I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I could read and for me the two go hand in hand. As I child I was rarely to be seen without my head in a book (including on family dog walks and even when cooking the dinner) and I was also quick to pick up a pen. My grandparents lived in Scotland so we spent a lot of time on long drives North which I filled for my poor siblings with endless made-up stories, mainly featuring creatures called ‘Schlegels’ which came from some mathematical term long-since forgotten. I was a huge Enid Blyton enthusiast and by the age of 10 I was filling notebooks with my own boarding-school novels about a girl called Daisy who sadly (or perhaps not-so sadly) got lost in the loft and never saw the light of day.
I kept a vast diary throughout my teenage years and all the way up to University, although there I must confess that I discovered better things to do late at night! Continuing my passion for reading, I studied English literature at Cambridge, marrying it with my other love - history - by specialising in medieval literature. Even once I’d gone out and got a ‘proper job’ as a factory planner (a role that was probably as far removed from the arty life of an author as it’s possible to get but which I loved) I was still writing in my spare time and finally, married and living in Derbyshire, I decided to try and make my passion pay. In the sparse hours available between raising two stepchildren and two more of my own, I began writing for the women’s magazines. Within a year I was published in all the major ones and I have now had over 200 stories published, as well as 12 serials, one of which, Running Against the Tide has been published as a novel by Robert Hale under my 'real name' of Joanna Barnden.
I have to fit my writing into a busy family life. My stepdaughter is now off around the world and my stepson is away working but with the two remaining children’s hectic sporting and social lives to balance, plus a dog to keep out of mischief, time is tight. Still, with them both in full time education, I am free to devote more time to my writing career and was therefore totally delighted when Pan Macmillan bought my historical series - The Queens of the conquest - set in my favourite period of all – the Anglo-Saxons. The first two novels are now out in paperback with the third to follow at the end of May.
I have won several writing competitions, had short stories broadcast on BBC radio, and written and directed several award-winning plays. For the last 10 years I have taught creative writing for the Open University as well as teaching privately around the country and doing a lot of work with schools. I also offer a critiquing service, helping others to hone their short stories and discover the undoubted joys of seeing their work in print.
Being a writer is a tough job but a hugely rewarding one. Stories are in my blood and, however painful it may be at times, I love the process of mining them out and onto paper and hope to be doing it for many, many years to come.