July 14, 2019
NOTES ON A WRITING LIFE | 1
I hope to send out a note, or longer, every 14th of the month – my birthday happening to fall on a 14th of the month, and it’s around the Ides on the Roman calendar (see JULIUS CAESAR!) Oh, and it’s Bastille Day this month too, and I’m writing this in Paris.
This month I’m delighted to announce the publication of my new novel WITHOUT HER on the 23rd and am also celebrating the occasion of my signing with an Australian publisher, Mike Walmer, for the re-publication of my first novel, A DAY TO REMEMBER TO FORGET.
Fifty years ago – can it be that long? Yes, almost exactly. A rather desperate young woman bicycled across Cambridge in the snow to see her therapist, in the winter of 1968-69. She wanted to be a writer. She was a writer. But she was also a wife and the mother of a very small baby, and she was suffering from post-natal depression. The therapist – good for her! – told her to write. Hand the baby to her father, shut the door and WRITE. So she did. She bicycled back, week after week, with bundles of typescript, and she began to feel better. The therapist nodded sagely, and put it in her drawer. After a couple of months of this, the therapist asked “Would you mind if I showed this to a friend of mine, who’s a scout for Viking? I think she might like it…”
That was how this novel got published – via the scout, on to Curtis Brown and into the hands of my first agent, Richard Simon, who sold it to Macmillan in London and then to Houghton Mifflin in the US. It was also how my post-natal depression came to an end. I was not only a mother and a wife,but a novelist with a book coming out. It did wonders for my state of mind.
When I got the phone call, the one we writers all dream about, I was living in a flat in Leicester, in the midlands of England, as my husband had a new job there. Depression lurked again – I had not wanted to leave Cambridge and all my friends, but that was what wives did in 1969. It was a year or so later, and I was looking after my daughter and the small son of a neighbor. It was on a Friday afternoon at about four o’clock when the phone rang and it was Richard, telling me that Macmillan wanted to publish my book and pay me three hundred and fifty pounds for it. There is no moment in life that rivals that first time, I think: when you hear that your book will actually be published. I put both children in the bathtub, called the wine shop and asked rather grandly for two bottles of champagne to be delivered. The health visitor came (a woman sent in those days by the Health Service to see how you are getting on as a mother), and the mother of the small boy came to collect him, and I opened the champagne, poured it for them, and we proceeded to get fairly drunk while the children splashed riotously in the bathroom. My husband came home from work and found us all happy and incoherent.
So as my latest novel appears in the US this summer, the first one sticks its head above the waters of oblivion and will have a new life. I’m celebrating both – and as well, the fifty years in between in which I have lived, seen my children grow up, and become - if not the writer I dreamed of being, the one I imagined I was in those heady early days - the writer I actually am.
Affectionately to all, Ros
I’ll be reading from WITHOUT HER, discussing and signing books this fall in the following venues:
October 15th at 8.00 pm at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables, Florida
October 22nd at Book Passage, Ferry Building, San Francisco, California
October 24th at Mrs. Dalloway’s, 2904 College Ave., Berkeley, California
December: Date to be decided at Books & Books, 533 Eaton Street, Key West, Florida 33040