Today I'm joined by fellow Romaniac, Debbie Fuller-White. Debbie and I have shared a room, many a giggle and a glass or two of wine. Now it's time for her to get a sensible grilling about being a Romaniac and the release of Romaniac Shorts...
Can you tell me about the infamous car journey on the day The Romaniacs started to meet?
Oh, Catherine, I’m giggling, just thinking about it. October 2011, the inaugural Festival of Romance at Watford, was the first time I met Celia, Laura and Lucie. Laura was staying at a different hotel and offered us a lift to ours after the gala dinner on the Saturday evening. I’d had … errm … a few to drink and was on top form. Such top form that when I got in the car, I turned to Laura and said, ‘Bye heck, it’s a bit chilly. Look at that, it’s zero degrees,’ to which she replied, ‘Debbie, that’s the speedometer. It’s actually zero miles per hour!’
Well, we laughed and guffawed until our sides ached and the tears streamed down our faces. Laura could hardly drive as she was almost bent double in hysterics. Back at the hotel, I promptly fell out of the car which set us all off again. After we said our goodbyes to Laura it must have taken fifteen minutes to get up to our rooms, we were still laughing so much. And when I got into my room, Lucie and Liz Crump had to knock on the wall to tell me to be quiet as I was still laughing in bed! You missed a classic Romaniac night out, Catherine. I think that night rather set the tone for what was to come from us all…
In the same year as meeting The Romaniacs you were runner-up in the New Talent Award. How has your writing progressed since then?
Honestly? The words snail and pace come to mind. I've had a tough couple of years with the breakup of my marriage of twenty-three years and subsequent divorce and house move last year. Then I've had lots of health problems. I simply haven’t been in the right frame of mind to write, or at least not to write anything of quality. However, for the first time in a long while, these last few months, I’m starting to see a way through. I've got a plan and a goal. I've spent too long ‘talking’ about writing and realised a dream is just a wish without a plan. I can make all the excuses in the world but it ain't going to get me that book deal. Writers write and that’s what I need to get on and do.
You recently attended an Arvon course. What did you gain from going?
Oh, where do I begin? My confidence back for starters. Thanks to two wonderful tutors (Kate Long and Simon Thirsk) and a great group of attendees, I found the muse again. Being away from the stresses and strains of day to day life I wrote more in the week than I had in two years. My distinct ‘voice’ had been lost for such a long time but a couple of the group said they thought I was like, ‘Catherine Cookson meets Stan Barstow.’ It summed up how I’d like to see myself and gave me a huge boost. It was this course that’s put me back on the right track and given me back my belief in myself.
I’ve heard you could have had a very different occupation involving shorts. Could you tell me about it?
Haha, yes. I was about eighteen and in a pub with my (then) boyfriend when a man and woman came up to me and asked if I’d ever thought about modelling as they thought I could be a bottom model, modelling jeans! It seemed a bit weird to me and anyway, my Nan (who brought me up) would have gone mad so I said I wasn't interested. A year or two later I found their business card in a drawer and someone told me it was a top modelling agency. I was never brave enough to pursue it but yes, maybe I could have modelled jeans, or knickers!
Tell us about the pieces you have in Romaniac Shorts?
I’d only ever done one short story before the Anthology but I enjoyed the process of writing a short and intend to have a go at writing some more. My two contributions couldn't be more different. ‘Baby Blue’ is rather dark. It’s a courtroom story about a lady who’s had several miscarriages then has a baby. I can’t say too much more as I might spoil it for anyone who wants to read it as there’s quite a twist. ‘Train of Thought’ came to me when I was on the train to the Romantic Novelists’ winter party. It was two separate couples – one a young, flirty pair who were clearly besotted and the other, an older couple – and I wondered what their relationships were like behind closed doors.
You suggested supporting a Dyslexia charity. What does it mean to you to be able to support them in this way?
We had our own charities that we each supported but I thought Dyslexia was one that might touch us all and people wishing to support us might relate to easier. My eldest son had epilepsy and a mild learning difficulty so he never found reading or writing easy. For a long time he was labelled lazy or ‘thick’ and it wasn’t until he was in secondary school that he got the correct diagnosis and support. The charity has done well to influence people’s perceptions that if someone can’t spell or read well they are in some way ‘backward’ or ‘thick.’ It’s all to do with different sides of the brain working. My son is very intelligent and much better doing practical work to academic. And look at the likes of Sir Richard Branson, Kirsty Allsop, Theo Pathitis, Jamie Oliver – they are all celebrity dyslexics and it hasn’t stopped them achieving their dreams!
Thank you so much for joining me, Debbie. It was lovely to learn more about you and I'm looking forward to getting together again and being less sensible.