Michelle Willingham

Michelle Willingham

Michelle Willingham

I was born in Blackpool after the local maternity hospital in Liverpool was blitzed. The first girl after two boys, Ronald and Donald. Eighteen months later my sister Irene was born in the front parlour of the family terrace house in Liverpool. In 1946 my father Stan, a plasterer, returned from the war and it was he who introduced me to the joys of storytelling and taught me the alphabet from a sign-writer's book. The house had no running hot water. Mam, May, cooked meals on the fire and in the side oven, the lavatory was down the yard and until I was seven I would creep up in the dark to bed, as we had no electricity. (All grist to the mill of a saga writer.) There was definitely no money to spare for books. Fortunately I soon discovered the library. In 1953 I won a scholarship to Liverpool Girl's College. My only claim to fame was that I fell off a wall during lunchtime and fractured my skull and spine. I lost a whole term's schooling and would like to blame that for only obtaining two passes at 0 level G.C.E in English Lit and History but the truth was that I met John in the Lido cinema and dreamed my way through classes. I wanted to be a writer but didn't believe working class girls could attain to such heights, besides Mam needed the money I could earn straightaway, so I took the first job offered and worked as a cash clerk for Littlewoods where I learnt to type, a skill for which I am eternally grateful. In 1964 I married John, passed my English Language 0 level at the Liverpool Institute's evening classes and bought a second hand Underwood typewriter. In 1980 when my youngest son Daniel was three, my beloved Dad died and I suffered from nervous anxiety for a couple of years and lost my confidence. A vicar's wife who had done some broadcasting on Radio Merseyside was interested in writing and encouraged me to have a go. First time in print was the church magazine and I became its editor, as well as joining Crosby Writers Group. Encouraged by John who bought me a second-hand desk and provided the paper, as well as members of the club, I began the hard slog to get published. After numerous rejections, the magazine, My Weekly, accepted my first article in December 1982 called CHRISTMAS CUSTOMS AROUND THE WORLD. I went on to write similar kinds of articles as well as personal experiences of a humorous kind. But after coming second in a Novel Opening Competition I decided to have a go at an historical romance set in the Middle Ages. Research started in the Children's Library with the LIVING IN A CASTLE kind of book. After lots of research, several rejections and loads of rewriting I eventually made it with Mills & Boon and wrote another four for them before trying my hand at a Liverpool based family saga. Another hard slog and after gaining an agent and a word processor, Piatkus Books accepted A SPARROW DOESN'T FALL for hardback. Since then despite enormous changes in publishing and the market place, several setbacks, a change of agents and publishers, I continue to write. Each time I finish a book, it is with a sigh of satisfaction and a niggle of worry - will my agent and publisher like it? And can I come up with the ideas for another. Fortunately so far yes!

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