Jeanette was the proverbial shy child, quiet and bookish. The local library fed her need to read and each week she took out the full quota of six books. Beatrix Potter was certainly a favourite and is perhaps, on reflection, an early influence. Her mother said she was so quiet ‘you wouldn’t know she was in the house’ but she could often be found behind the settee absorbed in a book. (Three brothers, little terrace house = not much space or peace!)
At night, sharing a room meant making up stories to enthrall, engage and eventually send her brothers to sleep! But…the seeds were sown; the art of story-telling was on its way. When her primary school took part in a competition run by the RSPCA (An essay on Kindness to Animals), Jeanette surprised them all by winning. Her class estimation increased further when they enjoyed a day at the Town Hall to watch the Mayor present a blushing child with her certificate.
Jeanette’s formative years were spent on The Wirral. Born in Oxton, she was very sociable for one so shy and made friends with anyone and everyone. She was particularly influenced by the (already) fading glory of Oxton. Liverpool in its hey-day had many rich merchants build their homes across the Mersey and now Oxton is a pretty conservation village. Jeanette remembers it being a great place to play; the grand old houses always had huge gardens with mature trees, ponds and tucked away dilapidated summer houses. This is where the ‘bitter old biddies’ lived as demonstrated in Maid in Heaven and The Island. Gnarled spinsters who’d lost their promise of married life loitered long, but Jeanette was a good listener and remembered their tales. Patterdale Antiques also features a crotchety old woman; these women were frustrated, formidable and feisty. The background to Knowing came from years of attending sunny garden parties linked to her Church of England school where gingham-skirted girls twirled and fell on newly mown grass. Jeanette’s father would take her walking down the Flat Lanes, a hidden oasis, an acreage where skylarks sang, sleepy horses munched on whispering grass and Sticklebacks were carried home in jam-jars.
Life went on, marriage, children and all the ensuing things that get in the way of writing happened, except Jeanette wrote in her diary every single day. And still does.
Family life begins in the wilds of Scotland, in the foothills of the Grampians. A love of mountains begins.
Children grow up. Divorce happens. Life moves on further.
And more years pass and Jeanette’s Communication’s tutor urges: you have a story-tellers voice; enter this competition… Jeanette resisted right up to the wire before producing a very short, dark tale, a winning tale that led her to go on and join a group. Tough love enabled her to craft her story-telling.
Her life is now spent in Cumbria and her combined passion of writing and fell-walking give her connection to her past. The vast outdoors replicate the joy of childhood and with the resounding twitter of the skylark, there is no finer place.
Jeanette is currently finishing The Parting Stone, a contemporary novel set initially in Cheshire but moves on into Cumbria. A tale of fate set against an adventurous backdrop where an accident on the fells changes all. Nikki fights back with everything thrown at her. Does life ever go according to plan for our protagonist?
She is also working on a second novel set in Keswick. So far it has a working title: The Offcomer & the Cheese Farm Flood, a story set against the aftermath of Storm Desmond with an equally catastrophic outcome. Both novels have a distinct thread of humour to balance the dark side that is never far away. Our heroine, Eva needs to survive but at what cost?
There are a number of short stories that may go into a second edition of Rucksack Tales.
Currently, Jeanette enjoys open mic nights in Carlisle where she gets to read aloud and try out new stories on an audience. She also gives talks to groups such as the WI and is available on request.
There are new and exciting things in the pipeline, but for now they are under wraps―watch this space!