Many years ago, I gave up my job as an English lecturer to become a full-time writer because my head was exploding with stories. My friends told me I was crazy and I’d most probably starve to death. I didn’t, but only because I sold my house and bought a flat in St. Leonards-on Sea, E. Sussex overlooking the sea. When I wasn’t staring at the magical sea, I researched extensively for my first two historical novels, set on the south coast during WW II. I discovered fascinating details about people’s lives from reading numerous war-time diaries in The Imperial War Museum library and from listening to tapes at its Sound Archives; details I had never heard about and which I have put into both books. e.g. I listened to Douglas Bader’s Batman saying that Bader lost both his legs, not because he was on a sortie, but because he was one of three Spitfire pilots who got drunk and decided to take the Spits out on a ‘jolly’ and all of them crashed. Bader’s legs were crushed. Two of the pilots were court-martialled, but Bader never was. [There’s a story there.] The film Reach For The Stars was full of invention. After listening to that incredible tape, I wondered how much more history is invented.
After years of writing and revising, both books were published and I was ecstatic. The Invisible Piper and its sequel Tempting The Stars. The first novel explores how relationships between people become transformed by war and the second how we judge people by their looks.
I became so involved with my characters’ lives while writing the novels that one of them, Charlie, my lion-hearted, eleven-year-old evacuee, told me he wouldn’t go away from the family who were fostering him because it was the only security he’d had in his life – his home life was traumatic. The foster family were going to send him back to London as he was so disruptive. Charlie came into my head one night as I was writing him out of the book and said he wouldn’t go. It was a surreal experience. His voice was so insistent that I had to rewrite both plots to give him a larger role. A unique experience of a character writing himself. Charlie became my favourite character in these novels by showing me what real courage is. I’ve never felt a character in my head so insistently since that night, but I hope it happens in the future because Charlie’s involvement in my novels was utterly amazing.
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