Author bio

First day at school. I'll bet the blazer's still too big even now.
I was born in Edinburgh in 1957 and was transported to England by my parents when I was two, when my father got a job as a geography teacher in Liverpool. 

We lived in Southport, a quaint seaside town which is hazy about its role in the world. It would like to be Brighton. It knows it’s better than Blackpool, but it wavers. My mother, an ex-drama student, rustled up some work in journalism, and was soon full-time. She was rather successful, and became one of the few working mothers of my friends’ acquaintance as I grew up. 

As for me, I got used to time on my own, which I why I read so much growing up. If only I’d had a Kindle then! I wouldn’t even have needed a torch to sneak a read at night.

During daylight hours, I slogged away at one of those ghastly girls’ grammar schools that people think only exist on screen or in books. I shall never wear bottle green again. And don’t talk to me about games lessons. Most of them I skived, lurking in the cloakrooms doing my Latin homework. I also liked Spanish, the main reason being was that our delightful teacher, Gareth Jones (who had lovely vowels in any language), made us laugh about he once landed in the lap of a nun on a bouncing bus in South America, along with some chickens. Or was it a goat?

A cameo in the Linacre College revue,
complete with feather boa
Escape came in the form of a Spanish degree at the University of Manchester. What a great way to avoid any semblance of real work, and SpanSoc was a hoot, with its 70s-style wine and cheese parties. But although Spanish was fun, I didn’t fancy teaching, which was the main career option for girls in those days. I eschewed the honour.  

Later, after six brain-fogging months under a newseditor who made Torquemada look like a nice lollipop man, I fled to Oxford and completed an M. Litt thesis on ‘Comic aspects of satirical 17th-century comic interludes by Luis Quiñones de Benavente’, which was much more interesting. Not a PhD, but hey. It was a blast.

Also fun was Linacre College, where I had something of a ball. Revue, cocktails, summer punting and inappropriate men, not necessarily in that order. Here I am in an original 'flapper' dress that I got from Oxfam for 80p, and a borrowed feather boa. I appeared in a few small cameos in said revue - here it's a hilarious version (well, we thought so) of Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band 's Big Shot. 'Have you got a light mac?'. 'No, but I've got a dark brown overcoat.'

Unfortunately, I still hadn’t managed to forget enough French or Portuguese for total unemployment and so ended up as a technical translator for a civil engineering company of all things. 

Did you know that French for dredging is dragage?

Well, I later escaped that and a misguided first marriage and reverted to copywriting for anyone who would pay. After marrying an Australian post-grad, we flew off to WA for a stint. Funny thing. I applied to a small ad for proof-readers. I’m not proud. It turned out to be a rival newspaper company to Alan Bond, and my future editor was almost hysterical about the fact he’d hooked someone with a Latin A-level. He had a thing about insisting on British spelling. The locals didn’t care, but I’m lucky he did. In six months, I ended up as a senior sub-editor – working in an office with a rooftop pool and a view of the Swan River. 

It didn’t last, of course. The pool did, as far as I know, but the venture did not and we were taken over, so the next gig was in a poky provincial office in the ’burbs, with hot metal! In that climate! Well, I still happily corrected other people’s English, writing down my headlines on little bits of paper (and squashing the letters when I knew they’d ‘bust’ the columns) until we got back to Blighty.

Preston, Cambridge, Bath – more provincial newspapers, more silly Friday afternoons with tiddly journos trying to find a funny headline. Ah. Once a pun a time. 

As my academic husband muscled up the slippery pole to become a chemistry professor in something even I can’t spell, I moved into educational magazines and online publishing. Headline writing was a useful skill, along with a sense of humour. Then, a daughter arrived (mine, so I’m told) and re-introduced me to fiction. I’d simply not had the time to read anything other than what was thrown at me to correct.

But, the world of provincial publishing crumbled. One day, I found myself walking the dogs round Guy’s Cliffe, a beauty spot by the River Avon, not far from Kenilworth in Warwickshire, thinking ‘to hell with a career’ and took the plunge into writing for myself. (Hence the icy picture – if you were wondering what that was all about. It’s Lake Lucerne, in case you’re interested. And copyright-free, natch. If I were Jonathan Stroud, I’d do a footnote. Canna be fashed. Brackets will suffice.)

Although I have several box files of old, unfinished manuscripts literally holding up the shelves in the study (one called, The Evil Magi of Scrunge – an arcane classic), my first official book was The Lost Orchid, a tale of intrigue set against the heady backdrop of so-called ‘orchidmania’ when the wealthy clamoured for ever more exotic blooms, and ruthless dealers despatched their most determined and cunning plant hunters to the furthest reaches of the British Empire. You have to read that last bit in a Clive James voice to see I’m not taking it too seriously.

The theme was partly based on my Scottish heritage. My father’s parents were wildlife buffs, so I was drilled in the names of things, some of them in Latin, and informed just how many of the discoverers were Scottish. As I pondered on how to draw it all into a book, the subject buried a hook in my brain. I did so much research, it’s amazing I found time to produce a manuscript at all. Truth be told, I produced several. Many. I have drawers full of rather quirky chapters set in a Russian spy enclave in Paris that never saw the light of day. The book got shorter each time, until I more or less stopped. I still think of things I’d like to shove in here or there. It’s like trying to find the perfect martini or Penne alla Vodka.

Anyway, I executed the final edit and nearly got an agent – honestly, it was close. After some thought, I took the advice of a wise friend and plunged into e-publishing. It is quite a snorkelling experience for one brought up with quills. Well, not quite, but given how things are changing, I was rather proud of surviving the ordeal. Amazingly, I’m now selling virtual copies, without chopping down a tree.

I’ve even got the hubby hooked and we wrote a book together. It’s a 1930s ‘noir’ thriller called Half Life. It’s set in Norway and is a dark story humming with nuclear fission, Northern Lights and Nazi spies. It’s inspired by a trip to Tromsø with a dash of Casablanca and all those wonderful films of that era. (It's out on Amazon and Smashwords.)

Other titles include Tomorrow's Anecdote, a mischievous murder mystery on a semi-autobiographical theme set in a neurotic newsroom in Thatcherite Britain. Dark Interlude is an adventure set in post-WW1 Glasgow, when revolution was in the air (out on Amazon and Smashwords). 

I also write fantasy adventures, including Ice Trekker, a quest in the icy reaches of Kronagar, True Haven, a Regency tale of derring-do featuring Miss Claramina Dart and sundry villains, plus the first instalment of Legends of the Liria, Cloud Pearl.

Other scribblings include an anthology of short stories on a supernatural theme. You'll find Equinox on Amazon.

I never envied agents and publishers that job of ploughing through the well-meaning slush pile. So, the icy banner picture you see at the top is carefully chosen. A copyright-free allegory of little me, taking a deep breath and jumping off the jetty into the cold water.

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