What do we know about sheep?
So I used those wonderful two words that writers love: What if? What if I wrote about a girl who wanted to be a sheep farmer, it was World War II and her very Victorian father thought that it wasn’t women’s work. I could then use many of the amusing incidents and anecdotes my family had experienced living this life, but write it as fiction. Snag number one: running a smallholding with a few sheep and a couple of dozen hens didn’t qualify me to write knowledgeably about running a proper sheep farm, let alone during WWII, so I would need to do considerable research.
I began by interviewing Cumbrian farmers, who are a breed apart. Stoic, strong, taciturn, and distrustful of strangers, particularly of people who have not lived in the Lake District for three generations. It’s not that they are unfriendly, only that they’re more used to the company of themselves and their animals rather than a nosy, would-be author. At this point in my career having published only short stories, articles, and 5 Mills and Boon historicals, the prospect of a full-length saga was daunting. And I’d never done an interview in my life.
When I rang the first name on my list, a farmer out in the Langdales, I spoke first to his wife to ask if he would see me. ‘Happen’, she said, which I took as a yes. To be on the safe side I took my husband with me as he was used to dealing with Lakeland farmers, and it worked like a charm. I asked the farmer a question, and he told David the answer. I was so nervous I didn’t even dare to switch on the brand new tape recorder I’d taken with me, so I scribbled notes like mad, and then even more later. I didn’t make that mistake again, but he was marvellous. He took me through his farming year, explained everything most carefully, and showed me pictures of his dogs. Not his family, his dogs. All the farmers I interviewed did that. It’s a nonsense to say farmers don’t care about their working dogs. Mr G’s dog appeared in the book, much to his delight, although the accident the fictional dog suffered was far more dramatic to that of the real dog, even if it had the same outcome. And no, I can’t say anymore without spoiling it.
So how did I go about selling it? I met an agent at a weekend conference and told him all about my idea, and he asked to see it when it was finished. It took 9 months, just like a baby. Weeks later, I got The Call. There were offers from three publishers and I went with Hodder & Stoughton, now part of the Hatchette group. I loved writing this series of books, now available in ebook on Amazon, etc. Selling Luckpenny Land on a fantastic three book contract deal proved to me that persistence pays. I was on a high. What could go wrong? Well, everything, that’s what. It’s called Life.
Now available as an ebook. Buy it from Amazon.