I was born a girl! Nothing wrong with that you might say. My mother has insisted however, that I was supposed to have been born a boy. I suppose, with the lack of medical technology then, anyone could make a mistake. My parents had even picked out a good old Irish name for me - Sean - instead, they had a 21 inch long, bald (until I was 2 years old), stubborn and headstrong female who grew up to be the despair of her parents.
My early years were trouble-strewn. What more can I say? I walked at 10 months which was the red light for me to get my sticky hands on anything that stayed in my path for longer than a few seconds, was the bain of my young sister who came along 18 months after me, but managed to stay in one piece long enough to start school at 5 years of age - probably giving my parents the first bout of peace and quiet since I put in an appearance at my birth.
It was at the delicate age of 14, that I first put pen or pencil to paper (or anything I could get my hands on, on which I could write legibly). I've never wanted to write romance stories - that was a big no no with me. I became obsessed with writing horror - to this day I have a zombie addiction and I have been and ever will be a big fan of Stephen King with an obsession for watching horror movies - much to the frustration of my family who now know as much about aliens, ghosts and zombies as the greatest horror fan. I digress. While other children were out playing and causing havoc around the neighbourhood, I sat at the dining room table, tongue protruding from the side of my mouth (a habit I'm happy to say I've outgrown), scribbling down my ideas, filling notebook after notebook, always starting a story but never finishing it.
I always wanted to be different and live life outside the box. I never went so far as to play truant from school or run foul of the police, but obeying rules was never my thing. If my dad told me no, I promptly went ahead and did it anyway - so why, at the impressionable age of 14, did I have the insane idea of joining the Women's Royal Air Force. To this day, people still ask me why and I still don't have an answer.
My seedling personality was of a young lady already beginning to veer from the straight and narrow onto a path of flouting authority. Not the character of a career-minded WRAF. Nevertheless, I announced the idea to my bemused parents - gently enough to spare them the shocking revelation that perhaps their daughter might be normal after all - and dragged them to the recruitment office where - much to my discomfiture - a sergeant advised me that I was a little too young and invited me to return when I was 18.
On 12 June 1978, after having sworn my allegiance to Queen and country, I waved my parents off at the train station - the long journey to start my basic training and my new life ahead of me - dragging my new suitcase stuffed full of new clothes behind me, my travel warrant clutched in my sweaty hand, excitement and nerves boiling in my stomach as one thought lit up like a beacon in my naive brain. Freedom! No such luck!
Note the 18 year old proud WRAF with the Cheshire cat grin.
Basic training was a whole new world, frightening and exhilarating both at the same time.
Every morning, the stacked bed pack - sheets and blankets each folded precisely the same
size edges and corners in perfect, precise alignment - a major task at 0600 hours when still
half asleep and with a kit and bed space inspection imminent.
WRAF attire - knickers and brassieres (oh yes, they were known by those names and
did exist) WRAF, Air Force blue, two of each. I never wore them (no, I never did) but
out they came from the far corners of my small bedside locker, neatly folded and arrayed
for every kit inspection.
Bulling shoes - one duster, one tin of black shoe polish, matches and a small container of water or a plentiful supply of saliva (the latter worked the best but one often ended up with a dry, yellow tongue) and one finger. You set light to your polish until it liquefied and then, after wrapping the duster around an index finger, dabbed it in the polish (or licked the duster - before using the polish, I might add), and then, like a mindless automaton, gently polished the shoes in tiny little circles, over and over again.
Square bashing or, more correctly drill - usually ending in complete chaos with a WRAF Sergeant bellowing in dulcet Sergeant Major tones that “…we were the worse flight in the history of the WRAF". Slight exaggeration but the sight of us wasn't pretty - think of the way Spot the dog walked in Andy Pandy - left arm and left leg forward at the same time, right arm and right leg forward at the same time - well, you get the picture.
There were memorable times as well. After a bull night with the WRAF block sparkling clean, girls crowded into a laundry room, passing around cigarettes and bottles of coke, talking about life, men, family, men... NAAFI discos and nights out - I often wondered what the local discos thought when a large group of WRAFs descended on them, whether they ran for the hills, barricaded their doors and heaved a sigh of relief when we left. Laughter, loving, living life to the full, creating bonds and knowing that if you had a problem there was always someone with a sympathetic ear or a broad shoulder.
Supporting your fellow WRAF… no males in WRAF accommodation (well…) no females in male accommodation (er…) but… seeing a male exiting the WRAF block through a window… and, if anyone was caught…
“Did you see something, Airwoman?”
“Gosh, Ma’am. A male crawling out of… Really? Heavens. No, Ma’am, certainly not. I believe I was searching for my glasses at that particular time.”
Then, one morning in 1986, I awoke from my military life and realised that I had had enough of rules and regulations and that I needed to move on. Honourably discharged, adrift on the sea which was civvie street, I moved to Scotland and married. Life situations took over with writing a book the furthest thing from my mind - until 2014. Awake in the early hours one morning, my mind was suddenly filled with wonderful, exhilarating ideas that I needed - had to get down on paper.
Could I really write a book? Did I have the discipline and patience (never two of my virtues)? So again, at 2 am one morning I tiptoed downstairs, turned on my laptop and started writing. Not chapter one - oh no - not nearly that straightforward. The ideas that I had was for the middle of the book. That flowed into the epilogue and then the first chapter and so on and so forth. The words flowed so quickly especially when I clamped huge headphones to my ears and played music that fit with each scene that I wrote, or encompassed what my two main characters were thinking or feeling.
My first novel, For the Love of a Marine was birthed, laid down on my laptop, nurtured, cried over, laughed over, sworn at, the laptop nearly consigned to the dustbin on more than one occasion and I have to say, sometimes hated. I wanted Katie Walker and Joe Anderson to feel real to my readers, for my readers to think and feel what they felt, their despair, the warmth of when they were together and their compassion for those around them. I wanted my readers to feel that hope and love can exist in war - it doesn’t have to be hate and coldness and death. I hope I made that happen.
In For the Love of a Marine, I wanted to make my readers believe that a sweet and intense love, when faced with the tension, trauma and the gritty cold truth of war, does exist. Both Katie Walker’s and Joe Anderson’s lives had been shaped by rules and regulations and combat. Both fought their own internal battles with their intense attraction to each other, uneasy that what they felt was an illusion. But, far from their loved ones, both aware of death waiting in the shadows, a little warmth during snatched minutes and hours together, kept the horrors of war outside a closed door. It reminded them that all was not hate and death.
As you can probably read, my first book was my baby. My second book was A Fallen Hero. Katie Walker now Katie Anderson and Joe continued their story with a definite happy ending and then my third book Ambush of Love and my fourth, Let Hime Come Home were also published.
I have just been offered a contract for my fifth book Willing to Surrender.