A Tall Poppy Chats
I thought a good way to introduce myself to you, my dear readers (Gosh, that’s lovely to type!) would be to invite questions, so I posted the invitation on Facebook and Twitter, Rich Blackett from the exciting Folk Horror Facebook page responded with some deceptively devious questions for me. I have answered them below.
I’ve really enjoyed answering these questions, so I have decided to permanently invite questions from you- either here through the contact me form, or via Facebook or Twitter, and when I have enough questions to make an interesting post, I’ll do that months blog on the questions- so get thinking about what you would like to know.
1-Biggest influence on your writing from childhood TV?
I didn’t have a T.V growing up. Not until I was thirteen. I only saw a very few programmes when we visited friends or family. The only thing I can really say that has had a lasting impact on me was a documentary about people deep fat frying alive snakes. I saw it when I was very small, and apparently very impressionable. The snakes coiling and writing in agony with their mouths gaping left me with a deep rooted disgust of snakes. Which is unfortunate, because I can challenge fears, and overcome them; but apparently that level of repulsion is stuck. I’ve tried standing in the big aquarium in Berlin, and telling myself not to be so stupid, they can’t hurt me. Which was when I realised I’m not scared of them hurting me, it’s just a deep repulsion, which has spread to other legless things that writhe, like maggots and worms. Yuk.
2-What you’ll never write about? Probably.
What won’t I write about? Well, I know a sensible person would keep away from politics and contentious issues. That’s not me. I’m the person who can’t make small talk at parties or the hairdressers. I’m the person strangers find themselves telling their life story to. My own background, and working twenty years with the vulnerable, the frightened, the brave, has given me an unerring ability to ask the questions people didn’t know they wanted asking. I can see what they’re smiling through, and I can bear their answers. I am very opinionated, but I do not judge. Some people love that, some absolutely hate it.
I know that to appeal to a wider audience I would benefit from steering clear from society’s ills, and ‘issues’, but if I did that I would be lying, that wouldn’t be me. You know that saying: ‘Tall poppies get their head’s chopped off’? Well, it’s true, but if you try to live with your knees bent, you get ill. So be prepared for contentious issued both on my blog, and in my novels. I want to make people think, I want to be engaged with you, so ask me questions, or tell me things that make you cross, hurt or happy and we’ll be tall poppies together.
3-What you’ll realistically be doing in 5 years time?
I really can’t tell you. I had my future very clearly planned out. I already had anxiety and depression, and knew I was reaching burn out, and wanted a total change of life style. My husband and I had a plan. We were selling our big Victorian house, the one where Being Human was filmed, selling the majority of our belongings, and moving into a smaller rental property for long enough to get the current foster children through to adulthood. While we waited for them to finish their last couple of years of adolescence we would buy 2 properties in France, and spend all our holidays over there with the kids, doing them up and getting to know the area. Then we’d move over there and live in one house, renting a room out as a writers retreat, and let the other one as a family gite.
Everything was trundling along nicely to plan until September 2014. I had started writing, and was promoting Darkly Dreaming. We had the huge house we’d bought in a very rundown state finished finally, and on the market. We spent the last two 2 weeks of September in Charente, and fell in love with the whole sunflower coloured region. We managed to hone our search area down to a small vineyard stripped region right on the coast. We even fell in love with a beautiful house to be our gite, about 2 miles through leafy lanes from a tiny port. As well as a fisherman’s cottage right on a slightly larger port, for us to live in. We returned home full of excitement, sure we had made the right decision.
The day after we got back we found out a foster child had made an allegation. Our world fell apart. We didn’t know who was accused, or what they were accused of. It took three days to find out that it was my husband who had had the allegation made, and to be told that the police would be investigating. We fostered teenagers with higher support needs, and had always known that this was a daily risk, as angry teenagers often lash out with lies. We had always assumed we would be told what the allegation was. Six weeks we waited, frozen, only knowing that whatever the allegation was, it was a lie. Which meant we assumed the worse, my husband was the main carer, and so we were terrified he had been accused of sexual assault. Our supporting Social Worker did not phone us once.
My husband was finally interviewed, and we were relieved to find out the allegation was an outright lie we could easily disprove. I was able to give a witness statement and highlight the other, similar allegations, the young person had made to us, about every other adult who had looked after them. Finally, two weeks later we were told that the police were not taking any action. Two weeks after that Social Services met to agree they also wouldn’t be pursing the situation.
It was just before Christmas by then, and we were supposed to available to take children again, but I was very reluctant. My issues were not with the child, strangely I can understand why they did what they did, poor broken thing. However, I was completely disillusioned by how we had been treated. We had been left far too long without being told what the accusation was. And my husband was supported better by my manager at the charity I worked for than he was by our supporting Social Worker, who still had not been in touch.
It was agreed that we would take a break over Christmas, and come back to it fresh in the New Year. Only my husband had a heart attack at the start of January, and that was the end of that. Once he was home we quickly realised that neither of us could bear the idea of fostering anymore. We also realised that we wouldn’t be able to go to France. The week immediately after the heart attack had been completely surreal for me, and I’d needed all of my friends and family close to help me through. The thought of trying to do it alone would be unbearable, and the medical terminology was difficult enough, without trying to do it in French. I speak quite a lot of French, but Hubby’s classes had only got him as far as hello and counting.
Since then I’ve been living day by day, moving away from what I could not bear anymore, and towards a more peaceful, creative life. We finally got the house sold, and moved to a lovely little house a few streets over, with lovely views. Hubby has found a new job he enjoys, and despite two massive bereavements, and grieving for the loss of his plans for a life in the sun, he’s slowly coming to terms with our life now. His mood dips erratically, but I was warned to expect that, and try hard not to respond.
I’ve stopped working with homeless teenagers, and started a job in a wholesalers, which I really enjoy. I’ve self-published my first book, and found an online group of writers I love and admire, and I contribute writing to their charity anthologies. I’ve started writing book 2, but it’s sluggish. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m still struggling a bit. We went through a lot for a long time, so it’s probably normal to still be so tired now. Isn’t it?
I can’t tell you what I will be doing in five years, but I can tell you what I want to be doing. I want to be writing full time, I want my time to spent travelling to sunny places to write and promote my novels, or at home with the pets, seeing friends and family, and writing. Every day I take another step in that direction, I’m not running there yet, but I am walking as fast as I can.