Wednesday, 24 February 2016

My Backlist

A long long time ago, in another age, I published my first sagas. Now, many years later, my current publisher, Quercus, are publishing my back list, the books I first wrote for the hardback publisher, Severn House, on kindle. They can be pre ordered now.

The first one is about men returning from the first world war, trying to pick up the lives they had left behind them, probably not knowing at that point that you can only live your life forwards. It's also about the families they left and how people managed and didn't manage. I tend to write more about the beginning of wars and the result of wars rather than the war itself. The main male character - I don't call them heroes, they are just people - Allan Jamieson, a barrister, comes home to find that his wife no longer seems to want him. He ends up defending the woman he is having an affair with. She is accused of killing her husband. In those days the chances of her getting off would be less than slight.

One of my few shots at a fairly modern novel. This is set in 1970 when footballing turned into glamour and money. The lad, Ruari Gallagher wants to be a top footballer, the girl, Jemma Duncan, wants to get married and have a child and live in a little terraced house across town from her parents. Her dream is so small. His dream is so big. When Ruari lets her down everything begins to go wrong and when he asks her to go with him when he leaves for stardom, it's too late. So, what have you left when you sacrifice a person you say you love for your dream?

This is my aunt's story to begin with. She was a nurse in the second world war and came back to her hometown and tried to pull her life together. This is also one of three, the Black Family trilogy. Very close to home this book is because my father had the foundry and I've put a lot of him in the books. My mother had her own story, Swan Island and his secretary had her story, Sweet Wells and this is the story of what might have happened to his sister. They are all fiction of course but underneath them lie the facts of what war costs and how people try to get beyond it.

Another one of a trilogy. This is the first of three books set in Durham and is the tale of an upper middle class London girl who comes north to find out about her mother. She meets with a young man who owns a newspaper and together they go on this quest to find out where Annabelle's mother is, if she is still alive.

So these are my first four books which come out in March. There are another four in April and then another four in May. I love the covers. I hope those who haven't read them will like the stories.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Robert Hale, publisher

Sorry to hear from one of my writing friends that Robert Hale, publisher has closed. I have very fond memories of being published by them and can honestly say that if it hadn't been for them I would never have made it as a writer.
My first book was published by them in 1981, three weeks before my daughter was born. I was thirty and so excited. I found a copy of it in Chilton library a couple of years back and it was the copy I had given to my husband. I could have cried. He has been dead for twenty seven years. How it got there I have no idea but it was the most wonderful time of my life when I was being published by them, I had a lovely husband and a little girl. We lived in the country and the house had a paddock and I remember when they sent the letter saying they were going to publish my book I ran round and round the paddock screaming,

'I'm a writer, I'm a writer.'  It was the fulfilment of my dreams. I'd wanted to publish a book all my life. They gave me a hundred and fifty pounds for it and nothing was ever the same again. Talk about making a woman's dreams come true.

I  made a lot of mistakes but they put up with me and if I misunderstood John Hale would write me polite letters. I did make the mistake of telling them about one book that I didn't want to alter it and then I got desperate and offered to alter it but they wouldn't take it. I was never that precious again!

They published twenty books and I learned a lot. The first ones were awful, dreadful historicals in the main but somebody must have read them. The libraries, God save those that are left, where would I ever have  been without the libraries. Since then I've written and written through despair and grief and huge loss and happy times watching my little girl grow up and although I have done other things with  my life my writing saved me from ever having to do work I didn't want to do. I didn't have to go out into the snow to work, I was always there for the sports days and the school garden parties. I was always there for my kiddie and my animals. It was the perfect job for a stay at home single mother.
They published fourteen Rainbow Romances and six short dreadful historicals. I did my apprenticeship with them.

I used to get letters from Betty Weston, lovely letters telling me that she had sold one of my books to France or to Germany or Italy and as a paperback for Woman's Library stories. I still have copies of all these.  Her letters meant we could go on holiday or afford a better Christmas. Times were tough but I felt I was really contributing. I would walk the dogs up the old dismantled railway line to the village of Ramshaw and sort out my writing problems.

When my husband died I was in the middle of writing a Rainbow Romance.  I can remember a year later, when we were living in a caravan in Weardale, sitting down at my portable typewriter and finishing it and after that I wrote my first big book for Hodder and I found an agent and moved on. There were no more Rainbow Romances but Robert Hale had done it for me and I will always remain very grateful to them for giving me the chance and fulfilling my dreams.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Olive Oil

Since I began writing for Quercus I am making more money than before. At one point it was getting to be difficult. I needed a loan. If you do need a loan go to Tesco. I got my loan free. Anyway, it wasn't much and I paid it off and kept the purse strings tightly clasped. I still managed the things I wanted most but when you are a bit tight money wise there are so many things that you really would like if only you could afford it.

So for the past two or three years I've started making a bit more and thinking I really can afford certain things. I love olive oil and good olive oil is mind blowing, it tastes and smells amazing and different areas produce different kinds. M&S do beautiful olive oil. It comes in different shaped bottles. It comes in different colours. It comes from Greece and it comes from France and it comes from Spain and it's all very exciting for those of us who are addicted.

I blithely went into M&S and bought the most exquisite bottle I could find. When I got to the check out the lady looked at it and then she looked at me and then she leaned forward and she said,
'Eh, love, are you sure you want it? It's awfully dear.'

So, I look like I can't afford expensive olive oil. I'm not sure whether it's a good thing or not.
I did notice, the last time I went to a wine merchant, that I was with my daughter and she drives one of these git flashy cars, all new and white and Mercedes and it was big and brash and wow!  It filled most of the window.  Now my little car, Pumphrey the Panda, was very cheap and is sort of cream mucky coloured since his colour has faded and he's little and narrow and ordinary and I swear to you that I never had the same attention when I came in Pumphrey as we did when we turned up in this giant white splodge.

So I look like I can't afford Moet. This unfortunately is true but I will keep you up to date.

I have been thinking lately that I would like a  new bathroom. I have been wanting a new bathroom for a very long time and imagining what it would be like when I had a separate shower room and how much easier when there were two bathrooms, so to speak.

Now I am thinking that if I'm careful this year I can afford to have new bathrooms. For a few hours I was all ready to go and look at these, I got quite excited. And then I remembered what it was like having men in the house day after day pulling furniture out and the idea of having my beautiful cast ir on bath lugged down the stairs. I thought of the mess, the dust, the way that I wouldn't be able to write and how I would have to buy new carpets and possibly after that I would need to have the inside of the house painted and then I would need new towels and I certainly need new bedlinen. It was like a nightmare.

So, I am not having a new bathroom, or new bathrooms or anything beyond the expense of good soap and well laundered towels. I have almost everything a woman could want money wise. They say that if you think money can't buy happiness you are going to the wrong shops and I'm sure it's true. I wouldn't change my Apple computers, my recently restored diamond ring or my library of Trollope novels which enrich my days.
If I could have things otherwise I would like to be able to feed the birds in the garden without the crows running off with everything. I would have the mice there sufficient to eat over the winter so that they don't chomp on my crocuses. But I feel lucky, I have the spring and my caravan to look forward to and my afternoons on my balcony there with Anthony Trollope to keep me company.
If I make a lot of money I think I will probably give it to Water Aid, my favourite charity. I'd like to think I was doing some good. And Guide Dogs for the Blind which is my local favourite charity. In the meanwhile I did go to the Co op earlier and buy some very nice wine which was in clearance and I shall enjoy that and my chicken dinner and my writing and my back garden, where the sun sets and the moon puts in an appearance. Lucky me.