I can never remember when I decided I would be a writer. I wrote stories at school, but back then I didn't dream of being an author. In high school I co-wrote a Mills & Boon story with my best friend, but even then, I didn't think being an author was my future. However, my head was, and still is, full of characters speaking to me. When I lived in England, high on a hill in a very old farm house, missing my old life in Australia, I would walk the countryside for miles listening to the characters in my head.
During a very difficult three years in England, reading saved my sanity. I lost myself in books. I was a savage reader and read continually. As soon as one book was finished I'd start another. The books I read where a mixture of Mills & Boon romances and thick historical saga novels. The romances gave me some lightness in my world which at times was frequently dark. The sagas, such rich stories of young women suffering from different circumstances, who then beat the odds, were the lifeline that made me feel I wasn't alone and if they could survive what happened to them, then so could I. The heroines in those sagas gave me hope, they shared my despair, they become my friends and I loved each and every book.
My favourite author at this time was the late Catherine Cookson. I devoured her books on a weekly basis, not going to bed until 2am, or until my dad knocked on my bedroom door and told me to go to sleep. Catherine Cookson had a style of story telling that drew me in from the first page. My favourite books of hers where The Whip, the Tilly Trotter trilogy, The Dwelling Place, but in truth, all her books touched me in some way. My mum would go to the markets and buy whatever CC books she could find for me. We were not only poor, but bankrupt from a farming failure, but she'd find a few pence to buy me my books, which (in my mind) saved my life. I suppose that sounds dramatic, but I'd been ripped from a very good life in Australia. I had the sunshine, friends, school, a nice house, family and money. We ended up in a 250 year old farmhouse with no running water in winter, our money gone, my parents relationship in ruins, and my mother having a nervous breakdown. I was 14 years old. Books became my life.
They still are to this day twenty four years later.
As I grew older and we moved back to Australia I started to read more widely of other genres, but my comfort reads would always be some form of saga type novel. I collected the entire Poldark series, and enjoying a series I found the Australians series, by William Stuart Long (Vivian Stuart) and realised there were some great saga type novels set in Australia, too.
It was only when I actually started to write my own novel that I slowed down on reading sagas. I was frightened I would use similar plot lines, etc. So I turned to reading medieval fiction and romantic comedies and historical fiction set in other eras away from Victorian and Edwardian because those are the two main periods I set my books.
Now I spend most of my reading time on researching, which is another great love of mine. However, I have relaxed my own rules and will now buy a saga again as a special treat.
I do buy Audrey Howard's books the day they are released. I have every book of hers and she is another author who has made me laugh and cry and who will always be listed as a favourite author of mine.
So, even though my time in England wasn't always ideal, it did give me some things I will always treasure, my best friend Samantha, the love of history and the joy of reading saga novels.