The route my writing life has taken – from poet and book reviewer, through translation, writing and editing, to publishing short stories and working on my first novel – has been as long and circuitous as the proverbial piece of string. A piece of string created with an enduring love of language and wordplay.
I’m currently working on a historical fiction set in Whitby (Yorkshire not Ontario) in the second half of the 19th century. A visit to the RNLI Lifeboat Museum in Whitby several years ago inspired me to discover more about the fishing communities that provided the lifeboat service prior to the foundation of the RNLI.
My story focuses on a young woman called Maggie, whose father is the coxswain of the Whitby Lifeboat in 1859. It is a story fraught with struggle: class struggle on the part of the fishermen who fear for their livelihoods; the fisherwomen’s struggle for emancipation, and the struggle on a much wider scale against the unpredictable forces of nature.
I had never envisaged myself as a historical novelist, but the themes of justice and equality in this story lured me in. I like to write vignettes, short stories and sketches that expose something of our flawed humanity or reveal our potential to achieve astonishing feats. I find inspiration in newspaper stories, snippets of conversation overheard on the train journey, in a painting or a photograph; I find inspiration in human nature.
Each of us has a dream; our own vision and our own hopes. Whether we make the dream a reality or are constantly thwarted in trying is of little interest; it’s how we deal with the myriad choices and circumstances that life may throw at us that I find really fascinating.
In my first published short story, ‘Vertigo’, it is procrastination that prevents a young man from telling the person he loves how he feels. In the case of ‘Breakfast Club’, it is the ignorance and apathy of a teenage boy’s parents that seem to scupper his chances of a brighter future. ‘More In Common’ touches on the gossamer-fine line between making a healthy choice and slipping into an addictive lifestyle.