What motivates you to write?
Firstly, I have to say I write to keep myself sane. I laugh when I tell people I type myself out of nervous breakdowns, but isn’t there many a true word said in jest? I am my own healer.
Secondly, when I see injustice to vulnerable people.
Thirdly, I also write to share some of the joys I have experienced in life.
I grew up in Liverpool where my grandparents had settled when they came over from Ireland. When I chose to go and live in Ireland because of my ‘Irishness’ I was in for a shock and soon realized how little I knew about Irish culture and history.
I had a wonderful time living amongst the Irish and felt compelled to write a novel, “I Love Charlotte Bronté,” celebrating the Liverpool/Irish connection. It was also an opportunity to leave something for my children and grandchildren to read after I had gone to the skies above.
What made you chose the genre you chose?
When I returned to England I did agency work. People used to ask me why I’d never trained to be a nurse but the truth is the more you ‘train’ the further removed you are from the clients. I like to work on the floor with a hands-on approach to all the residents, not stuck in an office with paperwork. This kind of work can be very sad and yet most of the people I worked with just rolled up their sleeves and got on with it. I felt proud to work alongside them and decided to write a book about an underpaid, undervalued, dedicated careworker.
Where do your characters come from?
People that I have had the pleasure or mispleasure of meeting.
What’s most rewarding about writing?
That I’m telling the stories about those who cannot speak up for themselves; I am their voice. For example, several years ago I met a little blind girl with a learning disability whom I tried desperately to foster from a large hospital for the mentally handicapped, but she was so tied up with bureaucracy, it was impossible. She died when she was 16. I wrote all about her in “With a Little Help From my Friends,” and so many people contacted me about how moved they were to learn of her tragic young life. I get great satisfaction that this child lives on in so many people’s thoughts and is so loved.
Who is an author who inspires you and why?
I think my answer is going to be predictable. I am a great admirer of Charlotte Bronté. Charlotte is almost as famous for her short tragic life as she is for her career. If we look to the beginning of her publishing career, Charlotte and her two sisters, Emily and Anne, published a book of poetry under the pseudonyms of Ellis, Acton and Currer Bell, expecting their work to be taken more seriously if submitted as men. The book, which cost £37 to publish was almost a year’s wages in those days but sold only two copies. Did she/they give up? Fortunately for millions of readers she went on to her next project with unblinkered determination. It’s difficult not to admire someone who overcame so many difficulties and achieved so much; someone who gave us one of the greatest novels ever written. And above all, someone who never ever gave up. However, everything I read about Charlotte was written by academics. I decided to write about this great author through the eyes of a working class woman and because Charlotte was half Irish everything just fell into place.
What do you look for in other people’s books?
Reflections of real people.
What are you writing now?
I have just finished writing and publishing my second book this year. “With a Little Help From my Friends” is a rewrite and update of my autobiography, “Marie’s Voice,” published in the 90s. When I was 16 and working in a children’s home, I met a little girl named Marie. (Pronounced Mar-ree). She couldn’t walk and dragged her feet along the polished floors, infuriating the nuns who would then banish her to the pram storeroom. She’d be placed on the floor in the middle of the room and the door would close on her leaving her alone for hours. She screamed and screeched until she knocked herself unconscious and was only brought out at mealtimes when she was fed on baby cereal.
Being third eldest of seven children, it was hard for me to imagine not being wanted by anybody. I immediately bonded with her and when the home closed down six months later, I followed her to a hospital for the mentally handicapped in Taunton, Somerset, where Marie was given a bed and I was offered a job.
Working in the hospital was like stepping into another world; a world where human beings with over-whelming qualities were classed as sub-normal. Looking at the same view from the ward window year in and year out, the only stimulation being the clatter of the food trolley that called to the wards three times a day, but in those days fostering or adoption was not an option for a disabled child and it seemed that once they entered the hospital they never left it. After a few months I decided I had to get out of there. I also decided to get Marie out of there too.
I traced Marie’s mother who very selflessly signed legal guardianship papers enabling me to bring Marie home to live with me. By that time I was nineteen and she was eight.From then on she looked upon me as her mother and I looked upon her as my daughter. Today Marie is 47 and I am 59 and the book is about our life together.
What kind of book would you like to be known for?
Books that told it the way it was.
If you achieved great fame and fortune, would you continue to write?
Great fame doesn’t really appeal to me but I’d certainly have no problem with the fortune. I would continue to write because there is always someone’s story to tell.