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.
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
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
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
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
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
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 essaywhen 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.
then Dance Until Dawn has been
published by wonderful Choc Lit, who have also published some of
my short stories.
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.
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.
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!’
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,
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 and J U L I A I B B O T S O N (Julia's post will be Wednesday, 25th March)