Monday, 23 March 2015

One Lovely Blog Hop

I've been invited by Sue Moorcroft to join in the LOVELY BLOG HOP. The blog hop is intended to let you in on a few of the lesser-known things about my life that have helped make me who I am. 

If I haven't lost you before the end, and I hope I haven’t, you'll find some links to other blogs and writers I like. These writers have all agreed to take part hopping and blogging and just being lovely! The dates of their Blog Hops will be posted later this week.

First Memory 
My first memory is of riding a fat little pony called Rosie, whilst holidaying on the Isle of Wight. I was about three-years-old, and that pony ride started a love of horses that never went away. I remember the feel of her warm coat against my bare legs and the creak of the saddle. My parents (apparently) had a lot of trouble getting me off Rosie. There were tears, and I hung on to the pommel, saying I wanted to stay on the pony.
(I still do that!)

It was my Great Aunt who first encouraged my love of books. She gave me a picture book of horses not long after the Isle of Wight trip. Every time we visited after that, she gave me a new book. (Black Beauty was a killer to read aged six!) When my Great Aunt died, she left me her Shakespeare collection, and a beautiful old edition of A Christmas Carol, (I think) dated around 1920-something. 

As an only child I was always either reading or drawing – and writing – of course! I devoured books at an alarming rate, and as I got older, moved from Monica Dickens and Enid Blyton to the classics, and then, at about twelve years old, I discovered Agatha Christie and James Herriot. (A strange mixture). When I was fourteen, I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the first time, and my ‘dark side’ was awakened – much to my mother’s consternation. Anything dark and Gothic attracted me from that day forward; Sheridan Le Fanu, Polidori, Byron, Shelley … and when Wuthering Heights appeared on my GCE list for English literature, I was ecstatic.

One of my most prized possessions is a 1928 edition of Dracula, with the original dust jacket, bought for me by my lovely husband. There are quite a few copies of this edition around, but not with the dust jacket intact.

My husband soon realised he’d never afford a first edition of Dracula, signed or otherwise. (Apparently Sharon Osbourne bought a signed first edition for Ozzie, which cost about £40,000!)


I remember always wanting to be chosen for librarian duties at school. I never was. It must have scarred me, because I still remember the disappointment. I desperately wanted the enamel badge saying ‘librarian.’ In latter years when Anthony Stewart Head played a librarian and watcher in Buffy, I often wondered whether that would have been more me! (‘As I whittle a stake, I’ll whistle a jaunty tune!’)*

I adore bookshops, and the older the better. I have always loved the antiquarian bookshops in Charing Cross Road, although a lot have fallen by the wayside in recent years.

I have two favourite bookshops, the first is in Lewes, East Sussex. It’s called, rather unimaginatively, The Fifteenth Century Bookshop. It’s a beautiful, half-timbered building on the Lewes high street, and is home to many collectors’ editions and first editions. In recent years when the town suffered from flooding, the basement was flooded several times and a lot of valuable books were lost.

My second favourite bookshop is in the beautiful town of Moab in Utah, USA. Moab is our spiritual home from home, we’ve been there every year for fifteen years and are already counting the weeks until we go again this year. We had to miss our annual trip last year, which makes this year’s trip even more exciting. The bookshop is called the Back of Beyond, which says it all. Moab is situated in between the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in the Utah desert, with the mighty Colorado River running through it. The bookshop itself has many books written by pioneers, and early explorers – even some miners looking for gold – plus a healthy mixture of mass market paperbacks, calendars and diaries. My husband would live in there if he could! As a cover designer I just love looking at the covers and the many foils, varnishes and embossing finishes they use over there (all on one book cover usually!)

What’s Your Passion?
I have a lot of passions; family, horses, cats, reading, art … but I suppose I would have to go with dance as the most obsessive passion. I started learning dance at the age of six in a North London stage school. I did ballet, tap and - modern - as it was called then. I loved it. I loved the shows – I even loved taking the exams. My Aunt used to make all my costumes, sewing on the sequins by hand. She even made me a white tutu once.

When we moved down to Sussex, there was no equivalent dance or stage school near to where we lived, so I joined first the Polegate School of Dance, and then the Eastbourne School of Ballet, neither of which I enjoyed. By this time I was twelve, and horse-riding was taking over! One ballet teacher told me I couldn’t ride horses and do ballet. So I left. A couple of years later I joined The Sussex School of Dance, which was more jazz-based, and much more me.

I gave up dance altogether when I started art college. I was running out of time, what with college, studying for a degree, horse-riding, and going to rock concerts, plus I’d just met my future husband! When we graduated from college, we moved up to London, and it wasn’t very long before I discovered the Pineapple Dance Centre. For the uninitiated, Pineapple is in a converted pineapple warehouse in Covent Garden, and was started by Debbie Moore in 1979. The moment I walked through those hallowed portals in the early 1980s, it was love at first sight (and sound). From the choreographers shouting, ‘Five, six, seven, eight!’ to the different music pulsing from every studio on every floor. The whole place rocked.

From passion to obsession really. I became a member of Pineapple, and remained a member until 2012, doing back to back Street and Jazz classes, until I began suffering with serious hip problems. Unfortunately, I had to have a big op last year, but after a year of physio, recuperation and building up to local dance classes four times a week . . . I’m thinking I might just go back to Pineapple . . . !

Hmmm, well I hated senior school. We hadn’t long moved down from London, and the transition to a tiny (and very unfriendly) Sussex village was a tough one. The other children hated me. I spoke like a Londoner. I was an outsider. I was also painfully shy – yeah I know – hard to believe isn’t it?
It didn’t help that I had cousins in the same village – all of whom had been born there. School was difficult, and I left after an argument with my father who said, ‘No daughter of mine is ever going to dance college.’ Which was swiftly followed by, ‘and no daughter of mine will ever go to art college either.’
There really was nothing else I wanted to do. Art or dance.
The fact that two of my cousins had studied art (albeit fashion design) didn’t help either.

I got a job in an office and was the most miserable I have ever been in my life. Eventually, encouraged by friends and cousins, I worked every evening to get a portfolio of work together and went for a secret interview at the art college. I was given a place and the rest, as they say, is history.

I have always loved writing. I won several competitions when I was at school, and even won a national competition for senior essay when I was fourteen. I also used to write pony stories and illustrate them (very badly) – I still have some of them somewhere. But I am very much a newbie when it comes to writing novels. Fledgling was published in the US in 2011, and I will never forget the feeling when the email came through saying it had been accepted. I read it several times and still didn’t believe it.
Since then Dance Until Dawn has been published by wonderful Choc Lit, who have also published some of my short stories.

Having always worked within the publishing industry as a book cover designer, I’m only too aware how difficult it is to get a ‘publishing deal’ and it’s even harder to have a runaway bestseller. Most authors never achieve the latter.
I was actually working at Penguin when they turned down J.K. Rowling – which really is like EMI turning down the Beatles! Here’s hoping that editor now enjoys working for Burger King – ha ha – joking.

Seriously, I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world, to be both designing book covers and writing, whilst dancing up a storm in my ‘spare time!’

*Quote by Xander from School Hard, Season Two, Buffy the Vampire Slayer – 
with thanks and apologies to Joss Whedon.

The following lovely ‘Hoppers’ will be posting their own answers to the same questions within the next week or two. I’ll be posting the dates later this week,
together with the links to their blogs.

A L I S O N   M A Y
(Alison's post will be Monday, 30th March) 

D E B B I E   F L I N T

A N N E   L .  H A R V E Y   


J U L I A   I B B O T S O N 
(Julia's post will be Wednesday, 25th March)


  1. So interesting! Really pleased you're a rebel heart and followed your dreams x

  2. That was very interesting, Berni. I had no idea you were such a keen dancer. What an interesting life you've had. xx

  3. Great post, Berni! I always love to learn more about an author's writing and non-writing life. Those book shops look wonderful. Great to also read about your passion for dancing. What with your fab writing and designing skills, you are clearly a lady of many talents! :) X

  4. So interesting to read about your influences, Berni, and lovely to see the pictures too - thanks for sharing! :-) x

  5. I think it's an obsession, Liz :) Probably if I'd attempted to go professional, the
    obsession would have worn off long ago!

    Thanks so much for all the comments everyone! xx

  6. Very interesting piece, Berni; thanks for sharing. I didn't know about the dancing - but keep following those dreams! BTW I've put mine up now on my website/blog - and thanks again for inviting me! x

  7. That's awwwsome you love books.
    Upstairs, you can spend a long time reading
    when you don't go-out with moi, aussi, of course,
    for a totally platonic encounter HeeHee
    This is what you'll receive in Seventh-Heaven:

    High, girl!
    Wouldn’t ya love an endless eternity of aplomBombs
    falling on thy indelible, magnificent, vigilant cranium?
    An XtraXcitinXpose with no
    with an IQ much higher than K2,
    and an extraordinarily, sawcy, rowdy victory??
    Here’s what the prolific GODy sed:
    (what could be MOE exciting than the 3-Stooges??)

    “Faith, hope, and love,
    the greatest of these is love -
    jumpy into faith...
    and you'll see with love”
    Doesn’t matter if you don’t believe
    (what I write);
    God believes in you.
    God. Blessa. Youse -Fr. Sarducci, ol SNL
    Meet me Upstairs, girl, where the Son never goes down…