Before I became addicted to writing fiction, I trained as a veterinary surgeon at Cambridge University Veterinary School – six very happy years of my life. I went on to work in practice, but eventually worsening arthritis forced me into an early retirement.
A succession of different jobs ensued, gradually making more and more allowances for my decreasing mobility. These days, I care for my father who is a very young-looking ninety-three years old and suffers from dementia. He’s often the source of my inspiration.
In fact, the news of Dad’s diagnosis, in March 2014, was the trigger to my writing career. Before then, I’d written nothing since my school days, but that spring I sat down at the kitchen table with my husband’s iPad and began typing. Over the next six weeks, I wrote the first draft of a 130,000-word fantasy novel, The Blacksmith’s Apprentice, which I’ve never really sought publication for yet (one day). It was like turning on a tap. No, a pressure hose. I’ve been typing away ever since, arthritic fingers complaining loudly.
What can I say? It’s an addiction.
Recently, the Society of Authors asked me to write a few words about my experience of bringing out a novel during a pandemic. You can read it here.
My first adventures in writing were in the fields of fantasy and science fiction. In this, I was cheerfully encouraged and mentored by someone who is now a dear friend, Jo Zebedee.
Because I’ve received so much support form other writers, I try to give back to the writing community. That’s why you’ll often see me giving free courses and workshops, or facilitating open sessions, e.g. for Women Aloud NI. I also set up an online writing group called Ulster Dedicated Writers to allow people to write in company even through the lockdowns we’ve endured since the pandemic hit us.
I’m a prolific writer, and before long I was seeing my short stories published and even winning prizes. Quite a few of them were accepted by Kraxon Magazine, an online magazine that specialises in science fiction and fantasy, but others have found markets internationally. I enjoy writing short stories. As a full-time carer for someone with dementia, my time slots are generally short and interrupted and short stories work well with this stop-start method of working. I can churn out a thousand-word short story in a little over thirty minutes and have it refined and ready to submit in a couple more sessions, and short stories pay quite well if you send them to the right markets.
But my heart has always been in writing novels.
In the summer of 2017, I wrote a crime novel, inspired by the wonderful Brian McGilloway. And then I sat on it until 2020. I attended a crime writing workshop at The River Mill, run by Steve Cavanagh. He was kind enough to read and give feedback for a short excerpt of writing for all of the attendees, and he told me I should submit my novel for publication. Without that boost, I doubt if I’d ever have had the confidence to send it out anywhere, because I wasn’t a crime writer. I wrote fantasy and historical fiction, not blood and gore.
Well, it turns out I am a crime writer after all. I only sent it to one publisher, Joffe Books, many of whose authors I enjoy reading. To my surprise and delight, their Managing Editor, Emma, emailed me back almost immediately to say that they were definitely interested, and a couple of weeks later I was signed up with them for a three book contract.
Since June, I’ve written Small Bones, the sequel to Knife Edge, and I now (January 2021) have the next book in the series, Close Hauled, almost completed as well.