I've written a novel.
There, I've admitted it. I've not talked about it here before - partly because the whole process has been so tortuous that only someone mildly obsessed with it (as I have been) could have stuck with it. But - as it won't be long before it sees the light of day - I'll tell you a bit of its story.
Some of you may have read Over the Hill. Some of you may recall me driving round New Zealand in a campervan as big as a bungalow with good-to-know-Cath. We spent one night in Hokitika - which is one of the bleakest places I've ever been. Once a gold town, the streets are still lined with banks and jewellers, but there's almost nobody there. I can't blame them: the wind blows from the Antarctic and the sea is wild and dangerous.
We went to the museum to get out of the cold, and found memorabilia from the gold rush days. There, among the vignettes (almost all about burly men who had come to find treasure) was the story of Barbara Weldon. She had been born in Ireland in the 1830s, made her way to Liverpool and from there to Australia. She was deported from Melbourne to New Zealand for 'obscene language in a public place' and ended up here. She was, from all accounts, quite a character - well known in the Courts (she had countless fines and short terms of imprisonment) but was also hugely popular. She died tragically (I've not fictionalises the way she died so I'll not give you details).
She intrigued me. I had chosen to come to the other side of the world. I'd already had an adventure or two, even though I had the privileges of modern transport and communications. What had brought her here, on her own, to the (being brutal about it) arse end of nowhere - in the nineteenth century? What adventures had she had along the way? Did she have lovers? Children?
I couldn't let go of her. And so, slowly, I have made up her story. This novel is fiction: so little is known about her that her biography would be little more than two hundred words. I've changed her first name (but kept the Weldon - it's a Protestant name, which gave me clues as to her origins in Ireland). I've wallowed in research, and in writing, and editing, and rewriting - and it has taken forever. But the time has come to send her on her way.
Watch this space. The Planter's Daughter is almost ready for take off.