All the books that I write have a huge part of me in them but none more so than this book which was written in 2004.
During the first years of the new millennium I had a really tough time. First of all I got breast cancer, after that my beloved mother died and then I lost my job with Hodder and Stoughton. I think all of that, plus the rubbish in my life which had preceded meant that I began to have depression, I just didn't know it at the time.
Depression is something which writers seem to have very often, perhaps it's something to do with the amount of time we sit staring out of windows and not doing anything but this book which I wrote amongst the heartbreak of that time is the most important book of all. My daughter disliked it because it is my own story and a lot of the incidents in it have been played out in my life with heartbreak.
I recalled I think with a little detachment the time that my husband died and the women in this book are all parts of me and the different things I went through.
Some of it's funny, most of it's true.
At the beginning of the book three women lose their partners in a train crash. The book is set in Hexham, one of my beloved northern towns. My mother and I used to shop there and I knew it very well. The main male character is the solicitor, Sam Browne, who is friends with all these families and who tries to sort things out when tragedy strikes these people.
The woman most like me is Caroline. Unlike me she is left penniless and has to move in with her mother. Her daughter is like an earlier version in some ways of my own very precious child and I enjoyed that but Caroline joins a singles group. I took all of this straight out of life, the dreadful parties, the way that the men her age are talking to women ten or fifteen years younger, the appalling dinner she goes to.
'There was dancing. At her table was a tall, fair, handsome man. He leaned over and Caroline waited for him to ask her to dance.
'You ought to get yourself a man and quickly,' he said,'by the time you're fifty there are twice as many available women as available men,' and he turned to the woman on his right and asked her to dance.
This finishes Caroline off, it didn't do me any good either.
Well, you know what they say? When you have a lemon you make lemonade. I have made money out of the horrors and heartbreaks of my life.
The other two women are young. One of them is a deceitful cow who is sleeping with one man while married to another which makes things interesting when they both die on the train. There isn't much of me in her but there are bits which are like me. And I like her. She's gutsy and modern and doesn't care.
The other young woman Jess, I think she has the worst time of all and again I used direct experience.
'A man with a van brought videos to the door. He was Jess's saviour, her Jesus, her Messiah, her Buddha. He was Santa Claus, a chubby man with a van load of goodies. She could be somewhere else, she could be somebody else, she could be a story.'
'Safe and warm, Jess listened to her favourite sounds, the ocean, the wine as it poured into her glass. On her television screen, Bruce Willis was saving the world and she could help him By the end of the afternoon they had put everything back to rights. It was so satisfying. The baddies died, the goodies were saved. Bruce Willis's character went home to his wife and children . Jess watched him, she watched his car as it got smaller and smaller on the screen. He and his wife, sitting in the back seat, going home to their children, their house, their Christmas.'
Jess has no husband, no child, no Christmas. And worst of all because she is young people tell her that she will get over it. When people said that to me I wanted to kill them.
There is also a lot of deceit in this book. Deceit isn't actually something I know much about personally. When people have hurt me they have done it directly but somehow I can transfer the pain of what I interpreted as other people's betrayal, of how they didn't care about me, to deceit.
My mother used to say I had become a bitter woman but bitterness and anger are very useful for writers. All that pain gets translated on to the page and it pays the bills and buys the wine and sees me on a Saturday night taking my children out to dinner. Loss is never total. There is always something left and I like that people read it. That's the most important thing of all to me. That somebody out there thinks I have written something they want to read. It means the whole world to me.
Wednesday, 6 April 2016
It may seem to some people that I am trying to take over the whole world single handedly but I have waited a long time to see my backlist published as ebooks and now they are coming out in March April and May and so the list for this month to be published on April 7 are The Secret, Snow Hall, When Day is Done, and Sweet Wells.
This is Dryden's story and is one of three. The first is Shelter from the Storm and the third is The Homecoming. This is going to sound ridiculous I know but I didn't write them in that order. This story comes after Shelter from the Storm but was written last. I can't help the way that my mind works but I thought I was finished with Drdyden, whom I adored and didn't want to part with but as I prepared to write a fourth my agent cut in and said hadn't I done enough. I always regretted not doing another because I thought there was mileage left in it so regretfully I had to move on. The title came from the idea that when the work is finished it is the most beautiful thing in the world to go home to the woman who loves you. It was a saying that my wonderful father in law, Francis Hankin used. They had a glorious, old fashioned marriage. She stayed at home with the children and he worked. He was a very clever skilled man, a cabinet maker and one of the handsomest men in the world world. Apart from which he was a great father and a great father in law. I still miss him.
This is the second book in a series of three and follows Paradise Lane. It's best to read them in order because the characters from the first book, Ned and Annabel, appear largely in this book which tells the story of a poor girl who lives with her aunt in a little pit village where they repair hats and how she comes into an inheritance, the lovely Snow Hall near Durham City. There Lorna meets her unscrupulous cousin, Ralph, who expected to inherit the hall and now seeks to take it by other means.
This story stands alone and is of a family tragedy. During the second world war my father's sister, who lived in London, died when the house was hit by a bomb. She was in the kitchen and died, her husband, two children and the dog were in the living room and survived. I badly wanted to write about this because her two children came to the live in the north with their grandparents and I wanted to find out what that was like for them and for the family. I couldn't write the book at first, I couldn't get it to work so I changed it around so that the man died and the woman and her two children came back to their roots and what happened after that. I do like the young people in the story.
This is the third of the Black family series, which was set around a steelworks in Durham City. The steelworks was actually in Tow Law and was owned and run by my father. The books revolve around his wife in Swan Island, his sister in Silver Street and his secretary which is the final story. I took the name from a farm in Weardale where the girl lives. My father's secretary actually lived in Stanhope and was well ahead of her time. She would trundle down the dale every day to run my father's office. She was the only woman in the works. Obviously the stories are at least half fictitious and this one especially. I called the little town Sweet Wells and like to think that when I drive up the dale to my caravan the town and the story are waiting there for me.