Last summer Vicky Newham joined us at Margate Bookie to read from her debut novel Turn a Blind Eye. Next month, the police procedural which has already been optioned for TV hits bookstands across the country.
As the saying goes it takes twenty years to make an overnight success and despite having been passionate about writing since childhood, Vicky hadn’t considered it to be a ‘proper’ career. It was many years until she had the ‘lightbulb moment’ that turned her into a writer.
‘I was listening to Stella Duffy at the Kent Festival of Writing. Stella told us about a touring theatre company in Tokoroa, her home town in New Zealand. I recognised someone I knew on the stage. Someone just like me was an actor.
Why had Stella’s words had struck a chord with so many people in the audience?
Whitstable-based Vicky takes up the story. ‘Stella had captured the moment the penny dropped for her. I can do this. I don’t yet know how, but I can.’
‘When I was chatting to Andreas Loizou (founder of the Margate Bookie), we realised that we’d both been brought up to discount writing as a career option, and even as a hobby. My parents thought that being a secretary would tide me over until I got married – except neither was what I wanted, so I completed my language degree and set up a damp-proofing business with my boyfriend.
‘Some years later, and after a psychology degree and teacher training, I taught for 10 years. A respectable profession at last, my parents said, but teaching in a school wasn’t what I wanted either. I’d hidden the desire I’d had since I was six. My dream to be a writer was squashed and banished, lurking somewhere in a corner of my mind. I wanted to write grown-up stories about the crazy, complicated, hurly-burly of life similar to the ones I’d written as a kid, then a teenager, with my Papermate pen in my bedroom at home.
So what changed? What was that I can do this moment? It was realising that I didn’t want to be a teacher for the rest of my life and that I needed to reflect seriously on what I did want. My mother died, and I saw that life is too short to be doing something that makes you unhappy and too short to be living according to other people’s expectations. I knew I wanted to write. I simply had to allow the desire to surface and to rest in my conscious mind as a possibility. When I looked around me, I thought three things
- if other people can do it, so can I;
- the worst that can happen is that I’ll fail, and;
- I won’t know unless I try.
So, in 2011, I gave myself permission to plot and write the story I wanted, to give it my best shot and see where it took me. I’ve always thought that you have to believe something is possible for it to happen. Until that point, I didn’t think that being a writer was achievable. It was a silly dream. Getting an agent and a book deal were things that happened for other people. As for a TV option – what was that? Perhaps we all need that thing that rings the bell that tells us – you can do this. You will have to work your butt off, but you can make it happen.
My philosophy on life is to expect nothing but, at the same time, to hope for the best; to hold open in my mind the idea that with hard work, determination and a willingness to learn, most things are possible in one form or another.
If I can do it, so can you.
Find out more about Vicky Newham and her debut novel Turn A Blind Eye.