Article by Anne Stormont
Anne Stormont lives in the Scottish Highlands and writes contemporary women’s fiction. She describes it as Romance Plus. So yes, there’s a romantic love element , but the main characters are also facing life-changing situations and dealing with all sorts of mid-life challenges. Her protagonists may be middle-aged, but they’re still capable of thinking, changing, making mistakes, and falling in love. They show there is life post fifty.
Hello, my name is Anne and I’m a writer. I do love saying that about myself and I still find it hard to believe. I didn’t publish my first novel until I was 54, but now, five years and two novels later, I am a writer. Yes, in some ways I wish I’d done it sooner, but I think it actually happened at the right time for me. Apart from anything else, being in my fifties, meant I had plenty of life experience to inspire me.
Writing since childhood
I’ve written stories since I was a child. I began by making up stories, complete with illustrations, to tell to my four little sisters. Then I wrote plays for me and my friends to act out. There’s rarely been a time in my life when I’ve not been making up and writing down stories. But, because I was busy being a school teacher as well as a wife and mother, it was easy to blame my busyness for not just getting on and writing my first novel.
It took a brush with mortality in my forties, in the form of a cancer diagnosis, to finally force me to stop procrastinating. Realising that I was just like everyone else and not going to live forever, I did a deal with fate. I promised that if I survived, I would get on and write. Fate kept its side of the deal and so did I. Yes, it took ten years but those ten years were very much an apprenticeship learning the craft of writing. I attended courses, was accepted onto the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers Scheme (RNANWS), joined an online writers forum where rookie writers could share their work and get useful peer reviews and, boy, did I learn a lot. It was the positive feedback that I received from the writing professionals at the RNANWS that gave the courage to go for publication.
Change of Life was published at the beginning of 2010. It’s set in Edinburgh and tells the story of Rosie and Tom, whose twenty year marriage is threatened by illness, betrayal and a newly discovered, but long time secret. It was followed in 2014 by Displacement. This story is set in the Hebrides and in the Middle East and brings together Rachel and Jack, two very different characters, with lots and lots of personal baggage.
It was after the second book that I reached one of those forks in the path of life. I was 58. I’d built a small but loyal readership and I wanted to write more, lots more. I wanted to make a new career for myself as an author. And so, in the summer of 2014, I made the decision to leave teaching and to become a full time writer. I’m so glad I did. I loved my work as a primary school teacher but it felt like the time was right for a change.
I got slightly sidetracked in 2015 and published a children’s novel, The Silver Locket, under the name of my writing alter-ego, Anne McAlpine. This had been inspired by an idea I got while visiting the Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre in Inverness with my pupils when they were learning about the Jacobites. While we re-enacted scenes from the battle I got the ‘what if’ idea. What if some children from the twenty-first century were to find themselves back in 1746 and with a mission to save Bonnie Prince Charlie?
The Silver Locket led to me being invited to be part of the Skye Book Festival and being invited to do school and library visits to talk to my younger readership. All great fun.
Having got that idea out of my system I’m now back writing for my older readers. I’m currently working on the sequel to Displacement.
No regrets about my change of life
I’ve no regrets about my change of life. I’ve always been a fan of taking the road less travelled. I very much live by the maxim that you only regret the things you didn’t do. Yes, it was risky, not least financially, but it’s been so worth it. It’s really never too late. What matters is if the time’s right for you to make a change.
My fifties have been eventful. I got my health back, came through two bouts of depression, got my gall bladder out, I travelled – including to Israel-Palestine, I moved house twice, I was promoted at work, I became a grandmother twice, I rode pillion on my husband’s motor bike for the first time, took up yoga…and oh yes, became a writer. And now I’m looking forward to turning sixty next year.
Yes, getting older has its downsides, but one of its great advantages is all the experience we’ve gained, and that experience should give us courage to just go for it, make the changes we dream of. If it doesn’t work out, we know we’ve bounced back before, and we can do so again. And if not now, then when?
Anne has her online hub at her blog http://putitinwriting.me where you can find out more about her and her books. The books are all available as paperbacks and as e-books and can be bought online and in bookshops.