My new novel Happy Days is available from Amazon for kindle and in paperback and hardback!
The tale is set in a convent boarding school in 1970 and is chock full of adventure, romance and comedy. You may detect a dash of Antonia White (Frost in May) and perhaps more than a hint of Enid Blyton (Mallory Towers) as we follow our eleven year heroine’s adventures struggling to adjust to life in a World of Women.
As the curtain goes up, Trixie is standing in the corridor in her dressing gown on her first night at St Hilda’s Convent Boarding School. Miserably homesick, she decides to sneak outside instead of returning to her dormitory. This much is a memoir. What follows is pure fiction. More or less…
Depending on your own life experience, you will either regard the details of life at St Hilda’s as just the way it was, or a glimpse into some sort of dystopian nightmare. Boarding school survivors will perhaps nod their heads and give a wry smile as they remember the two baths a week rule and being punished for running in the corridor or speaking your mind – whereas those who were fortunate enough to have a ‘normal’ upbringing will gasp at the descriptions of the inedible food and supervised Sunday letter writing sessions when a nun wrote the news you were ‘allowed’ to include in your letter home on the board.
Inspiration: thanks due to SWWJ and The People’s Friend
I had long been toying with the idea of writing something inspired by my school days (again – I used my old school as the setting for Three Hundred Bridesmaids in 2018). Then several events happened to spur me on.
In 2020, the Society for Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ) ran a competition where we had to write a non-fiction piece with the theme Women. That summer, my old school (St Mary’s, Shaftesbury) had closed its doors for the last time after 75 years (combination of falling roles and Covid). I decided to write a factual account of my first night at the school, Imprisoned in a World of Women, when I had wandered outside in my dressing gown and contemplated running away. I entered it into the SWWJ Competition and didn’t win, but was mentioned in the Judge’s report. This encouraged me to keep writing. Thank you, SWWJ!
I expanded the piece into a novel (with a factual first chapter and the rest as fiction) and once it was finished, submitted it to The People’s Friend. To my amazement, they accepted it and it came out in June 2021. I hadn’t thought a piece written in the first person with an eleven year old heroine would be what they were looking for, but turned out I was wrong. Thank you, PF!
And the title? Happy Days? Well, when I was at school, Reverend Mother told me that for many, school days are the happiest days of their lives, but that in my case, fortunately that wouldn’t be true. I felt incredibly cheered to hear this. And she was, as always, right.
There is another convent-set novel on the way, as D C Thomson have also accepted Perfectly in Tune and it will be published as my first My Weekly pocket novel later this summer in August. They might change the title (I have no way of knowing yet) but it will be available on Amazon in its full version with my original title once the pocket novel is off the shelves (should be late summer this year).
Trying hard not to succumb to the temptation to write yet another convent story…I need to expand my horizons…and yet, it’s fair to say that a small closed community is absolutely fascinating and you can see all of life within its walls. Perhaps I should write a darker novel next time. Murder in the Convent, anyone?