I’d been thinking about doing something for World Book Day as it drew closer, remembering that last year it came upon me suddenly and being my first World Book Day as an author, I felt obliged to play some small part. I’d planned a busy ‘three centre’ day, which included collecting train tickets from Market Harborough, a business meeting in Birmingham and a nip to Lutterworth for emergency supplies. So having recently published my debut novel, I did no more than throw a few copies in a bag, vaguely hoping an opportunity would present itself.
I quickly realised dragging a bagful of hefty tomes around with me was folly, so made a swift decision to dole them out to the mismatched selection of females I was to encounter that day. This included the woman behind the glass at the station, a marketing director in a smart city hotel, a Waitrose check-out lady and finally a pretty dark-haired girl in the post office. The surprise, bemusement and delight each gift bestowed was thanks enough, and I considered my personal contribution to last year’s World Book Day a small success.
Having established this ‘new ‘ tradition – I was thrilled when a cousin – of whom I have many, being Irish – seconded me as ‘Author in Residence’ for World Book Day at the primary school where she works. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was dressed as their favourite fictional character. I hugged a beautiful Cat in the Hat (my cousin); bumped into any amount of Harry Potters and Hermiones; waved to Snow White; chatted studiously with the Lion from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and was brought biscuits by War Horse.
After the most colourful assembly I’ve ever encountered, I was introduced to my Writer Stars – five shining examples of all that is good about the education system – and we got straight down to our Workshop. We were a publishing ‘house’; each student decided their genre, what their latest novel was to be called, then wrote a synopsis, a blurb, a dedication and most importantly came up with a pen name.
I then morphed into a Hollywood movie producer and they each pitched their book to me, with the rest of the team acting as a panel, X Factor style. To say I was impressed with their creative talent, grasp of language and vocabulary is an understatement, I was blown away. But it was their imagination that really shone; we encountered Russian princesses, broken families, war and fantasy heroes, horror, unrequited love and some very funny writing indeed. We had the greatest fun and I had the best of times, it was a privilege to be with these awesome and delightful young people. As I left, I gave books that had inspired me to the children, and my novels to the teachers, because you know, there’s nothing like the gift of a book, it comes with a free smile!
Before I learnt to read, my youngest aunt loved to read to me, except when I asked to hear more of The Water Babies. Aunt Ede preferred fairy tales or any Beatrix Potter. I loved those too but I wanted to know what happened to Tom. All her life Aunt read only romance so what she probably hated most in The Water Babies was the ending:
“And of course Tom married Ellie!” My dear child, what a silly notion!
I’ve loved books forever, couldn’t wait to learn to read, and I wrote, letters, a sort of diary to my absent mother. As an only and adopted child, inherent loner and compulsive reader, I spent hours curled in a cavernous armchair, like most of my generation, immersed in Enid Blyton, Richmal Compton, the classics – Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island, Three Musketeers, Little Women – how those March girls got on my wick. I thought, one day I would like to write a book.
What sort of book?
As you can see from the picture of my recent paperback reads, I don’t favour any particular genre. On Kindle, since Christmas I’ve also read, Up Close by Henriette Gyland, Terry Tyler’s Dream On and the first two volumes of Peter May’s Lewis trilogy. None of these diverse books, in my opinion, are worthy of less than 5 stars, and I have just finished The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. Set in the early 1980s, Eugenides shows not tells how, despite ‘deconstruction’, the novel today remains essentially the same as Austen’s. Like any of Jane’s, and many other ‘literary’ works, it’s about the nature of human love.
So what sort of book, when I finally came to write it, is Last Bite of the Cherry?
Dark romance, Lizzie says. My heroine, Monica says, “I don’t want to get married. Not ever. I want to live”. Also a quote from one of my Amazon reviewers – “The three interwoven love stories keep up a fast pace which made it very hard to put down.” And thanks to New Romantics 4 it’s out there being read.