I came to writing late in life, almost by accident. I was always writing, always telling stories, but mostly for myself. I remember lying on the sofa alone in the living room when I was quite young and making up tales as I spoke them aloud. I was part actress part writer even then, I think, because I took the roles as I invented them, playing out the scene.
My first romance was a fairytale. I still have it, scribbled in pencil in an exercise book. I must have been about ten or so when I wrote it. I remember the hero had to rescue the land from a plague of spiders that came out of the sea, which won him the hand of the princess. A few years on, in the same notebook but written more carefully in pen this time, there is an epic poem, rather more tragic than romantic, about a mermaid murdered by her faithless sailor lover.
After that grew a portfolio of poems, scraps of short stories, and half-completed chapters of potential novels. Meanwhile, with a secretarial qualification under my belt – which my father insisted upon as a useful “fallback”, and very useful it has been – and a couple of years’ experience in the field, I turned to acting.
The life of a working actress proved a polyglot of useful experience for the later writer.
To begin with, there is an awful lot of time out of work, which has to be filled with lucrative employment. I temped as a copy typist and secretary a lot of the time, but I took on all sorts of other work – cooking breakfast in a hotel, charring (being a cleaning lady), making brass lanterns (which lasted all of a week), and the usual plethora of jobs open to “resting” actresses: telemarketing, waitressing, demonstrating, you-name-it. Useful stuff for character studies, and developing the vagabond if not the romantic in me.
When actually working as an actress, though I didn’t know it then, I was ploughing and seeding a veritable forest of emotional and technical expertise that I could later plunder for my novels. Motivation – what makes people tick? Dialogue – expression and rhythm, words that carry the tempo of the story. Characterisation – mannerisms, stance, posture, the outward versus the inward personality. Mood line – capturing your audience from the opening line, building the suspense, raising the temperature to the climax, and catching it all together for the denouement. Emotion – oh, what a fount of experience here! Joys and sorrows, highs and lows; tempestuous rages to impotent reserve; and why, why, why? Which brings us back to motivation.
I pursued this path for a good many years, unknowingly garnering material, which was to stand me in excellent stead for the future. Meanwhile, I still wrote. A half-finished science fiction novel was perhaps the closest I got to the bug before it got to me. I still hanker to rewrite that one, but I doubt if I’ll ever find the time. I'm much too busy fulfilling romantic fantasies.