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The ABC of me (a kind of CV) 



Old photographs are fascinating; especially ones of little children because they are so wonderfully in the moment. They have no concept of the future and they haven't got a clue what's coming their way in life. They are not striking a pose and those expressions are are for real.  So here I am, clutching that book like there's no tomorrow - little did I know that books would be my tomorrow. And, for the record, I'm still partial to pink, vintage dresses and beautiful gardens but my mini skirt days are over. 


I was born in Blackpool in the UK which makes me a 'Sandgrown'un' - local slang for someone born by the sea.
Jimi Hendrix played the Blackpool Opera House when I was one. I was tucked up in my cot but I like to think we shared the same sky, long ago in the swinging sixties. Music is vital in my life - it makes every person, place and party come alive and fills the hollows in my soul. Dad played Chopin on the piano as he puffed on his cigar, my big brother blasted out Bowie's 'Gene Genie' in his bedroom with the brown carpet and my

kids sing-shouted along to Otis Redding's 'Sad Song' in the back of the car. Fa, fa, fa, faa - there's always a song.







My childhood was spent in Wolverhampton. The town has a depressing image now but it felt glamorous to me in the 1970s when I was a girl. My grandpa Solly owned the local casino and various other clubs - doors seemed to open when anyone mentioned his name. As my grandma Dolly bottled up in the bar, I hid under the roulette table and tuned into stories about the punters, pop stars and football players that frequented the place. At home I watched my mum and auntie transform from housewives to croupiers every night. Hair was waved and make-up was carefully applied before they shimmied into their Biba and Ossie Clark numbers. I was all ears as they gossiped and moaned about men. The smell of nail polish and perfume lingered long after they sashayed off to the casino. I got a whiff of what it was all really about: being a grown up was complicated but being a kid was confusing.









At school I was watchful and shy but in those days there were no SATs and we were allowed to play. We got our hands mucky with clay, paint and papier-mache. We danced in our knickers like crazy ballerinas and tinkled triangles and tambourines as loud as we liked. It was the Great Fire of London that sparked up my imagination and I felt this need to know more. Then I got into reading - and I was away, with a curiosity that has burned bright ever since. I attended Wolverhampton High School for Girls and got the A grades I needed to take English at Nottingham University. I'd like to say I threw myself into my studying but Sir Gawain and the Green Knight just didn't grip me as much as going to parties and live gigs.

London called in the mid-eighties and I resided on the floor of a utility room in a mate's South Kensington flat. I temped for a while and stomped the streets of the city looking for a job in the music press. 'Metal Hammer' wasn't the magazine of my dreams but I really enjoyed being its editorial assistant. It turned out that transcribing tapes of Ozzy Osbourne rambling on about how to live a good life and meeting and greeting up-and-coming bands like Nirvana wasn't so bad after all. Things moved on; I began writing reviews and organising fashion shoots and was promoted to assistant editor. 


I was young, ambitious and really wanted my own magazine to edit. The publishers at Maxwell Publishing were lining up something exciting for me when my boyfriend asked me to come with him to live in Lesotho in Africa. One of the freelancers in the magazine I was working on looked at me and said, "When are you going to get to do that again?" It was great advice and it's something I always ask myself when I'm presented with an opportunity. I wasted no time; I did a quick TEFL course, packed up my glad rags and was on my way ...

Africa had me under its spell; especially its people and animals. The indigo Jacaranda trees of Swaziland, the marimbas at sunset in Zimbabwe, the giggling street kids in Mozambique, the glinting eyes of the lions after dark in Botswana, the everlasting lightening strikes in the mountains of Lesotho and the enchanted smile of James, the boy who came to tend our garden, when he saw a goldfish for the first time. A close encounter with a highly-venomous Cape cobra in a swimming pool and the sound of AK-47s during the military coup at midnight didn't put me off - I don't think anything ever will.  


Africa skies are a hard act to follow. We moved to Brighton because of the sea and the horizon. I found work on a few trade magazines before landing a dream job at a children's publisher called Wayland. It was heaven sifting through old photographs, shifting and shaping up manuscripts and talking to authors. I would have stayed forever if the company hadn't relocated to London. I had no choice but to go it alone and become self employed.

Brighton is awash with freelancers. You can see us anchored to our laptops in coffee shops but I'm more of a home bird myself. I have two beautiful but expensive kids and a grumpy cat to feed and keep clean so I'm a kitchen table or bureau-in-the-bedroom type. It's staggering to think that I've been writing books for over twenty years. My back catalogue includes biographies on Hitler, Freud, Ariana Grande and John Lennon. I've published books about eco fashion, going green, chocolate and charities. Life hasn't always been easy - we lost my mum and husband practically within a year of each other. Then we had to move from a home we loved. I call our new flat 'the lifeboat' because it came to our rescue. It's also right next to the sea so we hear the waves at night and in the summer we go swimming - we're very lucky.






Ghostwriting is the latest chapter in my publishing career. I don't think I was ready to help others tell their stories until I got a grip on my own. Years of experience, one way or another, mean the time is right for me to write for other people.  And, I've discovered there's nothing more fulfilling (professionally) than telling stories that help others. If my words soothe, salvage or enlighten just one person then my job is done ... 

So I've told you my story - now let me tell yours ...

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