The transition from corporate life was a lengthy process and happened over many years. When I was starting out in my corporate career, at the tender age of eighteen – to write a novel was always a dream, and a goal which I knew I would always work towards achieving ‘at some point in my life’. But in the 1980s, it was hard to leave school and do creative things. I actually wanted to work with horses, but my parents and my school career-councillor persuaded me to become a secretary (it was secure). And I wasn’t appalled at the idea. I went on to study PA skills and business – but I hated college. I dropped out before the end of the first year and ran off to be a stable-girl. I loved this for a while, but the winters were harsh, the pay was paltry and the bright lights of the city called. I eventually gave in and got a job as a receptionist, for a central London company. The nice warm office, the fashion and the social life surged over me like a big wave and dragged me under its spell. Within the next year, I had rented a flat with a girlfriend in leafy Hampstead, and that practically changed my life overnight.
I had many jobs and many flats over twenty-two years, but the most fun was running my own events company – it enabled me to travel, stay in some very nice hotels, meet some wonderful people and experience running a great team – we achieved some high ranking business results together and the company won several awards. It remains so ironic that I’d snubbed this whole process at college.
Over all these years, I never gave up writing or the idea that one day I could write full time; but it was always just that – an idea. I kept journals, attended classes, wrote short stories and poems; all of them scribbled on notepaper and stuffed in dark boxes kept in dusty attics or cupboards over the decades. In 2007, things got tough for small business owners and I sadly had to make half of my team redundant. Companies were just not spending money on events, and we lost important clients overnight. I eventually reduced the team completely and gave up my office in South London to the back bedroom of my small house. I turned over a profit that year and paid back some debts. I continued to work all the hours, but it was never the same. Eventually, I began to question whether what I was achieving was enough return for me. Eventually, I decided that it wasn’t and I sold the company to a bigger agency. I made back all the money I’d invested over the years, but it was disappointing that it didn’t come to more than that.
By this time, we had left London and had found a house in Surrey. I continued to work part-time, from home, on a consultancy contract for another events company, that I was enjoying, and simultaneously, I was playing more often with my writing. Somehow, I banged out the first chapter of my novel, but I didn’t know where it went after that. I put it aside and left it alone, in the knowledge that it would come.
In 2010, my father passed away suddenly. During the process of his illness and death, I found myself in a set of circumstances that challenged me greatly. Organising a funeral in a foreign country is challenging, but because I wasn’t expecting it, I felt as though I was in a dream and the things that happened around me were almost fictional. I came out of that process with a story.
But it took another three years to be brave enough to put it on paper. Finally, in 2013, a health issue took over, and a major operation loomed. I was advised that I would not be able to work for a minimum of eight weeks – probably more like sixteen. I had begun to hate work and resent some of my work projects (life was too short), and I felt almost shackled; only a sense of duty, not ‘earning’ a living stopped me from giving up. But now I was being forced to stop for a while – so stop I did. In my tracks. Here it was – my chance. So the day I was home from the hospital, I began Chapter 2. And I never looked back.