What should you do when your career is brought to an abrupt end due to circumstances beyond your control? The short answer for me was to pick myself up and start again.
In 1978 I passed my exams as a driving instructor with the British School of Motoring. I felt very proud because I had never passed any exams during my time at school. In my teenage years, I had often felt a sense of failure. Within two years I became the owner of a driving school and spent the next year building my business with the help of a colleague who transferred his students over to me due to retiring. Twelve years later, I took further training and passed various other exams and became a tutor for driving instructors. I progressed as owner of a driving instructor training school in north east England.
After 25 years of teaching, it was a shock to find I had to retire early in favour of my husband’s new job in The Netherlands - a sign of the times at the turn of the millenium when redundancies and closures were to be expected. We now had the opportunity to begin a new life with improved financial gain.
In 2001 we moved to North Holland, a new adventure, a new working life, but I wasn’t sure where all this would take me, having given everything up. I missed my job. I learned a new language, or at least tried; most people speak English in Holland which slowed me down in the learning process and I began to feel some isolation. I realised I was going to have to be innovative and not only learn the language but push myself into learning mode once again.
First, I asked myself what I might have done if I hadn’t gone into the driver training profession. I always enjoyed writing poetry, but procrastinated on writing a novel. I now had the chance to get in there and do it! In 1987 I attended a creative writing course and still had my notes to look back on. After writing a few magazine articles based on driving, I realised that publishing my work wasn’t going to be out of reach after all. I knew I could do it because I now had lots of time.
As a birdwatcher and nature conservationist, I wondered if I could combine my knowledge and write a novel. It wasn’t until I went to the Isles of Scilly in Cornwall with a couple of friends, did I realise that my aspirations could be possible. Romantic settings, nature, islands, and writing about what I know and love, would surely be something I could do. As an only child, I was always good at making things up in my fantasy world and I knew I still had the ability to tell stories.
My first romance novel Goodbye, Henrietta Street took a long time to write, as I had to learn how to produce a book to a standard suitable for publishing. At first I wrote too much and had to edit some of the unnecessary parts of the story. I sought help from the Romantic Novelists’ Association and soon gained the knowledge I needed to become a writer and eventually an author. I found it all very interesting and with each passing year, my writing became an obsession, but it wasn’t just about writing a story, I had to write something good enough for publishing. That was the hard part.
I thought I would begin with a poignant easy-read story of two people struggling to find happiness at opposite ends of the country. I had to find a hook in the story to bring them together. I provided them with mutual interests and the story progressed from there.
Twenty publisher and agent submissions later, I found what I was looking for. Safkhet Publishing enjoyed my story and gave me that chance. In the same month I had two other acceptances and was lucky to have the opportunity of choosing the most suitable publisher for my work.
Author and RNA President, Katie Forde, recently hit the nail on the head for me when she wrote ‘ I’m convinced if you want something enough you’ll achieve it, if you don’t mind how long it takes.’
Goodbye Henrietta Street is the story of Pippa, Rob, Joan and Terry who have been friends through their school days and into adulthood. Only when Pippa and Rob suffer a tragedy in their lives and Joan discovers Terry is not the person she thought he was, do the relationships begin to change. Pippa leaves her home in Whitby to find respite on the Isles of Scilly in Cornwall. She meets with ornithologist, Sven Jorgensen, who shows her how to live again. When she returns there are some serious decisions to be made. Will everything be the same as it was before she left home?
When I look back from the concept of writing a novel to the present date, the process has taken me ten years. My advice to anyone who wants to write, be patient, let the words flow from the heart and keep going until it's done. Listen and learn from those who know. Each day you will discover something new. Most of all enjoy the ride!