Category Archives: Writer’s Blog

Another World

Once upon a time, somebody gave a name to imposter syndrome and it resonated with so many people that decades later it had entered common parlance and I heard it and smiled, for finally ‘that feeling’ had a name. Despite my education and training, despite the support of experienced lawyers at the very top of their specialisms and despite many years of hard work, I spent much of my career in the City on tenterhooks, waiting for somebody to march in and announce that they had found me out, that I wasn’t supposed to be there and dismiss me from their sight.

In fact it only happened to me once, in my first proper week on the job, when a second year trainee failed to return to the UK and I was assigned in her stead to a rather particular partner. He did not want a shiny new trainee and made it very clear, despite having known me for all of thirty seconds, that I was not up to doing the job. He assigned me to making up flat pack boxes and I went home and sobbed. Fortunately we parted ways a few short days later, much to our mutual relief and in twelve years, nobody else ever made me feel so small. Quite the opposite, so many people gave of their time and energy to make me a better lawyer, a better writer, a better presenter, a better manager and a more confident person, which makes it seem all the more unfortunate that he should have been my introduction to life as a solicitor.

Given that I still felt an outsider as a lawyer having spent my whole adult life on that track, I am somewhat nervous about taking my first tentative steps into the literary world, where I am a total novice and have everything still to learn. Although I have lived my life very comfortably in books, bookshops and libraries, I have never been to any literary festivals or even book signings and have little idea what to expect. Not only that, being at the very first stages of becoming a writer, it feels very presumptuous to describe myself as such.

Despite my own instinctive urge to hide behind my computer until the book is complete, I couldn’t resist going along when Michael Rosen came to visit my hometown. I am pleased to confirm that the first author I met was rather more motivating than the first lawyer; I found Mr Rosen to be a real character, brimming over with enthusiasm and exuding a very genuine warmth that was inspirational. I waited in line, books in hand ready for signing, behind a very charming older lady who seemed strangely nervous. It transpired that she had not only taught him as a youngster, but also featured in the memoir she wanted him to sign. His delight at seeing her was heartwarming and his expressive poetry, performed to a group of schoolchildren was full of energy, demonstrating a sincere passion for words without a scrap of pretension. This time I was lucky. All in all, I would be more than happy if I could be like him when I grow up.

A beginning

I was born on 9 January 1983, the first of three girls. I can’t remember life without books and Mum tells me I was known to fall asleep as a baby with one on my face. At playgroup they were delighted that I wanted to spend all my time so quietly in the book corner, but my parents insisted they encourage me in other activities too, for it was also all I wanted to do at home. Of the many ways a child could be precocious, I’m pleased that I was an early reader, for it opened my mind at a young age to so many incredible places, eye-opening adventures and amazing characters. I am a rule abider by nature but can remember my main transgression as a child was to creep from my bed and switch the light back on at night because I simply couldn’t fall asleep without knowing what happened next.

I felt a genuine sense of panic aged seventeen when I was told it was time to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had no idea what I ought to do and instead of seeing a world of possibilities before me, I was terrified of picking the wrong option and forever closing the door on my undiscovered destiny. After taking a pop-psych test at school, I was reliably informed that my most compatible career options were lawyer or teacher and so in 2001 I headed to Oxford to begin my degree in law, or as my alma mater would have it, ‘jurisprudence’. I loved my time there, trying to figure out my own identity amongst some incredibly talented people, including my future husband, but I’m afraid that my degree took rather a back-seat to love and heartbreak, friendship and fun.

There was a typical undergraduate rush to indulge in free canapés and drinks as the law firms came to court us, and it was easy to be swept up in the excitement and competition of securing a job offer, which I duly did, signing up for a Magic Circle firm at the end of my second year, ready to start work in September 2005. City life was a buzz and once again I found myself surrounded by charismatic, astute, ambitious people, working until the small hours during the week and spending cosy weekends as a newly-wed fixing up our first home, a maisonette at the end of the Metropolitan Line.

Our lives marched on; my husband finished his doctorate and started work developing software for medical imaging and clinical trials, and my career progressed, specialising in pensions law, a technical area that is far more interesting than it sounds, though best skirted over swiftly if you want people to talk to you at parties. We moved back to the suburbs where I had grown up and had three bright, strong and kind daughters of our own. Our lives were a source of daily contentment for us, but of very little note to anybody else. We put down roots and grew into our role as the bedrock of a small family.

Many people imagine themselves writing a novel and I counted myself among them for many years, suppressing the urge and assuming it to be folly. In early 2017, in the fading weeks of my third maternity leave, I finally decided it couldn’t hurt to give it a go, for it had bubbled away in my mind for so long, it needed to be released, even if only for my own relief.

I opened a spreadsheet and plotted the key story arches, sketched out my characters and wrote the history and geography of another world. Then I opened a blank document and started to write. The threads of story and the little character quirks I had spent my life collecting, started to come together. And I fell in love. And much like romantic love, once you’ve had a taste of the real thing, you can’t settle for anything less. And so, on 17 October 2017, I left my stable, sensible and lucrative job to focus on my first novel. I cried on my last day; after twelve years it was a wrench to leave behind many fantastic colleagues and clients. But I have finally found that passion I was afraid of closing the door on aged seventeen. Every day I’m writing, reading, editing or daydreaming about a world of my own creation. And I can’t wait to share it with you.