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I was getting ready to research my tenth novel, which with the help of my Facebook readers I’d decided should pivot around the theme of domestic abuse. It was a subject I’d touched on briefly once before, when I wrote a short novella as one of the first Quick Reads called ‘Woman Walks into a Bar’. To this day this remains one of the pieces of work which I am most proud of.
So I posted on my Facebook page asking if anyone had any personal experiences of domestic abuse, and any stories they might be willing to share with me in confidence.
I was shocked and amazed by the response; there were more than 200 emails waiting in my inbox the next day. Each story I read was horrific and frightening in its own way, giving me an insight into the lives of many women, lives that all too often remain hidden. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone – well-educated, wealthy women are just as likely to suffer as women from working class backgrounds - but the one thing all those women had in common was that they were survivors. After years of being mentally and physically beaten down, they had somehow managed to find the emotional strength to break free and start over to live again, with verve, humour, energy and determination. They are all heroines.
Writing ‘Runaway Wife’ was a challenging process, finding the balance between light and dark, humour and sadness is always a difficult and precarious balancing act, but more than that I wanted to create a character in Rose, that would do all those stories justice. It was a book that took me to some dark places, but it's also a book about so much more than surviving abuse; it's about maternal love, friendship, romance, community and courage. And it also allowed me to explore my feelings about my own relationship with my estranged father. In ‘Runaway Wife’ I imagined a scenario where a father and daughter became involved in each other’s lives again. I poured my heart and soul into it, and it really made an impact in my life.
About a year after it was published, I had received such a lot of positive feedback from readers that it clearly had meant something to, I decided that I want to do something that might help other women find that inner courage, and change their lives. All of the people that wrote to me, when I was first researching ‘Runaway Wife’ were on the other side of that difficult journey, but there are thousands of women who are trapped inside an abusive relationship, right now.
So I re-published a novella, ‘Woman Walks Into A Bar,’ which I had writing some years before as an ebook and ever since I have been donating 100% of my proceeds from every digital sale, to the domestic abuse charity Refuge.
The chances are that you know someone, or perhaps you are someone, who is an abusive relationship, because it’s a problem that is so common that everyone of us will be touched by it in someway. If it is you, or if you are worried about a relative or a friend, reach out to them, and get advice. One small step is all it takes to get you, or a person you care about, back on the road towards a life of freedom and happiness. Sometimes running away is actually about being the bravest you can be.