Lesley Pearse is one of the UK’s best loved novelists with fans across the globe and sales of over 3 million copies of her books to date. A true storyteller and a master of gripping storylines that keep the reader hooked from beginning to end, Pearse introduces you to characters that it is impossible not to care about or forget. There is no formula to her books or easily defined genre. Whether crime as in 'Till We Meet Again', historical adventure like 'Never Look Back', or the passionately emotive 'Trust Me', based on the true-life scandal of British child migrants sent to Australia in the post war period, she engages the reader completely.
Truth is often stranger than fiction and Lesley’s life has been as packed with drama as her books. She was three when her mother died under tragic circumstances. Her father was away at sea and it was only when a neighbour saw Lesley and her brother playing outside without coats on that suspicion was aroused - their mother had been dead for some time. With her father in the Royal Marines, Lesley and her older brother spent three years in grim orphanages before her father remarried - a veritable dragon of an ex army nurse - and Lesley and her older brother were brought home again, to be joined by two other children who were later adopted by her father and step mother, and a continuing stream of foster children. The impact of constant change and uncertainty in Lesley’s early years is reflected in one of the recurring themes in her books: what happens to those who are emotionally damaged as children. It was an extra-ordinary childhood and in all her books, Lesley has skilfully married the pain and unhappiness of her early experiences with a unique gift for storytelling.
Lesley’s desperate need for love and affection as a young girl was almost certainly the reason she kept making bad choices in men in her youth. A party girl during the swinging sixties, Lesley did it all – from nanny to bunny girl to designing clothes. She lived in damp bedsits while burning the candle at both ends as a 'Dolly Bird' with twelve inch mini shirts. She married her first husband - fleetingly - at twenty and met her second, John Pritchard, a trumpet player in a rock band soon after. Her debut novel 'Georgia' was inspired by her life with John, the London clubs, crooked managers and the many musicians she met during that time including David Bowie and Steve Marriott of The Small Faces. Lesley’s first child, Lucy, was born during this time but with John’s erratic lifestyle and a small child in the house the marriage was doomed to failure and they parted when Lucy was four.
It was a real turning point in Lesley’s life – she was young and alone with a small child – but, in another twist of fate, Lesley met her third husband, Nigel, while on her way to Bristol for an interview. They married a few years later and had two more daughters, Sammy and Jo. The following years were the happiest of her life - she ran a playgroup, started writing short stories and then opened a card and gift shop in Bristol's Clifton area. Writing by night, running the shop by day, and fitting in all the other household chores along with the needs of her husband and children for seven years was tough.
'Some strange compulsion kept me writing, even when it seemed hopeless,' she admits. 'I wrote three books before 'Georgia', then along came Darley Anderson who offered to be my agent. Even so, a further six years of disappointments and massive re-writes followed before we finally found a publisher’.
There was more turmoil to follow however, when Lesley's shop failed in the 90's recession, leaving her with a mountain of debts and bruised pride. Her eighteen year marriage broke down, and at fifty she hit rock bottom - it seemed she was back where she had started in a grim flat with barely enough money for her youngest daughters bus fares to school.
'I wrote my way out of it,' she says. 'My second book 'Tara' was shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year, and I knew I was on my way.'
Lesley's own life is a rich source of material for her books; whether she is writing about the pain of first love, the unwanted abused child, adoption, rejection, fear, poverty and revenge, she knows about it first hand. She’s a fighter, and with her long fought for success has come security. She owns a cottage in a pretty village between Bristol and Bath which she has lovingly renovated and her three daughters, grandson, friends, dogs and gardening have brought her great happiness. She is president of the Bath and West Wiltshire branch of the N.S.P.C.C. the charity closest to her heart.
Lesley Pearse's novels include Georgia, Tara, Charity, Ellie, Camellia, Rosie, Charlie, Never Look Back, Trust Me, Father Unknown, Hope and Faith, most of which are published by Penguin. Lesley was born in Rochester, Kent, but has lived in Bristol for the last twenty-five years. She has three daughters and a grandson.
The bestselling author of Remember Me, Till We Meet Again and Hope speaks exclusively to us on everything from earliest memories to the last time she cried.
Who or what always puts a smile on your face?
My dogs and my grandson.
What are you reading at the moment?
Poisoned Lives by Katherine Watson.
Which author do you most admire?
What's your earliest memory?
My father building a car out of sand at Tenby. He said I couldn't possibly remember as I was only 2 and a half, but I do.
What is your greatest fear?
How would you like to be remembered?
As being warm and funny.
Have you even done something you've really regretted?
Lots of times, usually to men.
How do you spoil yourself?
Perfume and glamorous undies.
What's your favourite word/book?
Yes is my favorite word. Book? Of all time, Gone with the Wind, but there are others I love for different reasons. The Prophet by Kahil Gibran. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons.
Who do you turn to in a crisis?
My girlfriend Jo Prosser who I've known for 40 years.
What makes you angry?
Lack of loyalty.
Have you ever had any other jobs apart from writing?
Too many to mention. We're talking about a serial jobsmith here.
Are you in love?
Only with my dogs at present. Oh and my garden.
What's your worst vice?
Talking too much.
What are you proudest of?
My three daughters.
Where do you write?
In my office. And in my head while I'm walking the dogs or gardening.
Where's your favourite city?
Bristol. I fell in love with it over 30 years ago and I'm still in love.
That my girls would fall in love and stay happily with him forever.
Did you enjoy school?
Mostly but I was always in trouble. I didn't learn much, but it was better than home.
What do you believe in most?
The power of love.