I was a late starter in writing fiction – although I have been a journalist for most of my working life, in news and features for local and regional newspapers, as a news journalist for local radio and regional television, and at BBC Broadcasting House and Television Centre.
Now, to my complete surprise and utter delight, I find myself the author of five novels, The Last Telegram (2012), The Forgotten Seamstress (2013/14), The Poppy Factory (2014) The Silk Weaver (2017) and In Love and War (2018). Two more are on the way and I have been published in other languages all over the world.
I combine my new-found writing career with spending time with my family, my artist husband and two beautiful grown-up daughters, with some wonderful friends, singing in two chamber choirs (early music, especially) and, of course, reading widely.
The strand running through many of my novels stems back to my family background: I was born and brought up in a house next to the family silk mill, a company which was founded nearly 300 years ago and is still going strong today. There is more about the silk company at Stephen Walters & Sons Ltd.
My writing room
I’m really quite a tidy person, though from this photo you probably don’t believe me. I was tempted to tidy up before taking the photo but then thought: why not tell it like it really is? So here it is, mess and all.
I love having a dedicated office but don’t like to be shut away so the door is always open unless it’s mid-winter and I want to preserve heat. It’s on the ground floor too, so I can hear people around the house and smell what’s cooking. The window faces out onto the front garden so I can see people coming to the front door.
By the keyboard is my trusty Moleskine notebook. I get through one or two for each novel, and they are with me wherever I go in case of inspiration. I love the quality of the paper and the sturdiness of their construction, but if you are listening, Moleskine, please will you make the covers in a wider range of colours, to reduce confusion? There’s also a Mozart Requiem cd (my other main passion is singing choral music), the omnipresent coffee mug (which becomes a tea mug in the afternoons), my diary (I haven’t yet learned to trust the electronic version entirely), and a paperweight that was a present when I left my last job. It reminds me of the lovely people there, but not the office politics I was glad to leave behind.
Post-its are a must – they get stuck onto the whiteboard behind me on which I also write lists, plot-routes, character relationships and reminders about what to get at the supermarket. Also on there is an old ‘love you, Mum’ message from one of my daughters which I am loath to rub out. On the walls are photographs of my family and holiday snaps to remind me of white beaches and blue seas when things are grey and miserable here. I also stick up photos from magazines or from the internet to remind me of my characters – an ancient photo of my mum in her twenties is how I imagined Lily, the heroine of The Last Telegram.
Out of the window is a prolific pink-flowered fuschia bush and a tall acacia tree whose leaves change through a range of beautiful shades throughout spring, summer and autumn. I often lose myself in its colours and the motion of its branches when I am looking for inspiration.