Tell us a little about your current novel, what readers can expect from it.
Like my other books, Another You is a romance with a twist of potentially ghostly suspense.
Marie Johnson is trapped by her job as a chef in a Dorset pub and by her increasingly poisonous marriage to its landlord. Worn down by his string of affairs she has no self-confidence, no self-respect and the only thing that keeps her going is watching her son turn into a talented artist.
But the sixtieth anniversary of a D-Day exercise which ended in disaster triggers chance meetings which prove unlikely catalysts for change as Marie discovers that sometimes the hardest person to save is yourself.
Where did you grow up and what was family life like?
I grew up in Cardiff in a house full of books. I was an only child of older parents, both of whose lives had been affected by the Second World War. My mother had to leave school at fourteen because she could no longer travel there safely and so abandoned her dream of becoming a teacher. My father, from a more privileged background, was able to continue his education but joined the Royal Marines in 1944, thankfully too late to see any active service.
Academic or creative at school?
Academic. I had the very useful knack of being able to pass exams, despite the hours spent daydreaming and gazing out of the window.
First job you *really* wanted to do?
I wanted to work in radio – to be a DJ really. When I was in sixth form a local radio station opened in Cardiff and I managed to get a Saturday job helping out on the sports desk. I ended up doing a bit of presenting, a bit of producing and I even started to train as a journalist while I waited for my A-level results. But when I had to doorstep a family whose house had just burnt down I realised it wasn’t for me.
Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?
Not really but I had some poems published in a magazine when I was seven or eight years old. As a teenager my friend and I used to write stories in old exercise books – I guess it would be called fan fiction now – it was basically love stories inspired by the Bay City Rollers.
I carried on writing poetry into my twenties and started any number of novels. But I was in my forties before I actually managed to finish one and by that time I was completely bitten by the compulsion to write.
Who are your real life heroes?
People who really make a difference, who are able to see a need in society and have the determination and ability to meet that need. I’m thinking of people like William and Catherine Booth who founded the Salvation Army and changed the face of Victorian charity by giving people in need a hand up not a hand out. Even to this day their doors are open to everyone, whether or not they share the founders’ Christian faith.
Funniest or most embarrassing situation you’ve found yourself in?
If I get into an embarrassing situation it’s normally because I don’t recognise someone – I have a terrible memory for faces. But the worst one of these by far was more to do with the fact I was in denial about my worsening eyesight.
When I was twenty-nine I changed career and started to train as an accountant. We had a long corridor down the middle of the building and there were a number of us in our twenties – including Jim, my future husband – so it was a fun place to work. One day a tall, fair figure appeared at the other end of the hall and thinking it was Jim I cat called. Only to realise as I got closer that it was the senior partner.
Next stop was definitely the optician and I’ve worn glasses ever since.
DIY expert or phone a friend?
I think I’ve got worse over time. My father was particularly cack-handed and I’ve certainly inherited some of that – if there’s a hard way to do something practical then I’ll find it. I do like to think I’d cope with the basics but that could be vanity.
Sun worshipper or night owl?
Never a night owl – I’m in bed by nine o’clock most nights, because normally I get up early. First thing in the morning is my best time for writing so I like to be fresh.
I also love the warmth of the sun on my back although I do cover up and always wear a high factor sun cream following the early death of my mother-in-law from skin cancer.
A book that had you in tears.
There are quite a few. Everything from Watership Down to The Shellseekers – I don’t cry much in real life but give me fictional characters I care for and I’m reaching for the tissues. I’ve even cried over one of my own scenes, in The Faerie Tree, but I can’t say which one as it could be a bit of a spoiler.
But on a more serious note I wept proper tears when I read Omar Rivabella’s Requiem for a Woman’s Soul. It’s based on a true story of the disappeared in South America and it opened my eyes to a whole world of horror.
A book that made you laugh out loud.
It’s a book of short stories called The 7.52 to London Bridge by Julian Kirkman-Page. It’s an eclectic mix of autobiographical gems and none funnier than the tale of scattering his mother’s ashes. I laughed until I cried.
One piece of life advice you give everyone
Don’t sweat the small stuff – especially in relationships.
About the Book:
Marie Johnson is trapped by her job as a chef in a Dorset pub and by her increasingly poisonous marriage to its landlord.
Worn down by his string of affairs she has no self-confidence, no self-respect and the only thing that keeps her going is watching her son, Jude, turn into a talented artist.
But the 60th anniversary of a D-Day exercise triggers chance meetings which prove unlikely catalysts for change.
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