1. What gave you the idea for Baubles story?
I thought about when I was widowed at a relatively young age. How everyone, especially family, is supportive, but you feel isolated and different. You don’t want to be ‘granny’, even though you are one. You need something to spark your life again, to give you back your independence, to give you courage to start again. Why not a wink from an angel, when you’re feeling vulnerable, to make you feel part of life again, to make you feel like a woman again?
2. How would you describe your normal style of writing?
I don’t know that I have a ‘normal’ style. I’ve written quirky stories and serious stories. My poetry is quite personal, and I use natural images taken from the world around me. I wish I could write political poetry about world issues, but it’s not in me, even though I have strong opinions on most things. I think my poetry is gentle and lyrical and heartfelt. Now, I’m writing a novel set in c991 featuring Anglo-Saxon society during the Viking raids and drawing on my knowledge of Old English literature. I also have another novel on the go which is set in the area around Carcassonne and the Pyrenees. Is a psychological murder type story, with some romance. As you can see I have a ‘butterfly’ mind and many interests.
3. Have you published other material?
Winking at Angels is my first short story to be published in an anthology, but have published a short story The Giraffe I Knew Before You on CafeLit website and a poem, Evening in Early May published in the Save the Rhino Anthology. I have published an academic book, Gender, Time and Memory in Medieval Culture, for which I was co-editor and contributed an article on memory and the women in Beowulf.
4. Do you have a writing routine?
No I don’t have a routine, as I work all week in an ‘ordinary job’. I write, when I have the time and opportunity. My best time to work is late afternoon, no ‘lark’ here. But, I never stop thinking about ideas and making notes. I managed to write a short story and a chapter of my novel while in France recently on holiday.
5. Do you have a favourite place for writing?
I have my own desk in the corner of the dining room near the window, with all my favourite little things, close to my overflowing bookcase.
6. Tell something quirky about you.
I don’t think I’m a very quirky person, but I have a fascination with hawks and falcons. Could be because I’m a medievalist, and no self-respecting lady in medieval times would be without her gerfalcon on her wrist. I also have spent very enjoyable times shaking my coins and beads as a belly dancer, a wonderful excuse to wear ‘over the top’ dangly earrings, and I’m told I do a good ‘shimmy’.
Extract from Winking at Angels
Grace fought her way through the Christmas crowds slipping and sliding along the wet pavements. She shivered and pulled her cashmere scarf around her neck against the sting of the sleet and wondered what had possessed her to leave the warmth of her cosy log fire on such a miserable day. It wasn’t as if she had any shopping left to do. She’d bought a power drill for Martin, a cookery book for Alice, Heaven knew she needed it and all kinds of the latest fads for the grandchildren, not that they would appreciate them. And what would she get in return? She knew that wasn’t the point, but she shuddered to think what impression they had of her when they bought her granny slippers and Old English Lavender bath salts. As she struggled along through the rising wind, the smell of frying doughnuts from a nearby stall made her feel quite nauseous. All around her voices laughed and argued, as shoppers scurried around searching for that perfect gift.
Grace was a handsome woman, in her early fifties, not exactly slender, more what you would call comfortable. She had black, softly waving hair, which always refused to be tamed by the hairdresser, and the softest, blue eyes which crinkled at the corners when she laughed. Paul had always said they were her best feature. She still missed him, even after all this time. Today, she was dressed in a wraparound black woollen coat which covered her from head to toe. Regretting the fact that she had left one glove at home, she thrust her left hand in her coat pocket, as she strode along.
She’d just had to get out this afternoon, even though the weather was disgusting. She was feeling lonely and knew that she would soon be wallowing in dreadful self-pity, if she stayed indoors. Since Paul had died, she had felt so alone, never fully part of the human race, always the spare person living on the edge of other people’s worlds. To the casual observer she had recovered well. She had a good job as an office manager, a lovely home, a close and loving family and many friends. But no one understood this feeling of being rudderless, of being outside and not belonging.
It was Christmas day tomorrow, and she was expected at Martin and Alice’s for the holidays. She dutifully went there every year, and they wouldn’t hear of anything else. However, it had got to the stage, where she would rather spend it on her own, but they certainly would not let her do that no matter how much she protested. Where was her courage! She loved them dearly and her son, Martin was good and considerate but rather dull and set in his ways. He was only thirty-two but already older than the world, and Alice, well Alice was a kind girl and a good mother to the children, Jake and Sally, but she still believed in ironing Martin’s socks. They made it very clear that they disapproved when Grace went to Italy on her own. She chuckled, when she remembered Martin’s concern, “Mum you won’t be safe. Someone might steal your purse. You might be attacked.” “Or worse”, Alice had piped up. As if she had suddenly become unable to look after herself, just because her husband had died. They would think she was being ‘stupid’ for wanting to spend the day alone; just becoming one more thing for them to worry about. She would be happy to visit with the presents, have a drink with them and then leave them to their own lives. But they couldn’t understand that. She loved them so much, and she didn’t want to upset them by being too dogmatic. She was still relatively young and needed to have her independence. She’d be old and more dependent soon enough.
All this was rushing through her mind, when her eye was caught by some sparkling gold angels in the gift shop, strung like baubles across the steamed up window as if in flight. She stopped to look. The shop was like Aladdin’s cave with so many glittery things on display, but the angels were heart-stopping. They were painted gold with halos of soft spun hair and robes made of honey-coloured iridescent cloth. Their wings were made of the softest-looking white feathers which called out to be stroked. But it was their faces which were so arresting. They were so calm and full of grace, with their green painted eyes which seemed to look directly at you. From the shop doorway the sound of a choir singing, It came upon a Midnight Clear, washed over her, and she could feel her eyes welling up with tears which began to trickle down her cold cheeks. “They’re only dolls for heaven’s sake, pull yourself together,” she muttered, angry at herself, wiping away the tears with her one gloved hand.