I have written a few times about how I aspired to be a writer. As a young girl I would see my mother sitting at her typewriter crafting articles, short stories or working on novels and it seemed like the best job in the world to me. I loved studying English, getting great marks, I could lose hours with a good book ergo this was a career I could get behind. Reality broke through by the time I went to secondary school and I abandoned my dreams of journalism for a 9-5 office job which paid the bills.
My mother lived her dream, always writing something to send to publishers. She reviewed books, was a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, a tutor at the London School of Journalism, speaking at writing workshops run by an author friend. From children’s short stories, to historical romances, with ghost stories and science fiction in-between, my mother wrote in several different genres.
I was in my mid 20’s when my mother sought my opinion on Black Lace. I hadn’t a clue, if it wasn’t haberdashery related, what was it? Erotica written for women by women – which you could buy in mainstream shops (this was before the internet and the revolution of erotica available for download to e-readers). My mother sent me to W H Smiths to buy her a couple of novels (she was devouring them at a rate of knots) for research purposes of course!
To put things in context, both my parents were very open. Sex and relationships could be discussed at our house. My mother used a ‘pen name’ for the slushy romances she wrote because she didn’t want my father embarrassed by them; while trying her hand at writing erotica, this anonymity gained extra importance. She wrote up something sexy and got it beta read. The feedback was good, but was it really the right direction for her writing?
I hadn’t read my mother’s work for years. My concern being, if I read it but didn’t like it I would feel horrible, so I politely declined if ever she asked me. 2 years ago (more than a decade after her passing) I felt curious to look at one of my mother’s novels. A book I was reading at the time (Outlander by Diana Gabaldon) sparked a memory of the plot for a children’s book she’d been writing when I was 10. I looked through her finished but unpublished manuscripts and found Enchanted Valley. I sat down with it’s stack of dusty smelling A4 pages to read.
It was clear from quite early on that my mother had re-vamped the original book idea. What had started as a children’s story was now a romance about a woman who falls for an unsuitable guy for all the wrong reasons. The plot had humour, a love triangle and a timeslip facet which encompassed supernatural elements: old magic, the fae world and enchantment. I remembered discussing the old legends and superstitions with her.
Then came something I wasn’t expecting – the plot had several sexy interludes. This had to be where she had channelled her ‘black lace’ writing energies and maybe the novel qualified as a ‘bodice ripper’.
[Enchanted Valley, Enchanted Valley – Lovers’ Tryst]
My mother had always craved an audience to read and enjoy her words, so I typed up the whole novel, breaking each chapter down into sub-parts, and posted it regularly on WattPad. This is a free platform for writers and her book got some nice feedback.
At the same time as I collected the manuscript, I brought these 3 writing muses from her desk and ‘kennelled’ them at my house. (Coincidence or not) I became inspired to write.
I knew my mother would be wholeheartedly behind my writing. She would have advised me not to feel ashamed or embarrassed by its adult content. Following her example, I used a ‘pen name’. I took her writing advice (she has two books published filled with hints for authors) for instance I have a notebook with me at all times. Another tip I find slightly harder to implement: “Show don’t tell!” I lack confidence in writing dialogue but I try to force myself, because it really moves a plot along.
Recently I told my father the nature of my writing was erotic, he just laughed and asked me if I had an exotic pseudonym – no judgement from him. When I found out I’d had a piece accepted for the Eroticon anthology ‘Discovery’ he said “Congratulations, your Mother would be so proud.” I hope so, I owe a lot to her example.
This post is submitted for #MasturbationMonday – click the links to see who else is participating.