Author Katie Flynn talks about writing almost 90 books whilst running a catering business and looking after her large family
I was born in Norwich and attended the Norwich High School for Girls where I was extremely happy and extremely undistinguished, though former pupils still remember the serial stories I wrote and left in my desk, so that they could be circulated to anyone more interested in light fiction than in doing their prep!
I wrote my first poem at the age of eight and it was published in Enid Blyton’s Sunny Stories. Success is a heady wine even at eight years old and from then on I wrote whenever I wasn’t reading or riding horses or playing tennis etc., though I never even considered publication despite my early success with Ms Blyton. I even wrote whilst I pursued boys, caught one, married him and had his children.
When Brian and I married we moved away from Norfolk and have lived in the North West for nearly 50 years. We have two sons and two daughters who quickly learnt that if they waited until I was busy at the typewriter they could ask for anything and get approval - ‘Can I take the cat to school, Mum?'
Catering is just another name for hell,
but I enjoyed every minute of it
In order to earn my first typewriter I cleaned offices and wrote short stories, articles and talks etc, for radio and magazines. Then I got post-natal depression (alone too much in a town where no-one knew me), but Brian saw an advert in the local library for a Writers’ Circle, rang the chairman and enrolled me. They were wonderful - very professional - insisting that we should study markets and sell our work, not simply write for our own satisfaction. I wrote anything I thought I could sell and with four children to bring up, we did need the money most awfully badly! Then came the postal strike in 1971 and my earnings dried up because I could not send contributions out to magazines nor receive small cheques in payment. A friend bet me I couldn't get a book accepted so I wrote one and to my astonishment it was published and I was off, writing family sagas, modern novels and anything the publishers wanted. I kept on writing books after that and have had almost ninety published to date under various pseudonyms.
At about this time Brian and I owned and ran a small restaurant (fifty covers) and a sandwich delivery service. Catering is just another name for hell, but I enjoyed every minute of it and went on writing regardless. Chasing Rainbows, Jenny Alone, and The Arcade all owe their existence to my time in catering.
Then in the early nineties I decided to try my hand at a different sort of book and chose to set it in Liverpool, because it is such a vibrant and exciting place. The Liverpudlian sense of humour is legendary and the people are not only warm and friendly but happy to tell you everything about themselves. They even found something to laugh about in the dreadful poverty of the thirties and the fearful blitz of the forties. The research necessary for these books means we come into contact with many of my readers and all is grist to my mill. From harassed housewives struggling with rations to evacuees enjoying the pleasures of country living for the first time, Liverpool people are happy to talk about their experiences and I love to listen.
I write two books a year, both between 130,000 and 150,000 words long. Travelling around the North West and signing copies means we meet readers on a casual friendly basis whilst catching up with friends in the trade. I write each morning from nine to twelve-thirty and in the afternoons I do as much of the housework as I can manage, listen to audiobooks - I can no longer read print - and potter in the garden. I love my garden.
My plans for the future are to go on writing and to have a bit more fun. One of my sons lives with his wife in Spain, the other is in Australia with his two little girls. We visit Spain from time to time and have been three times to Australia but it is a long way off, and travelling is difficult since in 1996 I contracted ME. Luckily my two daughters live near me.
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