One of the positive outcomes of the Coronavirus restrictions for me is that with so much time at home, I’ve had the opportunity to look back over the last twenty-three years of living in Spain, and assess my career as a writer and novelist. I arrived in Málaga in 1998, with my new husband and our giant schnauzer, but I didn’t begin writing straight away—as any ex-pat knows, settling down in a new country takes time; there is the home to organise, mountains of paperwork to go through, and sometimes a new language to learn. And, more importantly, as we were both avid golfers, there was a golf course to join.
I was looking forward to my new life in Spain. I had just taken early retirement and the opportunity to do something that had always been my dream, was exciting. For years I had worked, first as a school teacher and then, after a career move, as a management consultant and trainer. Now I planned another change of direction; I was going to become a writer.
I’d wanted the opportunity to write ever since I was a teenager, but now that I had the time to do it, I found I was very hesitant about how to get started, and in particular how to get published. There was the disadvantage of writing books in English while being a Spanish resident, so it was impossible to find an agent in the UK willing to take me on; I lived too far away. I eventually discovered a publisher for my first book, Daughters of Spain, a work of non-fiction about women’s lives in Spain during the Franco era. What a moment that was, to see my book in print for the first time. Then, using a lot of the research I’d done for that first book, I wrote two novels, Spanish Lavender, which is a love story set in Málaga during the Spanish Civil War, and The House on the Beach, the story of two girls living in post-war Spain and struggling with the restrictions of the dictatorship. The same publisher took on Spanish Lavender, but by then I was beginning to realise that after the first flush of sales, their interest would dwindle and I was powerless to do much about it. That was when I decided to self-publish.
That was in 2012 and a number of other independent writers were beginning to realise that if they ever wanted to get their books out to the public they would have to do it themselves. Nowadays there is a plethora of companies offering help and advice to independent authors. We even have our own organisation, The Alliance of Independent Authors, where new writers can get advice and useful contacts, so no need for the trial and error process that I went through nine years ago.
My fifteenth book has just been published, and once again it is a historical novel about Andalusia. When I first came to Spain, I fell in love with the country, its language and its culture, particularly its Moorish heritage, which I knew absolutely nothing about. The region is steeped in ancient history, and as I soon discovered, the 700 years that the Moors lived in Spain had a lasting influence on the country – on the architecture, the language, the food and the music. Of course I love the climate, hot but never too hot and never too cold, and with a coastline that borders the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, what could be better? In the time I have lived here, I have travelled a lot in Spain and Portugal and seen some fantastic scenery, but I’m always happy to return to Andalusia, and especially to Málaga, where my latest trilogy, The City of Dreams, is set.