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The Way We Were…

This week, more Romaniacs take a trip down Memory Lane, thinking of the influences and experiences that have shaped us and remembering The Way We Were

We would love to know where your writing aspirations began and what your memories of that time are.

Vanessa: I grew up in a small village on the edge of nowhere – no library, no bookshop, no cafes. It was pre-Amazon, pre-Sky TV, pre-mobile phones. When I was younger, I was out all the time – off on my bike for hours, building dens, climbing trees. Home for Corona pop and Blue Peter on TV. Idyllic when you’re nine. Heading for teenage years, however, where and when I was growing up became more limiting. Entertainment for teenagers was non-existent – you either hung around in bus shelters, brushing up on your biology skills or stayed at home, waiting to be eighteen.

I stayed at home – I never was any good at science. Stayed at home in my legwarmers and batwing sleeve jumpers knitted by my nan, trying to learn all the words to Karma Chameleon and how to walk in stiletto heels. In 2013, as I face my first year without either of my parents, I have to thank them for setting me on the path to becoming a writer – by bringing me up in a house full of books. In those long teenage years, waiting for grown-up life to begin, I was such a voracious reader, I read anything and everything in that house – my dad’s Alistair MacLeans and Stephen Kings, my mum’s Danielle Steeles and Catherine Cookson – I’d even be queuing up on a Thursday to read my brother’s 2000AD after he’d finished.

On long, rainy Saturday afternoons, when nothing was on TV but horse racing or darts, I’d lose myself in a book, and when I really couldn’t face reading Tilly Trotter or Ice Station Zebra for the fiftieth time, I got out my exercise books, the ones covered in anaglypta wallpaper and painted, and wrote my own stories. Terrible ones, really really terrible – can you imagine the stories written by a teenager, influenced by Catherine Cookson AND Alistair MacLean?? But I’d discovered the thrill of writing, of inventing and controlling my own worlds. Rainy afternoons when there’s nothing on the telly have never been boring since.

Catherine: I can’t be the only one who spent their childhood with her head in the clouds and can’t remember half of it? The things I do remember: days on the beach (10 minute walk away), camping with the brownies and guides (nan was Brown Owl and mum was the guide leader so I joined up very early), spending time at Nan and Grandad’s with the tent up in the back garden with mini sandwiches and ice cream soda. It’s possible I grew up in an Enid Blyton book, but then I’m highlighting the good bits.

Like the other girls, I developed a love of reading. I was given special teaching because of my dyslexia and my homework involved lots of reading aloud to my relatives. I loved it and by aged 7 I’d developed the reading ability of an 11 year old. Nancy Drew was by far my favourite.

Lucie: I was one of the late starters when it came to writing and reading. Sometimes I feel a bit of a fraud when I hear others say that their whole childhood from an incredibly young age, was reading and writing and making up stories. It wasn’t the same for me. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy reading and I often penned a few tales down, but nothing really seriously. Not until I got into secondary school did it occur to me how much I loved reading and writing. I still briefly remember a story I wrote in year 9 – it was awful, looking back, but it really kick started my writing skills, I think. It was about a girl who was at a house and someone had broken in and she had to get away. It was typically dark and in the middle of nowhere so it involved lots of running and falling over and trying to escape… See, I told you, not very good! But it was a start.

I didn’t have lots of books growing up. My family wasn’t very well off so money went on things like clothes, uniform and food. But I did manage to collect the ‘Goosebumps’ series and I inherited the ‘Point Horror’ series from my sister, which I loved to read. And In my early teens, I read ‘Earth Abides’ by George R Stewart and absolutely loved it! I really want to read it again soon – It can go on the huge TBR pile….

Now, you will notice a weird pattern here; Goosebumps books, Point Horror and my year 9 story of escaping a psycho. Yet I now write romance? For me, I loved to write. I didn’t have a clue as to what genre’s were, or which I wanted to write within, I just liked writing. The more I began to write, the more I broadened my horizons when It came to reading and that’s when I discovered romance novels. So truthfully, I was not a serious writer until I hit 20. Which is why I sometimes feel a fraud. But I can assure you that just because my passion came later, it is still very much running through my veins and is what makes me who I am today.

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9 thoughts on “The Way We Were…

  1. The way we were… love it! My first vivid memories of ‘serious’ writing? Funnily enough, the involve that same, heady elation at developing a story that I get now. Obviously it was nothing like the same style of story, but I’d spend whole afternoons consumed by my writing endeavours. I must have been… ooh, eleven or twelve, and I’d been given an ancient typewriter, a sheaf of paper and a couple of bottles of Tippex. I typed and hacked and typed and butchered the keyboard and took great delight in seeing my story grow (in terms of the pile of paper I’d typed, LOL). That was when I announced to everyone that I was going to be a writer! It took a few decades to follow through on that ambition but weirdly, I am now as I was then: absorbed, heady and immersed in a dreamworld. LOL!

  2. Your memory lanes, ladies, ring so many bells for me. Catherine Cookson AND Alistair MacLean, Vanessa? Wow, LOL – would so love to read an excerpt.
    You talk of remembering the good bits, Catherine – I don’t ever remembr rain. I do remember very heavy snow one year but then just long hot summer holidays during which I would leave the house first thing and not return til dark. And it never ever rained. tt can’t be accurate but, like you – rose tinted 🙂
    There wasn’t many books or much money in my house either, Lucie – although I was encouraged to read all the books I brought home from school and change them as quickly as possible. Then there were jumble sales of course:) Doesn’t seem to have stopped us though, LOL.
    Am feeling very nostalgic now. Great post, girls X

    • You really wouldn’t want to read those stories, Sarah, you really, really wouldn’t. I remember my English teacher getting very confused over the direction my homework was taking 🙂 And you’re right – it never rained then, did it?
      Vanessa x

  3. OMGosh! I remember the jumbles sales! Mortifyingly, my English teacher saw me queuing outside of one, with my mum. Funnily enough, the book stall was always my first port of call (for back copies of the Dandy and the Beano. Oops!). Anyheww, that teacher caught up with me at school on Monday and announced to the whole world she’d driven by and seen me. ‘Were you helping out?’ She beamed at me expectantly, while I blushed to the soles of my shoes. I think she got the drift. Maybe that’s why I was ‘good’ at English. She realised her faux pas and marked my essays up! Haw, haw. I digress. I did love reading as a child, and I just adored writing my own stories. I yearned for a typewriter. A Petite typewriter! A mustard coloured one. One Christmas I got one! Yay! My life was complete! Every night I locked it up in its own little case with its own little key and went off to school happy the next morning. Then something terrible happened. The kind of childhood trauma you never get over… I came home one evening and unlocked my treasure chest with delightful glee – and found my brother had unscrewed my Petite and packed back in its case piece by piece! Waaaah! Explains a lot, don’t you think? #inneedofcounselling
    Fab post, girls. It’s OK. I still love him!

    • Hi Sheryl – I remember my first typewriter too!! And I loved jumble sales – I found an Astrakhan coat at one when I was 17 and wore it all through four years at art college to go with my doc martens and hennaed hair. Wish I’d kept it now. And I have a brother, so I can definitely sympathize…
      Vanessa x

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