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I have wonderful memories of my childhood. My parents were desperately poor but their devotion to family life gave me a feeling of great security. My father was one of four fostered children and never knew his parents, so the joy he felt with his own family was simply overflowing.
Our birthday parties were sensational – my father would perform brilliantly as a Chinese magician or a clown or invent hilarious games and treasure hunts. From him I learned that working hard brought many rewards, especially self-respect.
Although I won a rare scholarship to a public school, university would have stretched the budget too far, so I left school at 16 and took a secretarial course. I was married at 21, had my first son by the age of 22 and my second son three years later. I ran an all-day playgroup and was a seaside landlady at the same time, catering for up to 11 people – bed, breakfast, and evening meal.
Finally I realised that my husband and I were hopelessly incompatible and when we divorced, it lifted a great weight from my shoulders. I was offered a place on a teacher training course and saw a new door opening ahead of me. After being rendered nervous, uncertain, and cabbage-like by my dominating ex-husband I soon became confident and outgoing again. During my degree course I met my new husband, a kind, thoughtful, attentive man who is my friend and soul mate. I loved teaching in Sussex but after 12 years I became frustrated and dissatisfied with new rules and regulations, which I felt turned me into a drudge.
My switch into writing came about in a peculiar way. Richie, my elder son, had always been nuts about natural history and had a huge collection of animal skulls. At the age of 15 he decided he'd write an information book about collecting. Heinemann and Pan Publishers eagerly fell on the book and it went on to not only be published but to win the famous Times Information Book Award. Interviews, television spots, and magazine articles followed. Encouraged by his success, I thought that maybe I could write, too; and I went on to publish several information books for children.
Then I saw Charlotte Lamb being wined and dined by Mills and Boon on a television programme and decided I could do Charlotte's job! I'd hardly read fiction before, so I bought 20 books, analysed them carefully, then wrote one of my own. Amazingly, it was accepted and I began writing full time.
I moved to a small country estate in Cornwall with my husband, which was a paradise. My sons visited often – Richie brought his wife, Heidi, and their two daughters and Simon was always rushing in after some danger-filled action in Alaska or Hawaii, protecting the environment with Greenpeace. I’m also a qualified as a homeopath, and I often cared for the health of my family and friends.
But paradise is always fleeting. My husband became seriously ill and it was clear that we had to move somewhere less demanding on our time and effort. After a nightmare year of worrying, nursing, and watching him like a hawk, I was relieved when we sold the estate and moved back to Sussex.
Our current house is large and thatched and sits in the pretty rolling downs with wonderful walks and views all around. I feel fortunate that although I’ve had tough times and have, at times, been desperately unhappy; I am now surrounded by love and feel that I could weather any storm to come.