AllAuthor interview

Where were you born? What childhood memories do you cherish the most? 

I was born in Canterbury, England, and have many happy memories of the times I spent with friends and family in that beautiful, historic cathedral city. We children could wander around narrow streets edged with half-timbered medieval houses, or visit the Westgate Towers with its battlements and instruments of torture, or row a boat down the river that ran through the Westgate Gardens into a dark tunnel under the High Street. But perhaps the memory I cherish most is when I played in our garden at home with my big brother, Paul. He would pretend to be Daddy Bear and walk around on all fours, with me as Baby Bear hanging from his tummy. 

What was your dream job when you were a child? 

I don’t think I ever had a dream job, although I always loved reading, writing and drawing, and longed to travel to other countries. After university I drifted into secondary school teaching, which definitely wasn’t a good choice for me. It took quite a while, and many wrong turns, before I discovered other work that suited me better. 

What developed your interest in studying English? 

English was one of my best subjects at school, along with French and German. My school reports mentioned that my creative writing often had a spark of originality, and encouragement like this increased my confidence. So when I was offered a place to study English Language and Literature at Newcastle University, I jumped at the chance. 

What inspired you to start writing walks leaflets and interpretative materials? 

The opportunity to write walks leaflets came at a difficult time when I’d given up teaching and was unemployed. I attended a jobseekers course, where it was suggested I should contact The North Devon Heritage Coast Service, a local conservation organisation, who were looking for someone to write and illustrate interpretational materials. When they saw some of my work, they asked me to produce a series of leaflets on circular walks in this area. That led to a further contract with the National Trust, who own much of the land along the North Devon coast. I’d always loved country walking, so to combine it with writing was an ideal opportunity for me, particularly since I was also able to use my artistic skills for maps and illustrations. 

How would you describe your experience of teaching ESOL to fascinating adults from all over the world? 

I absolutely loved teaching ESOL, partly because I had some wonderful colleagues, but also because of the students themselves, who came from all over the world and a variety of backgrounds. These included a woman who had escaped from Iran on a false passport, an Argentinian jazz singer, a Spanish industrial diver, staff from Chinese and Indian restaurants, Thai brides, journalists, kebab shop workers and university students. Classes were interactive, with visual aids, dramatic interpretation and collaborative exercises, and since English was the lingua franca in mixed nationality groups, that was in itself a learning experience for students of all levels. You can read more about this on:

How did your life experiences inspire the story of Fragments of a Dream’? 

The story of my novel ‘Fragments of a Dream’ was partly inspired by my own visit to the beautiful island of Hydra as a naive 19-year old. But as with all my writing, I draw on a mixture of experience, imagination, inspiration and research, so the finished result is far from being autobiographical. I have visited the island twice since then, and because it has no roads or motor traffic, it has remained almost unchanged. It is a magical place, with a fascinating history and culture, full of wonderful people, all of which I’ve tried to convey in my novel. 

Who is the most supportive person in your life when it comes to writing? 

All sorts of people support and encourage me in my writing, and I’m grateful to all of them. First and foremost, friends and family, but also fellow students and tutors on courses like the Arvon Foundation First Chapter residential week, and the Bath Spa MA in Creative Writing, as well as members of the Writers’ Ink Group here on the Costa Blanca. Writing can be a lonely business, especially for the self-published novelist, so the best encouragement of all is when my readers are enthusiastic about what they’ve read. 

Have you ever edited a character or a scene from one of your books? How do you know what stories should stay and what should remain out? 

Yes, I often edit out characters, or scenes, as I revise and rework my novels. At first it’s hard to eliminate something or someone you’ve created and grown fond of, but I find that it helps to put the draft aside for a while and come back to what I’ve written with a fresh mind., and try to see the novel as a whole. 

How did you come up with the character of headstrong young Australian Ellie? 

I wanted to tell the story of ‘Between Two Shores’ from the point of view of a younger member of the family who was removed from the original intrigue, but she had to be determined enough to uncover the truth. I’ve been a frequent visitor to Australia, where our son lives with his Australian wife and four children, so I’ve come to know the country and its people fairly well. I think that watching my gorgeous little granddaughters when they were little and determined to have their own way, gave me ideas for the character of headstrong young Ellie, although I’m pleased to say that they, like Ellie, are growing into delightful young women. 

Do you ever get messages or letters from your fans? What is one of the most encouraging things a fan has ever said to you? 

I’m not very well known yet, so almost all the messages of support that come my way are from people who already know me. It’s always encouraging to hear how much they’ve enjoyed reading what I’ve written, so I’m grateful for all their support. Perhaps one of my favourite comments about ‘Fragments of a Dream’ on Amazon is ‘A joy to read, full of honesty, realism and gentle humour, and of characters with true depth.’ Also, only the other day, someone who’d never read my work before rushed up to me and said, ‘I loved ‘Between Two Shores’ – it’s just brilliant!’ 

Has anyone ever spotted you correcting grammar on shop signs? 

I might comment on incorrect grammar on shop signs, but I don’t make a big fuss about other people’s mistakes — although I see lots of them, especially on Facebook posts. As a teacher, I’m always happy to explain if people want to know what’s correct and why, but I’m also aware that all living languages go through changes over time, often propelled by usage, and that even professional linguists debate whether language change is a question of development or decay. 

What do you often do to hang out with family and friends? 

My favourite leisure activity is hiking, which I used to do a lot of when I lived in North Devon. I’ve walked hundreds if not thousands of miles in beautiful country on Exmoor and along trails like the South West Coast Path, as well as here in Spain on the Camino de Santiago. One of the joys of long-distance walking is meeting all sorts of fascinating people along the way, as well as passing through beautiful scenery and villages, and of course stopping to rest and sample delicious food. With family and other friends who aren’t so active we might meet up for a drink, or drive out to a particularly beautiful old village for a drink or a meal. 

If someone was going to make your life into a movie, who would play you? 

I have absolutely no idea! I can’t imagine that ever happening. They’d probably have to find two or three people to cover different stages of my life! 

What are some of the best experiences you’ve had as an author? 

One of the best experiences I’ve had as an author was attending a week-long Arvon residential course at Moniack Mhor in Scotland, led by the wonderful Alice Jolly and Colette Paul. Taking part were about twenty would-be writers, so with a full programme of seminars, private writing time and open discussions on one another’s work, it was a wonderful experience which set me on the path of approaching the possibility of writing for publication more seriously. 

What are some tools you use for book promotions? How did you come to know about AllAuthor and what are your thoughts on this website? 

Book promotion isn’t my strong point, which is why I’m so grateful for AllAuthor and the many services that it offers the writer. My memory’s a bit vague, but I think I first heard about AllAuthor from a friend who writes, or possibly a post on Facebook. I’ve been very impressed by the help you offer in promoting my work, and would certainly recommend other writers to become a member. 

Book promotion isn’t my strong point, which is why I’m so grateful for AllAuthor and the many services that it offers the writer. My memory’s a bit vague, but I think I first heard about AllAuthor from a friend who writes, or possibly a post on Facebook. I’ve been very impressed by the help you offer in promoting my work, and would certainly recommend other writers to become a member.

The ‘Indian houses’ of Asturias

Indian houses? In Asturias? What’s that all about, you might say.

The answer is simply that the so-called Casas Indianas were built in the late 19th Century by poor Asturians who’d made their fortunes in South America, then returned to their homeland to live.

Their new wealth not only gave them a better lifestyle, but benefitted the local economy and helped transform the rest of Spain.

Often these mansions lie in beautiful parkland. Many are open to the public, and once inside, more evidence of the returning immigrant’s wealth is visible in the lavish decor.

However, as a recent BBC documentary points out, ‘there is also a dark past behind how some gained their wealth, one that Spain is only now beginning to confront’ – the fact that some of these returning immigrants became rich through involvement in the slave trade.


A touch of heaven

‘Desde Alicante al Cielo‘ claimed the advert on the side of our local bus, alongside an image of the Picos de Europa, and one glance at those beautiful mountains and green valleys made my heart leap with joyous anticipation. Because, yes, this summer we were actually booked to go there, along with our son and his family from the other side of the world.

I wasn’t disappointed. The beauty, tranquility and freshness of that verdant landscape washed away months, no years, of living in what is virtually a desert. By contrast, in Asturias we stayed in this remote country house, where the only sounds were those of the birds, the breeze and the cattle on the hills.

True, the beaches were at least half an hour’s drive away, but many were in beautiful coves washed by waves and studded with caves and rock pools. Yes, you might have to walk down a path from the car park, but the atmosphere was peaceful, the waves chilly but refreshing, and even a few goats might join visitors enjoying the pleasures of the seaside.

In the mountains we also came across goats roaming freely, as well as cows and ponies, and even when we couldn’t see them we often heard the distant tinkle of their bells.

We also visited several villages steeped in history, but more of those beauties in my next post.

Photo challenge

Can you identify these five places? All are important to Ellie’s search in Between Two Shores.

freshwater beach manly sydney nsw australia novel fiction


  1. Freshwater Cove, NSW
  2. Exmoor, North Devon
  3. Narrabeen Lagoon, NSW
  4. Westgate Gardens, Canterbury
  5. Fossil rock, Lyme Regis

Read Between Two Shores to find out what happens to Ellie in each of these places.


Lost in the mist

For nearly a year, now, I’ve been lost in a post-Covid brain fog. It’s hard to explain – not like a loss of memory, where words escape you. Just a blur, a sense of floating around in a daze.

Some days are better than others. A good night’s sleep helps, or time to relax and take things easy. But that’s hard to achieve when day-to-day necessities shoot up like weeds all around to choke you – documents to renew, appointments to keep, a husband with multiple illnesses who needs constant care.

Writing is harder, too. Not so much the inspiration, or even the clarity to put across what you want to convey, but the bothersome business of trying to make what you write available for others to read.

That’s why it’s taken me so long to bring out my second novel, Between Two Shores. I finished it months ago, but preparing it for publication has been an almost surmountable mountain of niggling tasks.

At last, though, it’s available on Amazon, in paperback or Kindle. I swore I’d never use that platform again, but the vague familiarity of its system made it easier than other outlets.

Bored with her job and scarred by a bad relationship, headstrong young Australian Ellie is devastated when her English-born father dies. But he’s left her a challenge – a book, a postcard and a photo of a mysterious little girl. Suspecting she’s his, Ellie throws in her job and travels to England to investigate. Days before leaving, she falls for Josh, a film-maker, but is infuriated by his rigid beliefs.

Set in NSW and southern England, and spanning the 1930s to the present, Ellie’s quest for the truth interweaves with the story of her grandparents, charismatic Jack and shy but feisty Lillian, whose struggles bring challenges of a very different kind. But it’s not until Ellie unravels the family secrets that she discovers the far-reaching impact one person’s actions can have on others — including herself.

If you read it, I hope you’ll enjoy it. And please take time to write a review, so that others can enjoy it, too.

The immigrant, the bank teller and the old lady*

*(Written several years ago, but particularly relevant on the eve of Brexit)

I’m at my bank in Alicante, wondering which queue to join. The one for the teller, or the one for the gestor, who sits at a desk and deals personally with customers’ accounts? I’m not sure, so I hover between them, waiting to see which moves faster.

Yesterday, in another part of town, a cash machine swallowed my card and I caused a bit of a scene. I’d already waited in one long queue, and when I was left card-less and cashless, I butted in to another and asked what to do. I must have raised my voice, because the rest of the customers, waiting patiently, spun round to look at me.

It turned out that my card had expired. Silly me. I was told to go to my own branch and collect the new one. In England it would have been sent by post, well before the old one expired. Determined to remain calm, I told myself that this was yet another of those mysterious norms about Spain which I hadn’t yet mastered.

So, here I am today, standing in the queue for the teller and trying not to get rattled while customers in front of me deal with their transactions – mostly payment of bills which surely they could arrange by direct debit – when the silence is broken by an angry outburst. We all look up. A young man is letting rip at the teller in a torrent of street-Spanish, the gist of which seems to be that he has waited for half an hour, first in the queue for the machine, then in this one, only for the teller to say he can’t help him with whatever it was the machine wouldn’t do.

The teller tries to explain the reasons for this, but the young man grows more and more upset, his voice louder, his gestures more expansive. All the other customers are quietly engrossed by the drama. I watch on, conscious that this could so easily have been me, exploding in front of an audience. I feel relieved, calmer, a bit smug. It’s as though this young man has taken all my frustration and expressed it for me. I have become a detached spectator, like everyone else.

But I’m also a little nervous. Because the young man is black, and everyone else is white. And judging by his Spanish, which is even worse than mine, he has learned most of it on the street. He addresses the teller with the familiar tu, he calls him tio (literally uncle, colloquially dude). I feel for the young man, knowing only too well how often my own language has faltered in frustrating bureaucratic situations. The occasional joder (f*ck) has been known to escape me. But I am a white woman, a pensioner, one of the tribe of ex-pats on whom much of Spain’s prosperity hangs. He is a young black man. Could this turn into one of those ugly racist incidents that I’ve read about in post-Brexit England, with insults and calls to ‘Go back where you came from!’?

I glance at the other customers, middle-aged, middle-class, white-skinned. So far all are calm, listening with interest but making no comment.

But the young man is not calm. He notches up the volume of his voice, and begins to accuse the teller of treating him differently because he is black and an immigrant.

He keeps repeating: ‘It’s because I’m black and an immigrant that you won’t help me.’

At this point a woman in the queue steps towards him, tentatively, respectfully. She is old – even older than me – well-dressed, well-groomed and no doubt well-off. Gently, politely, she speaks to the young man. She explains to him that he is not being treated differently, that the rules are the same for her and for everyone else. The teller is only following instructions. Yes, they, the Spanish think that the rules are ridiculous, too, but there are protocols and protocols have to be followed, and everyone has to put up with them, like them or not.

The young man is appeased. His anger begins to fade. Another employee appears, summoned by telephone, and takes him back to the machine to help him complete his transaction.

The old woman rejoins the queue and she and I begin a conversation about the illogicality of bureaucracy.

‘Sometimes,’ she says, ‘I think we Spanish are still like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, tilting at windmills.’

I’m amused. It’s so true. But I can’t help wondering how this scene would have played out in post-Brexit England.


The novel you may be able to read . . . soon!

I designed this visual for the novel I began on the Bath Spa MA, to show where it might appear in a bookshop. Wishful thinking, I fear, but fun all the same. The working title was ‘The Third Sister’, now renamed ‘Between Two Shores.’* It’s finished, but although I didn’t want to self-publish, I’ve reluctantly decided it’s the only way for an old fool like me to give readers a chance to read what one person has described as ‘a novel that knocks the spots off Fragments of a Dream.’

see My Writing*


The Mystery of the Memorial on the Cliff

At the turn of the century I taught several summer schools at Country Cousins in the North Devon seaside town of Ilfracombe. Lessons took place in in a beautiful old house behind Bicclescombe Park. The students, mainly of secondary school age, came from all over Europe to improve their English, and most of them stayed with host families nearby.

Ekaterina (or Katya as she liked to be called) was in my class of young teenagers. She was a sweet girl and a delightful student – quiet but friendly, gifted and cooperative. Her great love was dancing. I remember that she wrote about how she adored being in England and what an amazing experience it was for her.

The usual routine was for English classes in the morning and cultural visits in the afternoon. The rest of the day was free for students to do as they pleased. So, on the evening of the 19th of July, Katya and some of her new friends went for a walk up on the coast path above Ilfracombe Harbour. I have a vague memory that a sea mist came up that night, which might have obscured the edge of the cliff.

It wasn’t until the next morning that I heard of the tragic accident. Not long after they’d set out, Katya’s friends had come rushing back to say that she had fallen from the cliff. I don’t know if the inquest clarified exactly how it had happened, but the verdict was accidental death and no one else was implicated.

Over the years I had walked that stretch of the coast path many times, especially when I was writing walks leaflets for the North Devon Heritage Coast Service, so I knew it well. The cliffs are rugged and steep, bitten into by inlets and coves, but the path is clear and well signposted, although if it was misty you might lose your way. But these weren’t hikers, they were youngsters out enjoying themselves. Maybe they were having so much fun that Katya simply didn’t realise how close she was to the edge. Or was she so happy that she was dancing and lost her footing?

I was aware that Katya came from a prestigious Russian family, and as soon as they heard the news, two of her male relatives flew straight over. As her teacher, I was asked to meet them and show them some of her work.They had already been in contact with the Russian Embassy in London, and arranged for her body to be flown back for burial. I believe she was taken on a government plane to Moscow, where the Orthodox funeral took place.

My memory is a little vague, but I think that the following summer, her mother and aunt visited North Devon. They donated an icon and candle in her memory, which are now in the Lady Chapel of Marwood Church.

I don’t know who was responsible for designing or installing the memorial on the cliff, and the script is a little blurred. But it is a bittersweet reminder of a lovely girl whose life was snatched from her that day, but who remains there eternally young, dancing for joy.