I have just turned 75, and it feels like the right time to review my long and winding journey to becoming an author.
Writing was my first love and as a child growing up in Kent I produced a variety of short stories and plays. These early works have long since been thrown away and their content forgotten, though I think they usually featured cats and dogs. I did well in English at school and was expected to take a university degree in that subject, but in my teens I developed an idealistic wish to heal the sick. The medical courses at Leeds and Oxford, then life as a junior doctor, absorbed so much time and energy that I never even thought about writing fiction again till years later.
It was after many changes both professional and personal that I decided on a career in psychiatry, and when studying for the postgraduate qualifications I compiled my notes into what would turn out to be my first book. A senior colleague suggested sending it to a publisher. It was accepted, and without any marketing on my part sold well and continued into five editions; by far my greatest commercial success. I moved on to academic posts, involving opportunities for research, writing papers for journals, and medical books relevant to my specialty of the interface between psychiatry and cancer.
In my mid-30s, when finally settled into a contented domestic life, I wrote three novels inspired by my earlier work experience in general practice and in mental hospitals. I enjoyed this tremendously, and given my earlier success with the psychiatry book, I assumed that I would have no trouble getting them published. I was soon disillusioned. Some rejection letters were encouraging but others were not, and I was so upset by one damning verdict that I put the manuscripts aside for 20 years. An overreaction, and I now realise that you can’t please everyone and that even the best of books gets an occasional bad review. Knowing how devastating it can be for writers to receive harsh criticism of their work, I will only review a book myself if I can give an honest positive opinion.
Fast forward to my 50s when, after a rewarding career as consultant in psychological medicine in Oxford, I came to live in New Zealand. Alongside many new interests, I focused on writing and editing. Twenty years later I have a variety of titles, non-fiction and fiction in a variety of genres, some traditionally published and some under my independent imprint of Overcliff Books, listed on my Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk author pages. My current project is editing my husband’s autobiography. What, if anything, I will write next I don’t know.