In the summer of 2016, I was asked to write a fictional series for a local magazine. It was to be in four parts of 800 words. I am not keen on writing short stories but wondered if this could be my opportunity to put the great storm into fiction. So I set about putting my ideas into words. By the time the series had finished, I was sure there was more to tell – I started making each 800 word section into a 3000 word chapter.
My inspiration was the reports by a travelling monk (Matthew Paris) who wrote about the 1250 storm and the destruction of Old Winchelsea. His words describing a golden moon and a tide which flowed twice without ebbing, caught my imagination. I put my fictional monk in New Romney and as the storm breaks out, he goes to watch it from the top of the church tower. All he can think of is how he has the best vantage point and how beautiful his descriptive words will look. However, he cannot see what goes on behind closed doors and proceeds to make a terrible mistake when he tells the story of New Romney on the night of the storm.
While the monk moves into the background for a while, readers learn about the lives of fictional characters and the effect the storm has on them. It was in the 13th century that the fortunes of New Romney were lost forever when the river Rother changed course. Today we can still see the results of the storm, mainly around the church where the ground level is much higher outside. Also, at St Nicholas Church there is a tiny window to one side of the altar. This may have once been part of an anchorhold and I was excited to feature it in the novel. If you don’t know what an anchorhold is, you will have to read the book! Or use Google?
I mentioned my concerns about finding enough information to make the story of New Romney accurate. But luck was with me in the form of Sainsbury’s! Well, not Sainsbury’s but all the investigations which were done before the store was built and the fantastic publication on the findings: ‘The Sea and the Marsh, The Medieval Cinque Port of New Romney’ by Gillian Draper and Frank Meddens.
'What the Monk Didn’t See' was again printed through Lulu in the summer of 2017. Although exciting to have three books I still had no expectation of selling many. I had tried a few craft fairs, but found them very quiet. There was still a joy to be found in having my three books on a shelf at home and that was enough, or so I thought!
In November 2017, two things happened. The first was a friend suggested that I change to a traditional printer as this would be cheaper per book. However, to bring the price down I needed to order 100 books. I decided to have 100 of 'What the Monk Didn’t See' printed. A week later I did a book signing at Jempsons and a few days after that, I went to the New Romney Historical Society to tell them about the book. Within a week of buying 100 books, I had sold half of them!
The other huge shift in my author fortunes was that I joined Facebook! It was here that I got to know the local people who would give me such support over the following years, enabling me to continue writing and producing novels. I was beginning to think that perhaps I could sell a few books!