JESSICA NORRIE: What I Did at 50

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Jessica Norrie

I’m happy to welcome Jessica Norrie onto my blog today, as part of my ‘What I did at 50’ series – or, as Jessica puts it: What I did at 50 plus a bit, minus a bit. Jessica is the author of The Infinity Pool and The Magic Carpet. Welcome, Jessica, and tell us your story…

Thank you. First, I was born, at University College Hospital, London. I don’t claim any special credit for that, but it wasn’t long before Christmas. My father talked about watching processions of nurses in their red capes marching briskly through the snow below the ward window – I think the NHS was more glamorous then.

At school I loved writing stories, but that’s hardly surprising because both my parents were journalists, my mother on Glamour and Mirabelle magazines before she was married (glamour again) and my father for local papers until he got fed up with being sent to report weddings and found work as a bookseller, publishing novels in his spare time. So I thought writing was as normal as eating which gave me a lucky boost most children never get.

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I studied French, lived in France teaching English, came back and trained to do it properly and somehow writing took a back seat. But when I married and had children, I earned a few pounds writing columns for mother and baby magazines (think inept mother makes silly mistakes, not helpful tips or advice. Fortunately my children were quite easy going and survived.) On maternity leave from teaching, I studied translation, and earned enough for our family holidays for a few years. Translating is great – a bit like editing/writing rolled into one without having to think up the plot yourself. Again, I’d never have got the diploma if the children hadn’t been predictable babies who kindly slept while I did the assignments.

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There’s a lot of fast forwarding to do now. Career highpoints of the next few decades? I enjoyed visiting different schools to assess (with interpreters) bilingual children who were struggling for one reason or another – saw lots of age groups, situations, individuals – all human life was there! Refugee children, children with disabilities that had never been diagnosed, perfectly ok children who were just taking the developmental time they needed to start using another language but it didn’t fit with the exam schedules. Then the funding for that was withdrawn.

Later, it was hard work but fascinating entering the school advisory service to set up language teaching in primary schools. I made some great new friends and rediscovered my own love of learning languages. Then that funding was withdrawn. Back into school teaching I went, armed with lots of new methods and expertise and proud co-author of a textbook.

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My own children were now adults and I found I wasn’t so well in tune with what makes young children tick. The primary curriculum too had become as dull for the teachers as the government seemed to be trying to make it for the pupils. My heart wasn’t in it any more. I had become more interested in what made adults tick, especially slightly odd ones, which inspired my first novel, The Infinity Pool. It did surprisingly well for self-published literary fiction. I had a number one in Australia, overtaking The Girl on a Train in the charts for over a week. I was amazed how long it took to market it and spread the word, though. No time for teaching, so I took early retirement, and following an amazing holiday of a lifetime in Japan, got down to novel number two, The Magic Carpet, which has just been published. This is not for children, but it is about them, and without my teaching career would never have been written. As a teacher, I think I learned at least as much as I ever taught.

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All the while, I’ve been singing, in choirs, bring-and-sing days, workshops, holidays and with anyone who’ll accept my thin high soprano and slightly slow learning. There’s always someone with a richer, better voice, which stops me getting prima donna airs. I cannot recommend singing highly enough, whatever standard you are (or think you are), Rock Choir to Oratorio. It’s about breathing, muscle work, discipline, mindfulness, teamwork, concentration, self-expression and release. Though sheer good luck, I’ve sung at the Festival Hall, on Radio 3 and at the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Paralympics. Singing has made me lifelong friends and it’s how I met my partner. When we’re feeling flush, we also love to watch others at the opera – do go, it’s neither as expensive nor as elitist as you may think.

At La Scala

Jessica at La Scala Opera House

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I’ve finished the first draft of novel number three, which is – why not? – about adults and children. Surprising how few novels are, when you stop and think about it. So many stories for adults ignore anyone under eighteen completely, as if we all sprang into the world at voting age.

Study view

The view from Jessica’s study in Malvern, Worcestershire

So that’s my 50s – three novels started, two finished. Two children sent out into the world. I’ve just stepped over the hump into 60 (no snow this birthday) which has started well – my partner has moved to Malvern, Worcs where this is the view from my study! And started badly – I won’t be seeing the view much longer without a trabeculectomy at Moorfields eye hospital this August. So it looks like I’m back where I started, with the NHS in considerably straitened circumstances but still doing its best. From the cradle – well let’s hope not to the grave, just yet. There’s still that third novel to finish!

Thank you for having me on your blog, Tracey, it’s been interesting to find the shape in my life through doing this piece of writing. Hope it’s of some interest to your readers too.

Tracey: I’ve enjoyed reading your story, Jessica. Thank you for telling it to us. Find out more about Jessica from the links below, and take a look at her books…

The Magic Carpet

Magic carpet ecover[880]

The Magic Carpet

BUY HERE

Blurb:
Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?

BUY The Magic Carpet

Other links:

 

Jessica’s blog

Jessica’s Facebook page

Jessica on Twitter

 

IP paperback

The Infinity Pool

BUY The Infinity Pool

Blurb: In this thoughtful novel set on a sun-baked island, Adrian Hartman, the charismatic director of the Serendipity holiday community, is responsible for ensuring the perfect mindful break, with personal growth and inner peace guaranteed. People return year after year to bare their souls. For some, Adrian IS Serendipity. 

But Adrian disappears, and with him goes the serenity of his staff and guests, who are bewildered without their leader. The hostility of the local villagers is beginning to boil over. Is their anger justified or are the visitors, each in a different way, just paranoid?

As romance turns sour and conflict threatens the stability of both communities, everyone has to find their own way to survive. This evocative story explores the decisions of adults who still need to come of age, the effect of well-intentioned tourism on a traditional community, and the real meaning of getting away from it all.

CAROL COOPER: What I Did at 50

I’m happy to welcome Carol Cooper onto my blog today, as part of my ‘What I did at 50’ series. I first met Carol at the London Book Fair in 2013. Hi, Carol! Tell us about your life up to and at fifty and beyond…

Carol Cooper headshot

Carol Cooper

Thank you very much for having me on your blog, Tracey. I’m a slow learner, and turning fifty taught me a lot.

Back in my twenties, I dreamed of living in Hampstead and writing novels. However, I couldn’t afford Hampstead rents at the time and didn’t know how to write a book. In fact I knew nothing much except how to pass exams. I did however write a few music reviews, which got me into some of the best gigs in Cambridge.

Studying took up the next few years. Once I qualified as a doctor, I began writing light-hearted articles for other medics, and eventually for Punch and other titles. To me, Punch has always been an iconic magazine, and I was thrilled when it became one of my regular outlets.

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You asked about turning fifty, though, so I’ll fast-forward. By my forties, I had three teenaged sons and was a GP in a partnership in Chorleywood, Herts. I’d often been a part-time doctor, but had always worked, with only five weeks off after giving birth to my first child, and six months after having twins. This was considered exceptionally generous at the time.

Alongside this, I was also busy as a ‘media medic’, as some call it.  As the doctor for The Sun newspaper, my role was to supply a medical opinion at short notice on topics that could range from hangover remedies to radiation spills. I also popped up a lot on radio and TV, especially on Sky News who gave me a regular slot. It was a fun time. I never knew what might come up next so it was like working in A&E, though without getting my hands dirty.

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Inspired by my children and my work, I wrote a string of non-fiction books, among them the very popular Twins and Multiple Births and the Baby & Child Q & A Book. The only sadness was that my marriage had broken down by then, though my ex and I remain friendly.

Twins and Multiple Births

Carol’s book Twins & Multiple Births: the essential parenting guide from pregnancy to adulthood.

 

Around my fiftieth birthday, I was teaching nurses in the practice, as well as medical students who sometimes did attachments with us. But the biggest change came when I left the partnership. The decision was triggered by the birthday of my eldest son, who insisted on waiting for me to come home from work before opening his cards and presents.

I had an evening clinic and the last patient took a while. I recall her telling me, “This won’t take a minute, doctor.” She was right. It took more like half an hour.

Just as I’d thought I’d finished, I got a call from a local care home. The elderly patient in question had already been visited several times in the last few days. The staff didn’t think she needed further medical attention but the family were insistent, so I went, taking the usual time and care even though it became clear that there was nothing more any doctor could do for her.

When I was finally driving home, it struck me somewhat late in the day (in every sense of the phrase) that I couldn’t have it all, despite everything I’d told myself. Anyone could be a GP, I concluded, but only one person could be a mother to my sons.

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After I left the practice, I still wanted to see patients, but got pickier about the hours, so I worked on a very part-time basis. This allowed me to spend more time with my sons, teach medical students at Imperial College, and carry on with my media work and non-fiction books.

With over half my allotted time up on the big parking meter of life, I returned to ideas that had been simmering for a while. I’d already attended a weekend course led by the legendary Ruth Rendell who convinced me that I could write fiction, especially if it involved dialogue or sex. Spurred on by her advice, I finally finished a novel. I also moved to Hampstead when I downsized from the family home in Chorleywood. But it still wasn’t plain sailing. When my agent decided that One Night at the Jacaranda wasn’t her thing, I self-published my debut novel, followed two years later by Hampstead Fever.

Hampstead Fever COVER

 Hampstead Fever

BUY Hampstead Fever HERE

Set in Hampstead, the book follows the intertwined lives of six Londoners whose various emotions boil over in the hot summer of 2013. This is the year I got married to Jeremy with whom, coincidentally, I’d worked at Punch all those years ago.

Readers often wonder why my novels have short scenes and feature multiple viewpoints. The answer is that it mirrors my profession. Every ten minutes, someone new comes into a GP’s consulting room, and I try to put myself in their shoes.

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Although my career hasn’t taken a straight path, nothing has been wasted. There’s a lot of life experience in my novels, and, while all the characters are purely imaginary, there’s more than a whiff of authenticity in the stressed GP, the struggling journalist, and the newly single mother. I was delighted when WH Smith picked Hampstead Fever for a front-of-store promo in their travel bookshops. 

 

Cathy from WH Smith at Gatwick Airport, with a copy of Hampstead Fever

Cathy from WH Smith at Gatwick Airport, holding a copy of Hampstead Fever

 

I’ve just finished a more literary novel. The Girls from Alexandria centres around Nadia, an Egyptian of Syrian origin who’s now seventy and has symptoms that might be dementia. To avoid being sent to a care home, she needs to find her only remaining relative, a sister who disappeared decades ago. As it’s set mostly in Egypt in the 1950s and 1960s, the book draws on my experience of growing up in Alexandria. I’m not sure when it’ll be published, but it has been pure joy revisiting old memories, just as Nadia does in the novel as she tries to piece clues together.

 

Hampstead Fever BUY HERE

Connect with Carol on Twitter

Read Carol’s blog Pills & Pillow-Talk

Carol’s  Website

Author page on Facebook Carol Cooper’s London Novels

Find Carol on Instagram

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAGGIE JAMES: What I did at 50

I’m delighted to welcome author Maggie James on my blog today, as part of my ‘What I did at 50’ series. If you have ever wished to undertake a travelling adventure, this read will interest you!

Maggie James

Maggie James

Tracey: Welcome, Maggie! Tell us your story.

Maggie: Thank you. Ever since I was a little girl, all I’ve ever wanted to do was to write novels. When the time came to seek my first job, however, I went into accountancy. As a young adult I lacked confidence and earning my living through writing fiction seemed impossible. In contrast, accountancy was a secure, well-paid profession. It didn’t appeal, but I’m comfortable with figures and so I entered the world of finance, where I stayed for nearly three decades.

My writing ambitions got buried under the realities of life: relationships, travel, a mortgage and the like. Time slipped by; I’d not written anything since my teenage years.

The dream never left me, though. I still intended to write a novel – someday. That day kept moving forward, always on the horizon but just out of reach. At one stage I even questioned whether it had just been a childish notion, one I should forget.

My answer always came back to one thing. On my deathbed, would I regret not having pursued my dream? The answer was always a resounding YES.

I dipped a toe in the water by penning a short story and was encouraged by the positive response it received online. I wrote some more, each one longer than the last, until my final effort was 27,000 words in length. I then decided to move on to novels. I was still stumped, though, about what to write.

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Then I had a falling-out with my employers. For a few weeks, I stewed in my anger, until I had an epiphany, realising it could be one of the best things ever to happen to me. Wasn’t this the perfect time to put my novel-writing dreams into action? As well as indulge my lifelong passion for travel? With that in mind, I laid plans. First I’d save as much money as I could. Then I’d hand in my notice, go travelling for a year, and come back with a finished novel.

Maggie James

Happy Traveller: Maggie in Ecuador

And that’s what happened, albeit with a few hiccups along the way. Once abroad, my procrastination continued; three months into my trip, I’d not written a word. However, in Vietnam I engaged in a conversation that sowed the seed of the idea for His Kidnapper’s Shoes. We were discussing what happens to children who go missing, and I said I believed such events rarely had a happy ending. ‘Not so,’ said another traveller. ‘Sometimes kids are stolen to order for people who can’t have their own.’

That got me thinking. How would it feel to discover, as an adult, that you’d been kidnapped as a child? I was fascinated, and knew I’d found my storyline. If only I could quit procrastinating…

Matters came to a head in December 2010 in a small town called Arica in northern Chile.  My frustration was growing that despite all my plans, I still hadn’t written anything. One evening I was browsing the website of an author whose work I very much admired. I discovered she was a prolific writer, despite holding down a full-time job. I felt ashamed. Here was I, complaining about how impossible it was to write while getting on and off buses, planes, etc., and yet this woman was churning out excellent fiction while working. No excuses, just action. I resolved to change my ways. Time to throw procrastination out of the window, and get to grips with writing a novel.

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I’d heard about a city in Bolivia called Sucre; other travellers were raving about this place. By all accounts it was beautiful and a great place to stay. I made a decision. I’d go there and remain as long as it took until I’d completed my first novel. I’d write every day, without exception, until the first draft was done. Sorted!

…50…

The next day I booked a bus ticket to La Paz, my resolve strong. Something inside me had changed, and this was crunch time. The fact a milestone birthday was approaching strengthened my decision. In four months’ time, I would turn fifty; I couldn’t bear the thought I’d reach that marker without having written a novel.

Sucre turned out every bit as lovely as I’d heard, surrounded by rolling hills and graced with beautiful colonial architecture, its streets filled with locals in colourful attire. I found a cheap hotel and booked myself some Spanish lessons to improve my grasp of the language; I was all set to go.

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First I made some rough notes in an Excel spreadsheet about each chapter, along with a tab for each character. Then I opened Microsoft Word and set to work, determined to make good on my promise. I wrote every day and kept a tally of my word count; it was both exciting and motivating to see the numbers build up as chapter after chapter was completed. I began His Kidnapper’s Shoes at the end of December 2010 and finished it towards the end of February 2011.

Writing the last sentence proved hugely emotional; I burst into tears, and then went to a local cafe to celebrate.

His Kidnapper's Shoes_cover BLOG

His Kidnapper’s Shoes

BUY His Kidnapper’s Shoes HERE

At the time, Amazon’s Kindle programme was in its infancy, and wasn’t something I knew much about. When I looked into it, however, I liked what I read. Self-publishing appeared to have huge advantages over the traditional route to publication, with no downsides. I was ecstatic, and decided this was the path I’d take.

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Upon my return to the UK, I self-published the novel, and got to work on writing others. I’ve now completed six novels, a novella and a non-fiction book aimed at would-be writers. I’ve signed publishing contracts for all my full-length fiction, including His Kidnapper’s Shoes, but recently reclaimed my rights to four titles, which now fall under my own imprint.

Nearly nine years have passed since I flew to Thailand to begin a new life, and I’m delighted at how things have turned out.

Fifty is the new thirty!

Tracey: Thanks to Maggie for sharing her story of travel, adventure and writing. Read more about her book, His Kidnapper’s Shoes, below.

His Kidnappers Shoes - Try 2 half size

His Kidnapper’s Shoes: BUY HERE

Blurb:

Daniel is my son. He has always been mine. And he always will be.
On some level deep inside, Laura Bateman knows something is wrong. That her relationship with her son is not what it should be. That it is based on lies.
But bad things have happened to Laura. Things that change a person. Forever.
For twenty-six-year-old Daniel, the discovery that his mother is not who he thought comes close to destroying him. As his world turns upside down, he searches for sanity in the madness that has become his life. Daniel is left with nothing but questions. Why did Laura do something so terrible? Can he move past the demons of his childhood?
And the biggest question of all: can he ever forgive Laura?

Find Maggie on:

Twitter: @mjamesfiction

Web: www.maggiejamesfiction.com

Facebook: Maggie James Fiction

Goodreads: Author Maggie James

CHRISTINE WEBBER: What I did at 50

I’m incredibly excited to feature an interview with Christine Webber, former Anglia TV news presenter, agony aunt, psychotherapist and author, as part of my ‘What I did at 50’ series today. Read on and enjoy!

Christine headshot

Christine Webber

Hi, Christine. Thank you so much for ‘appearing’ on my blog. I’m excited to say that we’re going to be discussing your wonderfully interesting life, in line with my series of features entitled What I did at 50.

As someone who’s now approaching my late fifties, I’m constantly seeking out new challenges and adventures. What has been your attitude to each transition from decade to decade?

Hi, Tracey. I am a great believer in landmark birthdays spurring you onto greater things.

I share your sentiment. First of all, what were you like as a child and what did you imagine you might one day become?

From a very early age, I just knew I wanted to do something different. I know this doesn’t sound very nice but I wanted a life full of incident and for it to be very different from that of my parents. 

Did you have any further goals as you moved into your 20s and beyond?

I was quite musical and I played the piano reasonably well as a child. (I still play!) But my main goal as I grew into my late teens was to be a professional singer. I trained at the Guildhall School of Music. I did have a career of sorts, but I was just not good enough to make a good living at it. I did some acting. Again, I was nothing special. And then I turned my attention to television. I had a feeling I might be better at that. So, I gave myself until 30 to get into the business and managed to land a continuity announcer job for British Forces Broadcasting just before that deadline. This led, two years later to my dream job as a TV news presenter for Anglia TV.

Wow, getting your dream job must have felt amazing. I remember that my sister wanted to be a news presenter as a child, and used to practice announcing to the rest of us. Tell us something about the job. Was work fulfilling enough to meet all of your needs? Tell us more…

It was absolutely wonderful. And all my greatest friends stem from that time. I presented the news and also produced and presented features within the programme. This was when there were only four channels and the media world was very different from how it is now. I interviewed so many interesting people. I think Prince Philip was the most prestigious but actually when you interview a member of the Royal family, all the questions are decided ahead of time – by a committee really – so it wasn’t particularly satisfying. But I did enjoy chatting to actors, writers, artists, politicians and lots of so-called ‘ordinary people’ who were doing extraordinary things.

Then I decided as I approached 40 that I would write a novel, and that I would make a career-change from television into writing. It wasn’t quite as simple as that!  But I entered the novel into a competition for first-time writers. I didn’t win, but somehow, luckily for me, the publishers on the judging panel felt I had something to offer and In Honour Bound was published by Century shortly after my 40th birthday. The other thing about being 40 was that I realised I had found the love of my life and I married him a year later. He was a doctor, called David Delvin, who I had booked to do a medical slot with me in 1983. We worked together very happily, fell in love in 1987 around my 40th birthday and married a year later.

Christine wedding

I love the photo.  Let’s move on to the decade in question. What happened at the age of 50?

Aged 50, having left television and moved into the world of being an agony aunt, I nailed what I thought was going to be a job for life with TV Times. The two previous incumbents had been Katie Boyle and then Miriam Stoppard. Both held the position for years and years. Imagine my disappointment only a few months later, when the editor decided to get rid of all features in the magazine that were anything to do with health – and the agony aunt column was one of the casualties.

I’m sorry to hear that. It must have felt devastating. (On a side-note, Miriam Stoppard’s Pregnancy and Childbirth book was one of my bibles when I was expecting my first son!) But anyway, being an agony aunt must have been fascinating, for the duration it lasted.

Having accepted the loss of that job, what did you decide to do after that?

There was quite a lean period, as I recall, but eventually I got other agony aunt jobs both in print and on TV. But being 50 made me look more carefully at my future career and I made the very significant decision to train as a psychotherapist. This gave me credibility as an agony aunt and also generated more TV work as an ‘expert’ rather than as a presenter. It also led to the commission of three self-help books – Get the Happiness Habit, Get the Self-Esteem Habit and How To Mend a Broken Heart. Additionally, together with my husband, I wrote all the sex and relationship content of the Netdoctor website. And I started a practice in Harley Street.

how-to-mend-a-broken-heart-1

How to Mend a Broken Heart

Training as a psychotherapist was a good move, then. It sounds as though you became incredibly busy, and I imagine it was satisfying to work alongside your husband on the Netdoctor website. What led on from that?

At 60 I chose to stop writing the kind of self-help books I’d been penning and set about trying to write a comprehensive book about ageing; ageing in a way that was very different from that of our parents. It took a while, a change of publisher and agent to achieve that ambition but when I was 63, finally, Too Young to Get Old hit the bookshelves.

too-young-to-get-old

Too Young to Get Old

I must look that book up. I’m definitely too young to get old! Did you make any more life-changing decisions?

I carried on with writing columns for magazines like BBC Parenting and for websites, and David and I landed a joint column in the health section of The Spectator. But as I was approaching 70, I realised that if I was going to return to writing fiction, I’d better get on with it before I got too old. For a variety of reasons, I decided to indie publish. And Who’d Have Thought It? – a romantic comedy for mid-life readers – came out eight months before the big birthday.  This has been followed by It’s Who We Are and a re-write of my first novel In Honour Bound.

Who’d Have Thought It? and It’s Who We Are

So what’s next for you, Christine?

My landmark 70th year was very happy in some ways because of my fiction writing. But very sad because my lovely husband died before I was 71. We knew he was ill. It wasn’t sudden. And we absolutely made the best of those last months, but to say there is a gap in my life now would be a massive understatement. I do however remain very grateful for the 30 years we had together which were absolutely marvellous.

I’m so glad the two of you made the most of your last months together, and I’m happy you have such wonderful memories…

What are your plans now?

I have more time on my hands now to write and do various other things, so I keep very busy. Quite apart from anything else, feeling useful and occupied helps me to deal with the loss of David. I am about 30,000 words into my next book which is all about three women in their late 50s and early 60s at major crossroads in their lives.

Also, I am taking up opportunities that present themselves that I certainly could not have tackled when David was ill. One lovely thing is that I have become an interviewer/presenter for the Royal Opera House for their Insights Programmes. These are tributes to great artists who work at Covent Garden and in them we explore that person’s career and talk about their life, and play clips of their triumphs, for an hour and a half in front of an audience.

I was very fortunate to be approached by Gary Avis, a marvellous dancer – the Principal Character Artist of the Royal Ballet – to host his evening. That was a real thrill. Over the years Gary has become a great friend so to have been given the honour of guiding him through his big night was just fantastic. And a couple of weeks ago, I also had the privilege of interviewing the world-famous bass baritone, Sir Bryn Terfel.

Interviewing Sir Bryn Terfel

Interviewing Sir Bryn Terfel

It’s great to have a new adjunct to my career at 72!

Also, I have been asked to be in a pantomime this Christmas. (The last time that happened was in 1976!) I am going to job-share the role of Fairy Beanstalk with my great friend Helen McDermott. Needless to say, the fairy will be a pretty old and daffy one. 

The next thing to decide I suppose is what on earth I can do that’s new when I’m 80!

I’ve enjoyed this interview with you so much, Christine. Many thanks for taking part and I wish you all the very best with your future endeavours, whatever they may be!

Here are a few details about Christine’s novel, In Honour Bound.

In Honour Bound by [Webber, Christine]

In Honour Bound BUY HERE

Blurb: Set in 1980’s London, Helen Bartlett, a popular TV news presenter and Sam Aziz, a glamorous middle-eastern cardiac surgeon, meet on a live programme. They dislike each other on sight, and the interview is a disaster. But that is not the end of their story because later that evening, they find themselves at the same dinner party.
Over the weeks, hostility morphs into passion, and soon they fall desperately in love.
Both are looking for the right partner with whom to settle down and produce a family. They seem made for each other; they delight in the joy that they have found, and plan to marry. But then, the differences in their cultural backgrounds start to manifest themselves. And a debt of honour that Sam cannot ignore returns to haunt him.
Struggling with their torment, while she is so much in the public eye and he is performing life-saving surgery on a daily basis, places them under intolerable strain.
Must they relinquish the most magical relationship either of them has ever known? Can they find a way out of their dilemmas? Or do they have to accept that no matter how modern we are, we cannot fly in the face of the traditions that served, and shaped us, for centuries?

In Honour Bound BUY HERE

Connect with Christine:

Web Christine Webber

Twitter @1chriswebber

christine1

Christine Webber

Why I Love Yorkshire: Guest post by Sharon Booth

I’m happy to welcome author Sharon Booth onto my website today. She tells us all about why Yorkshire is so important in her life, and why it inevitably found its way into all of her novels. Make yourself a cup of Yorkshire tea and sit back and enjoy a taste of Yorkshire, with Sharon.

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Sharon Booth

All my novels are set in Yorkshire. It wasn’t meant to be that way. When I was writing my first full-length novel, There Must Be an Angel, I had originally intended to set it in Glastonbury. It was on a journey to Somerset, after all, that the first three characters popped into my head, and it was while wandering the streets of the mystical town that I began to plot out their stories.

Somehow, though, as the months went on, I began to feel that my characters just weren’t settled in the location I had placed them. I could hear their voices so clearly, and there was no doubting it. They were speaking to me with Yorkshire accents.

It seems unthinkable to me now that Eliza, Rose, Lexi and Rhiannon could live anywhere but Kearton Bay – a former fishing and smuggling village on the North Yorkshire coast that strongly resembles Robin Hood’s Bay. Kearton Bay’s streets are peopled with men and women I know, and voices I recognise.

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Whitby

I suppose the truth is, having lived in Yorkshire all my life, the county is in my blood and bones, as well as my heart. I love its varied landscape, from the picturesque Dales to the wild North York Moors, from the flat plains of Holderness with its crumbling cliffs and huge skies, to the pretty, and much underrated, Wolds.

But it’s the people, too. There is something about Yorkshire folk that intrigues and delights me. They can be “mardy” and annoying, not to mention stubborn as mules, but there’s a warmth and familiarity about them. I love to travel to different parts of the UK, and I’m making it my mission to see as much of this beautiful country as I can, but there’s no place like home for me. I remember once, on our way home from Scotland, we travelled back on a hot, sunny day and pulled over to check the map, unsure we were going in the right direction. Almost immediately, we were approached by a young woman with a couple of small children beside her. “You all right, love?” she asked. “Need any help?” We looked at each other and had the broadest smiles on our faces. We were back in Yorkshire, and all was well with the world.

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Knaresbrorough

When I was a child, my parents didn’t have a car and they didn’t have much money either. Holidays, therefore, were spent locally on the Yorkshire coast. We usually stayed in caravans or chalets. Sometimes, if money was particularly tight, we’d travel no more than twenty miles to stay on the Holderness coast. Mostly, though, we headed to Primrose Valley near Filey, staying in beautiful caravans. My nanna and grandad and auntie and uncle would be in a bungalow across the road, and various other great aunts and uncles, cousins and half cousins would be dotted around the village. We’d meet up every day to have picnics on the beach, paddle in the sea, go roller-skating or on the swing boats. Evenings would be spent walking along the sands to Filey, where we’d buy fish and chips for tea, then head back to a little pub, where the adults would disappear into the grownups’ bar for an hour, and us kids would sit in a little room, eating peanuts and crisps and drinking cola.

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Scarborough

They were very simple, basic holidays, but the memory of those days on the Yorkshire coast stayed with me. As an adult, whenever things got too much for me, when “real life” overwhelmed me and I needed to recharge my batteries, I would jump on a bus or train and head up to Filey or Scarborough for the day, to breathe in the sea air, watch the waves lapping on the sands, gaze up at those huge skies, and realise that, whatever was bringing me down, this too would pass. There’s nothing like being by the sea to put things in perspective. One memorable year, we spent our holiday in Whitby. I had my fifteenth birthday there, and I decided I had never been to a more beautiful area in my life. We visited Robin Hood’s Bay for the first time, and I never forgot that experience. I had no idea how important that little place would become to me.

I’d always wanted to visit the Yorkshire Dales, but – unbelievably – I was in my thirties before I finally went there. I fell in love with the area immediately, and these days we visit frequently, sometimes just for the day, other times for a week. Researching my family tree, I was delighted to discover a whole branch of my family came from Swaledale, and it made me feel even more connected to the area. I had to set one of my books there, and although I changed Swaledale to Skimmerdale, This Other Eden is a love letter to the home of my ancestors. It’s been a real pleasure, recently, to work on the follow-up, which I’m hoping will be published in September.

When I was at school, we went on a trip one day to Helmsley Castle and Rievaulx Abbey. I was captivated by these historic sites, and by the beauty of the surrounding area.  Years later, Helmsley would become Helmston, a market town featured in most of my books, and Rievaulx Abbey would be the inspiration for the ruined abbey at Kirkby Skimmer in This Other Eden.

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Whitby Abbey

We are so fortunate to have so many ancient buildings in Yorkshire. Scarborough Castle has also featured in one of my books, as has Burton Agnes Hall in East Yorkshire, which became Kearton Hall in Once Upon a Long Ago.  I’ve already tucked Knaresborough, with its glorious castle, into my file for a future series. The pretty villages dotted around the North York Moors inspired me when I created my Bramblewick series, and I have plans to write another series set in the Yorkshire Wolds. How could I not? They may not get as much attention as the Dales or Moors, but they are stunning, with some of the prettiest villages you’re ever likely to see.

When I was writing my Moorland Heroes series, I headed to an unfamiliar part of Yorkshire – the West Riding. I was writing about a modern-day Mr Rochester, so obviously I wanted to visit the Brontë Parsonage in Haworth! The Brontës are probably the most famous of Yorkshire’s writers, and like millions of other people, I love their work – particularly Jane Eyre. It’s not difficult, in the area surrounding Haworth, to imagine the brooding Mr Rochester riding his horse across the moors, or see Cathy and Heathcliff in each other’s arms beneath a glowering sky.

Wherever you go in Yorkshire, you can find inspiration, and many writers have done just that. From the gothic horror of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, washing up on the shores of Whitby, to the cobbled streets of Victorian Hull in Valerie Wood’s fabulous historical novels; from the wide open spaces of Holderness in Winifred Holtby’s South Riding, to The Secret Garden of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s North Yorkshire; from the dramatic moors of Brontë country, to the rolling hills and glorious dales of James Herriot country, Yorkshire’s varied landscape has lent itself to a massively diverse range of literary works.

Will I ever set a novel outside of Yorkshire? Never say never, of course, but for now I still have so much of God’s own county to explore, so much inspiration to draw upon, that I don’t feel the need to look elsewhere. I’m Yorkshire born and bred, and I wear my white rose with pride!

Heartwarming love stories set in beautiful Yorkshire

You can find out more about Sharon by visiting her website at www.sharonboothwriter.com

Follow her on Amazon: bit.ly/sharonboothpageUK or bit.ly/sharonboothpageUS.

You can find Sharon on Facebook: www.facebook.com/sharonboothwriter, or Twitter as @Sharon_Booth1.

Sharon Booth writes heartwarming love stories set in beautiful Yorkshire locations.

She wrote her first book when she was ten. It was about a boarding school that specialised in ballet and, given that she’d never been to boarding school and hadn’t a clue about ballet, it’s probably a good thing that no copy of this masterpiece survives.

She is the author of ten novels with Fabrian Books and has also written for DC Thomson and Ulverscroft. Her short story, The Other Side of Christmas, was included in the Winter Tales anthology – a collection of seasonal stories by popular writers, in aid of The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and The Teenage Cancer Trust.

Sharon lives in East Yorkshire, with her husband and their dog. She is one tenth of The Write Romantics, and a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. 

She has a love/hate relationship with chocolate, is a devoted Whovian, and prone to all-consuming crushes on fictional heroes. If forced to choose her favourite fictional hero, however, she would probably say Paddington Bear.