I’d been doing voluntary work in India, teaching street children to speak English, and when I came home again had the idea that the journal I’d kept would be a good basis for a novel. Unhappily, agents and publishers thought differently and after 32 rejections I stopped submitting, sat back and licked my wounds.
The painful truth was that my writing just wasn’t good enough. After nursing my bruised ego for several months, I decided to write another book, also based in India, but with a different storyline. I joined two writing groups and took my work in, chapter by chapter, week after week. Their critique was merciless and within a very short time I felt tempted to abandon the whole idea. What? A writer? Me? However, the stubborn part of me persevered and bit by bit every chapter was re-written, every word checked and evaluated, until I had a complete manuscript. I trawled The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook to find agents or publishers who 1) dealt in contemporary women’s fiction and 2) accept unsolicited manuscripts. I discovered that they were very thin on the ground!
It took Conville & Walsh 17 days to refuse me and Curtis Brown 5 weeks. Some took months to respond, others never answered at all. It’s hard to describe how demoralising it is when everyone says no. You wonder if you’re totally deluded thinking you can write, and your skin seems to get thinner rather than thicker. Wine intake rises dramatically and chocolate goes through the roof!
When I received an email from Tirgearr Publishing my heart sank. I really couldn’t take another rejection. But it wasn’t! It was an acceptance and a contract. I don’t know how many times I read it, totally disbelieving that somewhere, someone (apart from me) thought I could write.
That was a year ago and A Hundred Hands will be my second book with a third already submitted. If anyone out there is writing and ready to give up, listen to me! Keep going! Join a writing group, not a cosy one with coffee and cake, but one who will critique your work, pull it to pieces, possibly reduce you to tears and then when it’s as good as you can get it, start submitting and keep going until you’re accepted.
Polly was dreaming of the night they came to arrest David, hearing the pounding on the door.
But when she woke she could still hear it. It was real.
She struggled to untangle herself from legs and arms. Ran for the door, heart banging against her ribs. Behind her girls screamed with fear and she heard shouts from the boys’ room.
Struggling with the ancient bolts, she broke a nail, skinned her knuckles. Outside stood a young man.
He averted his eyes from her bare legs, addressed the doorframe. ‘Meester Murdoch?’
She sucked her bleeding finger, gave him a blank stare.
‘Emergency. Where is, please?’
What was he talking about? She shook her head but he pushed past her. A screech of wheels as a stretcher followed him. Small frightened faces peeped round the door.
‘It’s all right. Go back to bed.’ She tried to sound reassuring.
They rushed Finlay towards the front door. His eyes, those eyes which had looked at her with such love, were closed. The colour of his face resembled ashes. She reached out to him but they’d already passed. Please God, don’t let him die. She stood, frozen, the blood from her finger dripping on to the floor.
‘We are thinking heart,’ the man called over his shoulder, then they were gone.
She leaned against the wall. A heart attack. It had to be a direct result of Pushpa vanishing. He had been beside himself, totally distraught. She buried her face in her hands. Nimesh had died, for God’s sake, and Finlay had taken it in his stride. But Pushpa was different.
She slid down the wall till she reached the floor. How could she have got it so wrong again?
Following her husband’s arrest, Polly is forced to flee her small Welsh village. While she is in India visiting an old school friend she meets an older man, Finlay.
She is hugely affected by the way he is trying to alleviate the terrible suffering of Kolkata’s children who live on the streets in poverty and deprivation. As she becomes more involved in the day to day work she begins to fall in love with him. Together they share the heartbreak and also the happiness.
Then something changes and Polly begins to believe Finlay is hiding the same dreadful secret she ran away from.
I think I became a reader before I could walk. While other people had childhood memories, I amassed a vocabulary. I was born into a service family and at the tender age of seven found myself on the Dunera, a troopship, sailing for a three year posting to Singapore. So began a lifetime of wandering – and fifteen different schools. Teen years living in Cyprus, before partition, when the country was swarming with handsome UN soldiers, and then marriage to a Civil Engineer who whisked me away to the Arabian Gulf.
Most of the following years were spent as a single parent with an employment history which ranged from the British Embassy in Bahrain to a goods picker, complete with steel toe-capped boots, in an Argos warehouse. In between I earned my keep as a cashier in Barclays, a radio presenter and a café proprietor on the sea front in Penzance. All good material for an author!
I always enjoyed writing and kept a journal whenever I travelled abroad, but it wasn’t until I retired I had the chance to write a book. My first novel Outcast was published as an ebook in March 2016 by Tirgearr – after 32 rejections! This has been followed by A Hundred Hands. Both books are set in India and are based on the diaries I kept when I did voluntary work one winter, teaching English to street children in Kolkata.
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