Popular British historical fiction and mystery writer Valerie Anand brings past times and conundrums to life with fascinating characters, abundant detail and meticulous research in her twenty-one novels. In the U.S. she’s been known under her pen name Fiona Buckley for her historical mystery series set in the early years of Elizabeth I’s reign featuring Ursula Blanchard. Ms. Anand talked to me about her writing, love of history and feminist leanings from her South London home.
FAITH L. JUSTICE: Do you have writing in the blood ?
VALERIE ANAND: For me, writing is a natural function, like breathing. No one can do without breathing and I can’t do without writing. I don’t know why. It satisfies a very deep need. At the age of six, just after I had really learned to write, I suddenly announced that I was going to write books when I grew up and I actually started trying, then and there, on a piece of doubled over paper, with a red crayon. The best moments come when I am trying to transmit something subtle, or very deeply emotional and difficult to express, and feel, after much writing and re-writing that yes, that’s it, I’ve got it right at last, that’s it.
My father was a good teller of stories to small children and so was his aunt, my great aunt Clara. They both made up tales to amuse me. On the same side of the family, I had a cousin (now dead) who although a scientist, was also keen on books and wrote a couple of science fiction paperback novels.
Going back to my father; he loved words. He lost his parents when he was only 14 and after that was cared for by an uncle who, poor man, did his very best for his nephew, but not very successfully. He had apprenticed his own son to the drapery trade so he did the same for my dad. He gave his son and his ward exactly the same chance, in fact. But whereas his own son prospered, my father just loathed drapery. His love of words made him want to work with them – in any capacity. In the end he left the drapers, took to doing part-time proof-reading for national dailies and eventually became permanent. The drive to work with words must have been hugely powerful because he took that risk in the middle of the slump of the 1930s, and was very hard up – in fact unemployed – for a time. Because of that, his first engagement broke up. Luckily for me! He met and married my mother later on.
I was born in 1937, before the war. When war broke out and my father knew he would have to go into the forces, he gave up our rented home in Kent and left my mother and me with his Aunt Clara in Leatherhead, Surrey, just south of London. Dad went into the RAF where he was an Armourer, and we lived in my great aunt’s bungalow which was out of London, but still prone to a few bombs. I can remember being carried into the garden and seeing the glow in the sky, the night the City of London burned.
I can also remember the V1 doodlebugs very well indeed. We used to crouch in the hall of the bungalow, between the strongest walls of the house and away from windows, listening to the beastly things as they droned across the sky, and waiting for the engine to cut out. If it stopped overhead, we were all right, because momentum would carry it onwards. If it stopped before it got near, anything might happen. Fortunately, nothing ever did.
I grew up, didn’t go to university, joined a publishing house as a secretary but turned myself eventually into a trade journalist, specializing at first in business systems and equipment. Later on I became an industrial editor, and ran the house magazine first for Heals, the furniture retailer in Tottenham Court Road, and later for Matthew Hall, a big engineering group. They did everything from put the services into pharmaceutical plants and new office blocks to putting the topsides on oil platforms. It was very interesting.
Read Full Post »