Biography and background to Blue-Grey Island
I am a Midlands based artist and writer. I have always enjoyed writing since my teens and in my twenties wrote mainly poetry and performed on the local poetry circuit.
My first degree was with the Open University when I spent six years studying at home, whilst my children were pre-school. I then took another degree at Warwick University in Philosophy and Literature. This was followed by a time spent teaching in further education and the prison service.
I became interested in psychotherapy and trained to be a psychoanalytic psychotherapist at IPSS (The Institute of Psychotherapy and Social Studies) in London. Working as a therapist I was privileged to share with clients their life stories and became interested in how the process of this sharing relationship develops. I researched this interest further by embarking upon a PhD - again at Warwick University.
Based in the Literature and Philosophy departments my love of literature and the concept of ‘a novel of ideas’ began to re-ignite. Creative writing, along with my artwork, has been a mainstay for me ever since - particularly during challenging years of chronic illness.
Blue-Grey Island is my third novel and the one I felt confident to publish.
It took me ten years to eventually finish and edit the story, the central character - Ralph - having ‘appeared’ in my mind with no prior thought. I had not specifically set out to write a novel about dementia, but the first draft of the story - with all of the defining features of Ralph’s life history and his inner world - seemed to unfold spontaneously.
The direction the novel took me in required a certain amount of research, however the central theme of the loss of what is construed as meaningful language (in severe dementia) developed organically within the story. This is not a novel that is grounded in what we specifically know about dementia but a story that grew from a bond within my imagination with the character of Ralph.
Sadly - and perhaps ironically - my father died a short time before the final edit of the novel. Unbeknown to me, he had possibly suffered from vascular dementia the year leading up to his death. This experience of loss - and witnessing what my father went through - galvanised me to finally publish the novel; having strengthened my original view of how the external world might be experienced by a dementia patient. Ralph, I believe, is representative of any human being who faces this devastating condition.