I wrote in the first person - the style I was familiar with. However, to make my novel a bit different I decided that it would tell the tale of three women in three parts, each told in their voice. I started with the second part – now I would always begin at the beginning! Writing on an ancient Apple Mac computer, the novel was saved on a hard disk. The internet was limited, and the majority of my research was done by using library books. I was totally absorbed in the story, spending as much time as possible on it. After about a year I could no longer use this computer and stopped writing.
In 2005 I decided to do a creative writing course. The unfinished novel was still on my mind and the disks were precious, but now I had a PC with Word and it was not compatible. The novel was put onto a disk so I could use it, but sadly it was all mixed up. I had a printed copy and I set about rewriting it, and adding in more while doing the course. A Place Called Hope was finished in about 2006 and remained on the computer.
A few years later and I came back to the novel again. Curious to know how much it would cost to print one copy, I looked on the internet and was astounded. A company called Lulu would print the book for about £7! Of course, it would not be proofread and I was fully responsible for setting it up, but I could have one copy of this precious novel. I put the files into A5 size, took a photo for the front cover and had a book printed. What a wonderful thing to have – a copy of A Place Called Hope.
Fast forward to 2016 and I had published Secrets of the Shingle (more about that next time). I wondered if ‘Hope’ was good enough compared to my Dungeness novel and asked a couple of people to read it. The response was good and so the book was rewritten again. I printed some copies through Lulu (a traditional printer came later) and began to sell it alongside Secrets of the Shingle.
But this book, rewritten so many times, worried me. I was no longer happy with one of the characters – Christen. Also, I was concerned that the style was not fitting with my later novels. In 2018, the novel had its greatest rewrite, removing a third of it and increasing other parts. It was proofread and relaunched with a cover featuring local art by Phillippa Goddard.
The novel now follows the lives of Anna and Jessica, with each part told in their own voice. It remains my only story told in the first person, so despite the reworks, it stays true to my style back in the year 2000. Readers can expect, as always, to be immersed in a recognisable Romney Marsh and will recognise the amount of research done into local history. A Place Called Hope has been reworked for the final time and will remain as a stand-alone book. However, my interest in the ‘lost’ villages has encouraged me to learn more about Midley and Eastbridge, and I have a creative writing workshop based on Midley.
From my first novel written, next time I will tell you about Secrets of the Shingle – my bestseller and first published novel!