Article by Bethany Askew
Bethany Askew talks about achieving her ambition to become a published author following her retirement, and the story behind her latest novel, Poppy’s Seed.
I am sixty-one. Since retiring from work four years ago I have devoted my time to achieving my life’s ambition of being a published author. I have written five novels: The Time Before, The World Within, Out of Step, Counting the Days and Poppy’s Seed. I have also written a short story and I write poetry. I have two websites: www.bethanyaskew.co.uk and www.onactiveservice.co.uk
I have another idea for a new novel, and also another short story, this one for the young adult market.
I am married and I live in Somerset.
My latest novel Poppy’s Seed is based on a dream I had one night. It was very vivid. I remembered every detail. The moment I woke I up I scribbled it down so I wouldn’t forget it.
It was about a couple who moved to Lyme Regis and met a girl who changed their lives, and whilst causing havoc in their relationship, she also showed them things about themselves and each other that they never knew before. Only the ending was uncertain.
The characters were very real in my mind, particularly the girl who had to be unique, a free-thinking, free-spirited girl, living by no rules and knowing no boundaries. Initially she wasn’t an artist, she just ran a shop. I had a very clear idea of what type of shop it had to be. I didn’t really know why the couple had moved to Lyme Regis, but when my husband and I retired and moved house it became clear to me that I could write with experience of this difficult time.
My stories evolve
I’m not one of those writers who plans their books chapter by chapter. My stories evolve as I go along. My ideas for characters change and even when the characters are fixed I find they sometimes do things I don’t expect and I have to re-think everything. Gradually, however, the book came together and I added a little mystery background to the girl’s story to draw the reader along. I also added supplementary characters, in particular a step-daughter as I am interested in the effects on a relationship of divorce and re-marriage. Other minor characters also allow the main protagonists’ back stories to be told.
In the book the reader hears Peter’s and Emily’s voices, sees their actions and eavesdrops on their internal monologues, but the other main protagonist, Poppy, intentionally remains an enigma, her actions and motives never explained or justified. The character of Poppy is drawn from reading biographies of artists and writers such as Vita Sackville-West and Vanessa Bell.
My novels do not attempt to resolve any issues. Rather, they are a “slice of life”. My characters are real people with real failings, making mistakes as we all do.
This is a contemporary novel that deals with the problems of many modern families, including the effect of children and stepchildren on a couple; the balance of power between two people; and ultimately the compromises made to keep a relationship going.
Bethany answers 3 questions on Life over 50
What do you enjoy most about your life since turning 50?
I enjoy the confidence my age has given me and the feeling that I can achieve anything I set out to do.
What is at the top of your list of things you would like to do next?
Top of my list of things to do next: publish another novel!
Your top tip to be Fabulous over 50
Age is just a number! Feel confident in your own body. You don’t have to conform to society’s idea of beauty!