My indomitable mother stubbornly clung to independence until her early eighties when an illness scare made her finally feel vulnerable. She sold her house to move into a retirement village in Johannesburg which – to her surprise – she loved. Always gregarious, she had lived quietly and alone for too long and blossomed in the village. Sadly the illness was more serious than anyone had realised and she died early in 2008. Everyone copes with things in their own way – I wrote a private book giving her a proper shot at her new life. The story supplied a generic female friend, a lovely big Scottish flirt safely behind a zimmer, a bitchy gay man from her own opera background for fun (she adored gay men, and they her) and, as a friendship accelerator, a couple of murders to solve. It was soothing for me to place her somewhere she could be telling her hilarious stories and enjoying herself – well, forever.
About a year later I re-read the book and liked it enough (I’m a great fan of my own work) to re-work it a bit and send it to my agent for her opinion. She suggested a script instead – make it a bit more Rosemary & Thyme, she said – but as I knew nothing about scriptwriting I shelved it again. In 2012 – as part of my No Regrets sabbatical – I wrote a version in which the friend is the protagonist and all the characters twenty years younger, and moved it to Scotland, the home of her heart, and where I myself now live. I published on Kindle on 1st January 2013 – one New Year resolution swiftly completed – and found, as all writers do, that publishing isn’t the end of the journey, just the beginning. The learning curve since then has pretty much looped the loop and continues to do so.
I have no idea how many writers write for specific readers. I have a few volunteer readers (a cheer for our long-suffering readers) and find it really helps my perspective to edit it ready for them – one gets a bit lost in plot, have I been clear? One gets enthusiastic about current references, have I included some of those? And so on. First reader, in my head, is my mother, and I have before now blushed and amended something after suddenly realising what her pithy input would have been.
If that has you wondering when I’m going to be locked up, forget I ever said it. Slightly bizarre family project it may be, but I enjoy it very much.