Exclusive Interview with
When did you start writing?
I remember my mother laughing when I was six because I'd written a short story that had the baddie dismissed with the words You're Fired. When I was at Junior school they put on a play I'd written in rhyming couplets. I had to change Rupert's companion to a less fancy Sam to aid the rhyming process.
What makes writing your passion?
It's like asking a singer why they sing or an artist why they paint. It's part compulsion part pleasure.
How long have you been writing?
In terms of writing professionally, I started when I had to give up my teaching job when the children were young. I wrote short stories for magazines to supplement our income.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
I'd love to say that it was unbridled joy. It wasn't. I was terrified. There was a real fear that readers might find it ridiculous. I didn't tell any close friends at first. Fortunately, the first review I had in the UK was wonderful. Then I had another equally positive one from someone in America. Very few people leave reviews on Amazon and I spent a while in limbo before someone directed me to Goodreads and there was a raft of responses there that made my heart sing.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
My first book, Someone Close to Home, was written because I was so disturbed about what I was seeing in care homes. One case in particular so upset me, I wrote it out of my system in an attempt to show people how it must feel to be trapped and vulnerable in an inadequate facility, or even one with a carer who shouldn't be working with vulnerable people. From the feedback I've had, this has resounded with people on both sides of the Atlantic.
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
That's a hard one. Perhaps it's the lack of a level playing field between Indies and the big publishing companies. I've read some superb books that aren't appreciated because they don't have that oxygen of publicity that makes them visible to others.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
I tell myself not to end the day without writing at least a sentence. Usually, that's all it takes to get the gears slowly turning again.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
I keep going because I still have things I want to say and characters in my head that want to be heard. There's plenty of advice out there but I'd say to get your first draft done and then keep going back through it until you're happy with all of it. If one section stands out as being particularly good then it possibly means that the bits around it need some attention.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Don't see today as simply a stepping stone to another day. People tend to put off achieving things they want to do until the time is right. People look to the future without appreciating that today is part of your life, too. Live each day.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
I read all my reviews. With a couple of exceptions, they're all from strangers and to know that what I've written has been enjoyed by someone somewhere else in the world is a magical feeling. My first 3* review stung a bit but then I put things in perspective and now I can take the bad ones on the chin. Nothing can take away the pleasure from me of the reviews that make me want to dance with delight.
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
Yes. Both my books are prompted by situations that I've witnessed. The rest of the books are complete fiction.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
Both of my protagonists are women of my own age and perhaps they're a version of me I'd like to be!
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
I know that the book cover is the thing that draws people in and so it's an important part of the process. On the other hand, if the content isn't good enough then no amount of artwork is going to make a success of it.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
I'm very happy to connect with readers. I now know readers in the US who have become treasured friends. I'm poor with social media, however, and only have a Facebook account. Some authors spend more time keeping up with social media than they do on writing and I think that probably works in their favour. I'm a dinosaur.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
Too good to put into words!
Who is your favorite author? Why?
It changes. I like different genres. I like thrillers and used to love Patricia Cornwell but have moved on to Karin Slaughter. I like historical fiction, too, and read C J Sansom and Ariana Franklin. I've come across some brilliant Indie authors. The Covenant by Thorne Moore is stunning, as is The Memory by Judith Barrow. Judith Arnopp write wonderful historical fiction and Terry Tyler crosses genres but her recent dystopian fiction is superbly written and, in my opinion, better than a lot of the mainstream fiction that's out there.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
I'm not after fame. I'm a private person and wouldn't want the intrusion that comes with it. It would be great if I could sell enoug books to make a living from it!
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
No. They're my babies and I love them just the way they are, flaws an'all.
If you could switch places with any author – who would that be?
I can't think of anyone. I'm quite happy in my own skin and can live with myself as I am.
What would you say to the “trolls” on the internet? We all know them – people who like to write awful reviews to books they’ve never read or didn’t like that much, just to annoy the author.
One of the positives of not being active on social media means that I'm fairly well protected from trolls. I do think the situation is coming where something will have to change because some of these attacks - a large number of them - are actually damaging people. A bad review from a troll who hasn't read my book does no harm. Someone who's read the book and didn't like it is more of a problem.
What would you say to your readers?
Thanks! Without them my writing's nothing.
Share a bit about yourself – where do you live, are you married, do you have kids?
I live in a small village in Pembrokeshire in south west Wales. I'm married and have three adult children who all live close to us with their families.
What is your day job if you have one?
I used to be a teacher. I'm retired now.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I love to read (naturally!), play and listen to music, garden, make things with craft materials. Much of my free time (pre-Covid) was spent with the family. I'm very lucky.
Did you have a happy childhood?
It was a curate's egg of good and bad. I suspect that's where the early love of reading came into play because I could retreat into a fantasy world. Most things in this world seem to come with a silver lining.
Is there a particular experience that made you start writing?
My early writing was a way to make a bit of money. My first book was written out of anger and despair at the scenes I was witnessing in care homes. Government cuts have left them underfunded and the staff struggle to cope with demand. The vast majority of the staff are compassionate, hard-working and dedicated. Someone I knew, a very shy woman, was made to sit in a room with all the others when she'd have been happy reading and watching television in her own room. Staff forced her to do this with the very best of intentions - they didn't want her to be lonely and isolated. It was my idea of hell.
Do you have unpublished books? What are they about?
I have two books on the go. One is non-fiction and about growing up as a baby boomer. The other is a thriller.
What do you think should be improved in the education of our children? What do we lack?
Staff are weighed down with paperwork and administration. It's hard to be inspirational when you're worn down by bureaucracy. We lack space in the curriculum to let all our children develop their strengths and interests beyond the subjects that form the basis of government tests. English, maths and science are certainly important but they shouldn't crowd out music, art and reading for pleasure.
If you were allowed 3 wishes – what would they be?
For Covid-19 to vanish, for all countries to respect the environment, and for world leaders to do the right things and not the things that benefit them.
What is your favorite music?
Both my parents loved classical music and they transferred that love to me. I have long-term favourites by composers such as Rachmaninov and Vaughan Williams but I also love folk music - and a lot of music from the fab 60s!
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