Looking back, it was love at first sight. This was in 1987 when I first arrived on Guernsey’s shores, my three children in tow, having been invited over for a holiday by two generous sisters, Judy and Sheila.
We had met on a self-awareness course in Glastonbury and the majority of participants were women from Guernsey and we all hit it off from the beginning. At the time I was a recently widowed psychotherapist looking for answers to my own problems, with a tentative interest in matters spiritual.
The course helped and the bonus was the introduction to the beautiful island of Guernsey.
A year later, I had sold my home in Devon and moved my long-suffering children (who had endured several moves prior to this) to Guernsey. The idea had been to set up a residential therapy centre in what had been a guest house, but sadly this fell through. With support from my friends, I set up a psychotherapy practice and enjoyed many Sunday afternoons driving around the island in an effort to familiarise myself with the many narrow, twisting and unnamed lanes. At least on an island measuring 7 miles by 5, you couldn’t get lost for too long!
The sea was always present and I loved the vast sandy beaches of the west and north coast and the craggy cliffs of the south.
Fast forward nearly fourteen years and I’ve reluctantly left Guernsey and am back in England, via Spain. A few years later I finally found time to write, something I’d toyed with years, like many people I guess. I was inspired by a couple of books, one being set on a small island off the French coast which reminded me of Guernsey. Encouraged by winning a 500 word true-life story competition run by Prima magazine, I set out to write my first novel, Dangerous Waters. After numerous re-writes and edits, but no interest from agents, I took the plunge to self-publish in 2012.
Having now got the writing bug, I began the next book, Finding Mother, also set in Guernsey. At this stage I didn’t appreciate I was writing a series of standalone books, but by the third, Guernsey Retreat, the penny dropped. The Guernsey Novels had arrived! The Family Divided launched in 2015 and the latest, Echoes of Time, was published on 15th August this year.
All the books now have a recognisable ‘brand’, the covers display beautiful images of Guernsey as a background and I love seeing them stacked on the shelves in bookshops. I was over in Guernsey last month for the launch of Echoes of Time and loved meeting fans of my books at the book signing. It makes all the hard work and self-doubt worthwhile.
The only downside was I came back to Devon feeling I’d left a part of myself behind. Not only my son, who’s been there so long he’s an official ‘local’, and the long-term friends I’ve made, but the very essence of the place which has entered my soul. I know my connection to Guernsey will remain strong, no matter what the future holds, and I’m determined to write more books set in this magical place as long as people want to read them. Book six, The Betrayal, is already gestating and will be out in 2017 – sometime!
By the way, although all the books are complete in themselves, they do share characters and are written in chronological order, providing updates on characters’ lives.
To give you a flavour of my writing, here’s an excerpt from Echoes of Time.
Guernsey – 1987
Olive was cooking her usual meagre supper of scrambled eggs on toast when the sound of heavy footsteps outside made her jump. No-one ever visited and this was how she liked it. Always had. Her heart pounded as she moved the pan off the blackened range and turned to face the back door. Unlocked as was the custom in safe little Guernsey. Or was it safe? Grabbing a knife she watched, immobile, as the knob turned and the door began to open. The man stood silhouetted against the early evening sky and she stared hard at his shape, puzzled. There was something familiar about the slope of the shoulders and the angle of his head. Her mouth went dry in the moment before the door closed and he moved into the light.
It couldn’t be! Not after all this time…She felt her legs tremble and leant back against the range.
‘Hello, Olive. Bet you didn’t expect to see me again, did you?’ He chuckled, humourlessly.
She hid the knife up her sleeve and pulled the darned cardigan around her thin body. Old memories surfaced as she fought to stay calm.
‘We…we heard you were dead. You didn’t come back–’
‘No, well, I found someone and something better, didn’t I? But it doesn’t look as if you have.’ His gaze was contemptuous as he looked her up and down, and Olive was conscious of how unkempt she looked. Poverty does that to a person. Whereas he was immaculately dressed in what looked like a designer suit. A successful man. She watched, helpless, as his gaze wandered over the kitchen, and she registered, for the first time in years, how dirty and shabby it looked. The kitchen which had once been kept spotless. Feelings of shame, mixed with overriding fear, flooded her mind. What did he want?
His eyes alighted on the only personal item in the room. And the last thing she wanted him to see. She moved forward, attempting to block his view, but he pushed her aside and picked up the photo in its cheap wooden frame.
‘Who’s this?’ he demanded, his face flushed with anger.
A look she knew all too well.
Her stomach clenched. Could she lie? Pretend it was someone else? As her head whirled with possibilities he seized her arm, twisting it. She cried out in pain and the knife clattered onto the granite floor. Swiftly he grabbed it while still holding onto her arm. Olive’s knees buckled.
He thrust the knife towards her chest and she screamed.
‘Don’t even think of lying,’ he hissed.
‘It’s…it’s my…our daughter–’
The world went black