I’m delighted to welcome Alison Knight to the blog today. Alison is an author, a creative writing teacher, an editor and much more. Here’s her story.
WHAT MY PARENTS TAUGHT ME
They say that our early years influence our adult beliefs. I’m grateful that an important lesson I learned from my parents was that I could achieve anything in my life, so long as I was prepared to work for it. Some things would come easy, others would take a lot of hard work. But the belief that it was possible was the important thing.
That belief has helped me throughout my life and continues to do so. I instilled it in my children and grandchildren. It has helped me create a good life in which I am happy and fulfilled. It hasn’t always been easy, but believing it helped me to keep going in the darkest of times.
I BELIEVED I WOULD BE A WRITER
I always wanted to be a writer, but it wasn’t something careers advisors would encourage for a girl from a working class background in London in the 1970s. So I took a business and secretarial course and embarked on a career as a legal executive. I got married, had children, and got bogged down by the everyday pressures of family, mortgage payments and work. I still dreamed of writing though, and took evening classes, joined writing groups and kept trying to write the perfect novel.
LEARNING MY CRAFT
I’d decided at age twenty-five that I would be published by the time I was thirty. I now wonder whether some omnipotent spirit had been listening at the time and decided I needed to learn some hard lessons first. Either that, or said spirit had misheard me, because it actually took me thirty years to get my first book into print!
When I kept getting rejections, I realised I needed to learn more about the craft of writing. In my forties, I went to university for the first time. I was a part-time student. My children were still at home and I was still working full-time. It was a struggle, but I loved it and I learned an enormous amount about both myself and the craft of writing. At the age of fifty-four, I had a first class degree and an MA in Creative Writing and within a year I got my first three book deal.
THE BOOK I WAS BORN TO WRITE
Even though I had many disappointments along the way, I couldn’t give up. I knew that there was one story that I simply had to write – about what happened to my family in the late 1960s. It was a tragedy that affected so many, but I knew that I was the only one who could tell it. I see my years of struggle and study, and my first three books as my apprenticeship. They helped me to gain confidence as a writer, to find my voice so that I could write the book I was born to write.
Writing MINE, my family’s story, took years. I wrote it, sent it out, got rejected, rewrote it, and sent it out again. I had so many rejections. I couldn’t give up but I didn’t know what to do next.
ENCOURAGEMENT FROM AN UNEXPECTED SOURCE
By some quirk of fate, I ended up working alongside a woman called Bryony Evens who had once worked for an agent. Her claim to fame was that she picked up Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone from a slush pile and persuaded her boss to represent JK Rowling. If you want to hear her talking about it on YouTube, see this link. Her belief in that story changed the world!
Bryony was one of the first people to read my manuscript of MINE. She gave me some valuable advice and told me it was a good book. Given her history, I was very happy to believe her! It still took several years to get the final version of MINE published, but her encouragement – added to the beliefs that my parents instilled in me – kept me going.
MY STORY IS TOLD
In 2020, Darkstroke Books published MINE on what would have been my mother’s 90th birthday. After a lifetime of striving for this moment, it finally happened. I had believed I could do it. I needed to do it. I wanted the world to see what I saw, to know the people I knew. I believe I have done them justice. I believe they would be proud of me.
BUT WHAT NEXT?
That belief that I could do anything so long as I am prepared to work for it has kept me strong in many dark times and enabled me to achieve so much in my life. I now believe that I’m not destined to be sitting on my laurels in the next phase of my life because I have a lot more stories to tell. They may not be as personal or as powerful as the events depicted in MINE, but rather they are stories that explore the human condition in all its glory. I want to make people laugh and cry, to challenge the reader to put themselves in my characters’ shoes. My next book, THE LEGACY, was inspired by a scene in MINE and explores how two people respond to an unexpected inheritance. Is it a blessing or a curse? It will be published by Darkstroke Books on 4th May 2021 if you’d like to find out!
Thank you, Miriam, for letting me talk about my belief here. As you said in your recent post, belief can give you confidence, which is a powerful tool that helps us in so many ways.
ALISON KNIGHT, AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY
Alison has been a legal executive, a registered childminder, a professional fund-raiser and a teacher. She has travelled the world – from spending a year as an exchange student in the US in the 1970s and trekking the Great Wall of China to celebrate her fortieth year and lots of other interesting places in between.
In her mid-forties Alison went to university part-time and gained a first-class degree in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and an MA in the same subject from Oxford Brookes University, both while still working full-time. Her first book was published a year after she completed her master’s degree.
Her first novel with Darkstroke Books, Mine, is a domestic drama set in 1960s London based on real events in her family. She is the only person who can tell this particular story. Exploring themes of class, ambition and sexual politics, Mine shows how ordinary people can make choices that lead them into extraordinary situations.
Her next book, The Legacy, is a drama set in 1960s London, exploring how we don’t always get what we want and how we shouldn’t count our chickens before they’re hatched.
Alison teaches creative and life-writing, runs workshops and retreats with Imagine Creative Writing Workshops as well as working as a freelance editor. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association. She lives in Somerset, within sight of Glastonbury Tor.
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS
Next week’s post in this series will be from Jo Fenton. Remember, belief doesn’t have to be connected to writing, and these posts don’t even have to be about true stories.
If you want to take part, do let me know via Contact above or social media.
Remember my new novel, Style and the Solitary, a murder mystery loosely based on Beauty and the Beast. Both stories are about the power of belief.
Style and the Solitary launches on 26th April and the ebook can be pre-ordered now.