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.
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.
At school I started my own magazine to rival the school mag. I wrote my first full novel at fourteen, inspired by my parents’ divorce and by how I never felt I fit in. Falling pregnant at nineteen – during my A Levels, no less – meant everything was on hold for a while as I looked after my son Conor, but I always wrote in notepads. Always had ideas. Always dreamed. Always knew.
After I got married to Joe and my daughter Katy was born, and inspired now by being a mum of two, 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.
When our house was destroyed during the UK 2007 floods, and then my daughter got diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, I gave up my beloved day job in travel to care for her and rebuild our lives. I found I had more time to write. I created short story after short story, dipping into my past, into my imagination, into my heart. I eventually began nervously sending them out, crying at those early rejections. But slowly I began being accepted by magazines and winning prizes.
This acceptance gave me the confidence to start my first novel, Maria in the Moon, which was inspired by my work at The Samaritans and my experience of being flooded. It was a cathartic experience. It got me an agent but she just could not sell that or my next novel, The Mountain in my Shoe. When she retired in 2014 I was on my own again. But I work well by myself. 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 my helping Katy through her diabetes injections, shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. I knew it wanted to be a novel.
In 2013 I began How to be Brave. It was the most intense, difficult and rewarding thing I’d ever written. I really felt this book would be the one. There were spiritual moments 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 a literary agent. I couldn’t therefore get a publisher. Then on 9th February 2015 Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books said she loved it and wanted to buy it. I was overjoyed. We both were. And so began my life as a novelist, which I hope will go on and on.
Here’s the announcement that changed my life.