A short story I’d written called How to be Brave, that was inspired by me helping Katy through her diabetes injections, shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. I knew it wanted to be a novel.

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The short story was eventually published by the Irish Times and became by debut novel.

In 2013 I began. It was the most intense, difficult and rewarding thing I’d written. I felt this book would be the one. There were times when the grandfather I was writing about came to me in dreams and gave me words for the story. But getting it out there would take some doing. I got rejection after rejection after rejection. I couldn’t get an agent and couldn’t therefore get a publisher. Then on 9th February 2015 Karen Sullivan of Orenda books said she loved it. I was overjoyed. We both were. And that began my life as a novelist, which I hope will go on and on.

Here’s the announcement that changed my life…

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