As well as the author of the novel 183 Times A Year, I am also a published short story writer and monthly columnist and book reviewer for The Fens magazine. Born in Kent, I now live in a small Cambridgeshire town with my partner Steve, and the youngest of our four children, all of whom have been a constant and amusing source of inspiration for my writing! I have a degree in English and History and my career has been varied, including working in a Women’s Refuge and more recently at the city library. However storytelling through the art of writing is my true passion. And yes, it sounds like a cliche’ but I have always wanted to be a writer. Lack of opportunity, inexperience, and bad life choices all held me back to a point but a lack of belief in myself is probably what held me back the most. I did have a few minor publication successes with short stories and poetry when I was younger and I also co-wrote many original songs with my brother for his band, as well as singing backing vocals from time to time. Then came marriage, quickly followed by two beautiful children followed by divorce. That was my “Nodus Tollens” moment. I love this phrase, coined by John Koenig from his Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (which you can find here) it means “the realisation that the plot of your life doesn’t make sense to you anymore.”
Divorce was both difficult and unpleasant and financially life became very tough. My back was against the wall and I felt quite desperate at times. My children were very young at the time of my divorce so I found myself having to take jobs that fitted in around them – school holidays were an absolute nightmare; most of the money I earned went on childcare. I decided I wanted something better for my children and I. So, with the help of my parents (who babysat for me), I went back to college during the evenings. I studied English, History, Sociology and Psychology for two years then applied to study for a BA Hons Degree in English and History. It was a full-time course over three years so that meant finding work that both fitted in around the children and my degree. It wasn’t easy, I still had the school run to do, dinners to cook, uniforms to wash and iron, school plays and assemblies to attend, doctors appointments, hospital appointments, parents evenings, swimming lessons, dance classes, piano lessons, guitar lessons, not to mention all the fancy dress costumes I had to put together for various parties and the school’s annual World Book Day, as well as essays to write and exams to revise for, for my degree. And, somewhere in between, I had to find time to sleep. I sometimes look back at those years and wonder how the hell I did it. I definitely remember tears at times. However, in 2009 I graduated with a BA Honours Degree in English and History and gained a first for my history dissertation looking at civilian morale during the London Blitz of WWII. I felt immensely proud, as did my children and family.
By then I’d met my other half, who also had two children, and we all moved in together and became a blended family. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was when a seed was planted and ideas for my debut novel began to form. Being part of an extended family is fun, however bringing up children, whether it’s your own or others, is not always easy. My journey from single motherhood, to studying for and obtaining my degree, to finding love again which included step parenting and a blended family, taught me I was a far more capable person than my younger self had given herself credit for. After completing my degree I began working for the city library service, which I absolutely loved – I spent my time around books for goodness sake, what’s not to love! I also began writing a book, a thriller come love story based in 1960’s London. However, trying to navigate my new life as a working parent and stepparent was both fraught and outrageously funny at times. Sometimes I felt like pulling my hair out. I discovered through research and talking with friends and colleagues that many people were enjoying, but struggling with the same daily problems I was experiencing. I abandoned my first novel and started to write 183 Times A Year and the rest, as they say, is history. I have to add here, holding the printed copy of my book last year was the one of the best moments of my life!
Life is slightly less manic now but it still isn’t easy at times. Unfortunately, due to an injury, I have been left with permanent neck and arm pain and some days this can make writing very difficult, but it will never stop me. I love writing and hope to expand to different genres. I am currently working on my third novel and I hope to write many more in the future because after all (in the words of Grandad in 183 Times A Year) “it’s not a life, it’s an adventure!”