I was born in Oswaldtwistle, a small mill town surrounded by beautiful countryside in North-East Lancashire. It was famous for James Hargreaves and his spinning jenny. My father was a shoe repairer and retailer and I was brought up behind the shop. I still remember my first pair of clogs he made for me. They were green leather with a picture of Mickey Mouse picked out in brass nails on the wooden soles. I remember once, when I was at primary school not being allowed to dance around the maypole because I’d forgotten to bring my plimsoles and was only in my clogs. They were going very much out of fashion. My mother was a weaver before she married, as was her mother before her. They could lip-read and would mee-maw silently to each other as they had learned to do in the mill above the clatter of the looms. Most of my family have been weavers for generations on both sides of the Pennines. This is a picture of my grandmother’s clogs she wore as a small child.
I always loved writing as a child but I qualified as a teacher and then got married. Having two young children I would write when I should have been asleep. My first published piece was called An Elizabethan Toothache, published by Today’s Guide in 1972. I followed this small success with a flurry of pieces on how to pass various badges, make-its, crosswords, quizzes and puzzles, even a short story and a serial. I then opened a bookshop, very much a dream. Sitting behind the counter I would read the latest bestsellers, such as Scruples, Hollywood Wives, Lace, The Thorn Birds, The French Lieutenant’s Woman and many more, an essential part of any bookseller’s life in order to successfully advise customers. I also re-read all my favourite Georgette Heyer and Jean Plaidy novels. One thing a bookseller doesn’t have time to do is write. And reading all those marvellous novels could be really intimidating and made me assume I could never be any good at that job.
When I finally sold the bookshop we then bought a half-derelict cottage with a few acres of land in the Lake District. I spent quite a bit of time painting and plastering, sanding, sawing and chopping logs for the wood burning stove. My husband was busy as a lawyer but helped when he could. The Good Life was on the telly back then so I started a smallholding, caring for hens, sheep, lambs and numerous orphaned cats and dogs, plus a pony. On wet days I’d find time in the peace and quiet of the country to indulge my addiction to writing. With my family at work and school, I wrote short stories, serials, a children’s novel, picture scripts, a couple of Mills & Boon contemporaries, and articles galore. The aim was to send them out faster than they were returned. Unfortunately most came winging back. Postman Pat would bring what he thought to be exciting stuff for me in his little red van but were actually rejection parcels. I finally sold my first short story to D.C. Thompson. What a red letter day that was, also the name of a magazine now defunct. Following this breakthrough I seemed to have discovered the knack, or I’d finally learned to target my markets more effectively and I went on to sell many more short stories to My Weekly, People’s Friend and My Story magazine.
Weary of the freezing cold hillside we eventually moved to Cornwall where I ran a gift shop. I again dug out my old portable typewriter and indulged my long-held ambition to write, often scribbling by hand behind the counter. Selling short stories was a good thing but I still hadn’t achieved novel fiction. I started taking courses, reading everything I could about the art of writing and wrote two more romances for Mills & Boon, this time historicals. Both were rejected but returned with sufficient editorial help to encourage me to keep trying. Then to my excitement they accepted the third: Madeiran Legacy. I felt utterly jubilant and went on to sell them four more historical romances. I’d served a long apprenticeship but during it I’d learned how to build strongly motivated characters, how to structure a story, put emotion on the page and make every word count. But then my romances became longer and more complex and I knew it was time to move on.
Luckpenny Land was the first full length historical saga I wrote, inspired by the smallholding we’d run, and I excitedly received an offer from Hodder & Stoughton. This series is still a best seller, as are some of the many other sagas I went on to write for them and other publishers. I’ve often drawn on memories of my childhood and family as inspiration for a story. In each I put in a warmhearted romance, grit, mystery or secrets, and generally a strong woman. Being very keen on history I love doing the necessary research and have interviewed many people of interest. I do hope that you find something you enjoy.