Behind the Words


I grew up in a small English village, and as a child, my favourite things in the world were horse riding and teaching my very tolerant little dog countless tricks, which mainly revolved around pretending (wishing) that she was a pony. I have always felt strongly about taking care of our planet, and at a young age, I used to say that I would never own a car; instead, I would travel by horseback to reduce my carbon footprint. I think it was a bit of a two-pronged argument, really, perhaps another reason for me to acquire a much longed-for pony. Nevertheless, my interest in the wellbeing of our environment has played into the subject matter of some of my writing.

Another of my pastimes, the memories of which I treasure, was spending Saturday afternoons at my grandparents’ house. There, I would while away the hours drawing, painting and writing. I would present the products of my efforts to the judges, and my grandparents would almost always, kindly, offer me a ten out of ten. I wrote countless stories, often accompanied by illustrations, and loved every second of it. One day, I was in the middle of writing, when my grandad offered me some advice, which I carry with me to this day: “Don't just write ‘the door handle’, Debbie. Try to describe it. What was it made out of? What colour was it?”. And so my love of creative writing was born.


I completed my first novel when I was twelve years old. Alongside the book itself, I enlisted my grandad’s help in building various wooden contraptions to act as props. I still have the book safely stored away, and I intend to revisit it at some stage in the future to remodel the blueprints of what I left behind. I felt so passionately about it at the time; it would be lovely to see a revamped version of it in print. 

Fast forward a decade or so, and I met my husband. After we had been together for a little over a year, we went travelling for three weeks and then moved to New Zealand. As we embarked on our journey to the other side of the world, we decided that we would treat this adventure as a chance to accomplish any goals that had lain dormant in our minds, or had been reserved for that elusive ‘one day’. The first goal on my list was to write a book.

So, at 4 a.m., completely jet lagged, I lay awake in Beijing and wrote the first few paragraphs of Beneath a Starless Sky on my phone. I had no idea what direction the story would take, but once the initial idea came into my mind, there was no stopping me. I worked on it as often as I could for the next three years, until, finally, it was complete. 

The rest of my story is yet to come. I wholly appreciate every single person who has shown an interest in my work; I really cannot describe how much it means to me that I can focus on doing what I love. I will never stop being grateful for that, and for the support of the amazing people around me that I am lucky enough to call my family and friends.