Today it’s my great pleasure to welcome Rosalind Minett onto my blog, as part of my ‘What I Did at 50’ (And beyond!) series. I’ve ‘known’ Rosalind online for a good many years, and I hope you enjoy reading her story as much as I have. Over to you, Rosalind…
Thank you for inviting me onto your blog, Tracey, especially after the fascinating bios you have posted already. I could have written about the house I lived in, my marriage, my many children, world news of that time, but as I started writing the first sentence “When I was fifty” this is what came to mind. When I was fifty, I found a dark hair on my left big toe…nasty shock! This is it, I recognized. The downward slope has begun.
At this point, my third grandchild was born–a girl. Make the most of it, I should have been told, for all the next twelve were boys. Several grew up believing their Gran was attached to a computer, because I couldn’t afford to halt my work while I was babysitting. From behind the computer screen I’d suggest where the train track might fit, whose turn it was to climb the tree, or how to work out the fair distribution of smarties.
I remember being stressed out by my work as a freelance psychologist at that time, sixty hours per week carrying out expert witness work for the family courts. This involved absorbing massive files of information, researching relevant aspects, as well as the face-to-face work: interviews, assessments. Later I’d compile very lengthy reports, finally my professional evidence would be challenged and crossworded by barristers. The nature of the cases was always upsetting, peoples’ sad or damaged circumstances being the focus.
After sometimes horrible days in the Court, I’d de-stress by weeding in the garden. It was also when I was fifty that my eldest daughter did out her loft and came across an old roll of printed text. It was a story I had written years before and had completely forgotten. I read a page where a man in his twenties was rushing after another, tracking him urgently to find out why he looked as he did, who he was and how that could be. I felt an urge to finish the novel.
I joined a creative writing group one evening a week. I’d always enjoyed writing, but kept it as a small hobby, much like some folk draw doodles or solve crosswords. But now I wrote pieces more consciously. The writing group members seemed wonderfully sane by comparison with the victims, perpetrators and professionals I was working with. We had some great workshop sessions and shared our very varied scribblings. The group leader (American poet) liked my work, saying it always highlighted the human condition. She hoped that one day she would see my novels on bookshelves.
Further years have passed during which I’ve written many short stories and several novels, publishing several, but that nearly lost story wouldn’t go away. At last, after multiple rewrites, it will be my forthcoming novel, Uncommon Relations. Wise writers stick to one genre. Honestly, it’s so much easier, but when I was eight my father told me I had no common sense. Still true: I just write what’s on my mind and discover the genre later. Uncommon Relations will be a fourth genre. It’s contemporary fiction, a secrets and lies tale with many characters and relationships. What a lot of extra work it’s been bringing Uncommon Relations up-to-date and restructuring it. This is what happens when you try to rescue an old love rather than develop a new one!
Uncommon Relations will have taken very many months longer than my trilogy, with all the historical research that entailed. Would it have been different if the dusty paper roll had been found before I was fifty? Is fifty an age where we grasp at something that might disappear, whereas before, we are more cavalier with our possessions? By contrast, some of my short stories have been born in the early hours on waking and written before the day is out. Even so, they’re usually rewritten several times. Often I’m laughing as I do so. I enjoy being subtly wicked. (The two collections are Me-Time Tales: tea breaks for mature women and curious men, and Curious Men: he-time tales.)
Despite the lengthy research, I did find the trilogy the easiest thing to write. A Relative Invasion takes a boyhood rivalry from its inception through to climax and adulthood and set in WWII. Readers have asked how I got into the heads of very different young boys. In the forties, children were told little by adults. They were brought up to work things out for themselves, often drawing wrong conclusions. It can make a child hyper-alert, always looking for clues. My two boy characters are both adult-aware yet very different in nature. Frail Kenneth is indulged and manipulative, Billy psychologically neglected but steadfast. Kenneth, jealous of Billy’s material comforts and physical strength, sets out to invade every aspect of his life and increasingly as they grow up. The two boys view the world differently.In my work I’ve seen plenty of psychological bullying and was keen to represent this.
Rosalind as a middle child
As for being adult-aware as a child, I had a lot to work out. I have the odd advantage of being first the youngest child in a family, then, when a small brother was adopted, the middle one, as you see in the photo. When my sister died tragically, I was the older child. Some years later my brother was re-adopted elsewhere, and I found myself an only child. That was difficult. Your position in the family does affect how you see the world, and I’ve seen it from those different perspectives.
A change of perspective is a tremendous help to an author, as people often attest when they move countries or change professions or roles. It was always a jolt to reality as a young mother when I came home from the concentration of work to my domestic scene. Sometimes, a visitor might comment ‘Doesn’t the noise get you down?’ And I’d say, ‘as long as it’s happy noise, no.’ By contrast, these days I like to write in complete silence. No background music, thank you. Even so, writing fiction itself (not the necessary accompanying technical chores) gives me great pleasure, and often amusement. It’s a contrast to my ghost writing, usually non-fiction, which is more academic an exercise.
I have written in different genres, but to me it’s all the same character-driven story-telling. This is why I’ve sub-titled my website “characterful writer” (https:// rosalindminett.com) In summary, I do believe that engaging in several different forms of writing is helpful, as is immersion in different kinds of creative experiences. I am not a note-taker, but trust that we absorb at a deep level what we’ve seen in Art galleries, theatre, street performance, craft studios, and that some image or idea will pop up as we are writing our narratives.
Rosalind’s 3-in-1 book A Relative Invasion: The Trilogy
A Relative Invasion: The Trilogy,
Two cousins meet in 1937 as WWII hovers on the horizon. By 1951 their rivalry has reached a climax and they must manage the dramatic fall-out. “This well-executed emotional drama” (Historical Novel Society), explores a fateful relationship between two boy cousins. This is played out in the context of wartime London, evacuation and post-war austerity. Smaller but older, Kenneth envies Billy’s superior strength and home comforts and sets out to threaten both. The desire for power and territory determining events in Europe is mirrored in micro as the parents turn a blind eye and the boys share psychological space. Beleaguered Billy’s secret symbol of power, a Cossack sabre, has its own dramatic story. The boys must survive war-time anxiety, separation, evacuation, physical hardship and loss as they develop their different talents. Kenneth’s invasion of Bill’s psychological space is relentless and a climax is inevitable. The drama affects everyone around them. Can Billy resolve the traumatic fall-out or will Kenneth always be a threat? How long can retribution last?