Thursday, 22 March 2018
A GRANDMOTHER has won an award for her debut novel.
Former accountant Julie Roberts. of The Ridgeway, Caversham, was presented with the Reading Writers’ Don Louth Award last week.
The 71-year-old was nominated for the annual prize after releasing her first book, The Hidden Legacy, which tells the story of Meredith Sanders, a young artist who inherits a gallery in London from her guardian in the early 19th century.
She soon discovers he was an art fraudster and becomes embroiled in the efforts to track down a missing Turner painting before it is due to be exhibited at the Royal Academy’s summer exhibition. Mrs Roberts spent two years researching and writing the story before securing a publishing deal with Accent Press.
She decided to pursue a literary career after attending a creative writing workshop at Chiltern Edge School in Sonning Common following her retirement in 2003.
She joined Reading Writers, the town’s oldest writers’ group, and has since written four volumes of short stories along with fellow members Eve Wibberley, Eileen Dixon, Vera Morris and Elaine Douglas, who all live in or near Caversham.
She said: “My entire working life revolved around figures and reports but once I’d retired I never wanted to see a calculator again.
“People said I should get a part-time job but I didn’t like the idea — I wanted to try something completely different.
“I thought I’d try the writing workshop and as soon as I stepped out afterwards I knew I’d found a new career.”
Mrs Roberts, who lives with her husband Tony, began researching her novel book by visiting local libraries before shifting her focus to London.
She looked into different aspects of daily life in the capital in the Regency era and visited the Royal Academy to learn more about its history.
She also visited Somerset House, where the academy was based at the time, to find out about the building and looked through the archives at the Houses of Parliament to understand the political developments of the era.
Mrs Roberts said: “I first looked on the internet but, of course, you’ve got to be very careful because there’s a lot of unreliable information out there.
“It gave me a good overview before I started looking at primary sources.
“It was quite a detailed process and took almost as long as the actual writing but everyone I approached was incredibly helpful, which made it a lot easier.
“I tried to work at it every day, although life sometimes got in the way. I would usually get up at 6am so that I had a couple of hours to work before making a pot of tea.
“I couldn’t believe it when Accent wrote back to say they’d accepted me. I came racing down the stairs to tell my husband and he congratulated me.”
The Don Louth Award, named after a former chairman of Reading Writers, is given to the member who has achieved the most in the past year.
Members vote for the winner and the plate is presented by Mr Louth’s widow Jackie.
Mrs Roberts said: “I was very honoured and slightly shocked to win it but I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved.”
She is now writing a follow-up, provisionally called A Tangle of Secrets, a mystery set in New York and London in 1822.
23 January 2017
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