Two women are responsible for my love of literature. My grandmother, who taught me to read as soon as I could walk and my mother who, at the hint of an ‘off-day’, let me stay in bed with a hot water bottle, a warm drink and a bowl to be sick in. She had a theory I was going to be a writer. ‘After all,’ she’d say, ‘Jane Austen wrote in bed.’ I forgave her ignorance.
I often visited the library twice a day but the writing waited until I was thirteen, on holiday in Cornwall, reading Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. I read it in bed, at mealtimes, even on walks. I wrote fantasy love affairs in my head and, after our family palled-up with another with a son a bit old than me, I wrote lusty thoughts in my notebook. Which were discovered by my mother, who tore up the notebook and threw it in a dustbin. So much for encouraging my writing career.
When I was eighteen, I entered a Sunday Times competition for the best profile piece. I interviewed a famous man. The winning entry was a profile of the writer’s grandmother. At work, I discovered a portable typewriter and, despite being unable to type, wrote short stories and submitted them to women’s magazines without having a clue about presentation let alone the necessary research into readers’ likes and dislikes.
Marriage and children put a stop to writing until I discovered the Swanwick Summer School and abandoned my family to indulge in a week-long flirtation with other writers, information and advice, eating and drinking. After several years, I published a short genre novel. I had arrived.
I pitched my ambitions higher and wrote a block-buster. All the rage at the time. I secured an agent! The verdict was the book was not good enough. Never mind. Joanna Trollope was the new name. I imitated her. We lived in Egypt for 2 years where I completed two full-length novels, both returned to me.
I completed an MA in Creative Writing at Chichester Uni; two wonderful years learning and experimenting. I wrote a poem (published) a short story (published) and a play for radio (rejected). I started a new novel (on-going).
Along the way I have gathered small successes which keep me going. I tell myself being short listed for a writing prize is better than winning since I still have the story but also a new item for my CV. I attend events run by Spread the Word, The Royal Literary Society and The Society of Authors. I aim to write every day.
My most recent project is to write a memoir in which no agent is interested. The self-publishing route beckons and I’m going for it.
MA in Creative Writing with the University of Chichester. Open College of the Arts courses on short fiction and novel writing; several Arvon Foundation weeks on short and long fiction.
I am a member of a work-shopping group and of the Royal Society of Literature and The Society of Authors.
* Her Mother’s Daughter : longlisted for the Fish Short Story Prize; soon to be published by https://MIROnline
I live in London.