I was born in Lancashire where I had the good fortune to attend Leigh Girls’ Grammar School. There were some splendid women teachers who encouraged me to aim high.. I was the first in my family to go to university, I went to Royal Holloway thinking I would spend three years reading novels. Instead I learned Anglo Saxon which was not a lot of use when I went to teach teenagers in Manchester. I survived.
After teaching in various schools and colleges I found myself in Scotland with a husband, two children and a border terrier. Frequent moves and family responsibilities meant that like many women there was no steady career trajectory for me. I had to scrabble around for work in some unlikely places. What appeared to be a misfortune turned out to be an opportunity. I came into contact with a huge variety of people. Everyone has a story.
The first thing I did when I moved to a new town was to join the library. There I found opportunities to learn about the law, dressmaking and computers. Libraries are full of novels, the missing ingredient in my education. They put me in touch with book groups where I learned what readers liked and disliked.
I did some creative writing courses, wrote short stories, won some prizes and was asked to write a column for the local paper. I grew ambitious and tried writing a full- length novel. It is in a drawer somewhere. Then it all came together.
I have always identified with the scrupulously honest Jane who is the narrator in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Like her, I fell into uncritical love with Mr Rochester. Now I am older I question his lovability and Jane’s account of events. She is a young girl just out of school. We know from newspapers and TV that people will give different versions of the same event. I looked for a more reliable witness and did some research. Thornfield Hall is the result.