All the nice girls love a sailor, but sailors long for new horizons and tend to sail off to foreign parts and stay away for months. I was married to a sailor. One day he said, ‘I’m going aboard a ship. We’re going Far East. I shall be away a year and a month.’
It wasn’t the first time I’d been left alone, but never for quite so long. I would have to find something to occupy me in the winter evenings. I thought I’d go to night school and learn to type. It might come in useful some day. But that would mean a babysitter and a 40 mile round trip to town. Instead I bought myself a portable typewriter and a Teach Yourself to Type book. I stuck bits of paper on the keys and taught myself to touch type. Then I wrote Letter From a Home-Based Wife, packed it up and sent it to the editor of the Naval Base Newsletter. A few days later I received a copy with my piece in it and a request for more. Wow! I was a writer. No, not yet.
I worked hard to improve my writing, joined writer’s groups and courses and thought I was ready to write the novel. There are three in the drawer which are unpublished but proof that I can stay the course. A degree of success came in articles published in various magazines, a few short stories read on local radio then an autobiographical book published in 2003. But still the novel eluded me.
I live in Shetland and was told the story of a girl from a city in the south of England who married a Shetland man and came to live with him in an isolated croft house. It was 1946 and life on the islands at that time was very hard. But she stayed. I thought about her often and she stuck in my head. I began to weave stories around her and realised I had a story to write.
After much planning and hours spent at the keyboard of my computer I thought the book I had written was as good as I could get it, so I packed it up and sent it off to a publisher. It came back with the regulation rejection slip so I sent it out again . . . and again. Each time it came home I looked to see where I could improve it.
Eventually my submission landed on the desk of someone at Robert Hale Ltd and a few days later I received an email asking for the whole typescript. A brand new copy was sent off and, fingers crossed, I waited. Imagine my delight when they said they would like to publish. I was ecstatic. Publication of my book, Catherine of Deepdale, had been my dream, but dreams need help to make them come true and I am grateful to all at Robert Hale who have help me do that.
– Millie Vigor
Catherine of Deepdale by Millie Vigor is available now to pre-order with a 30% discount for a limited time only. It will be published by Robert Hale Ltd. on 30 April 2012