A few years ago, I started writing books. I write under the name, Annie Cook. I’ve written six (soon to be seven) in a series of connected novels centred around a ‘magic’ holiday cottage in the Lake District. Discombobulated people are unwittingly drawn there to heal from life traumas. The books centre loosely around vibrational healing – the power of specific earth-generated frequencies concentrated in certain places – that can help the human brain and body get back on an even keel.
You know how some places you want to run away from screaming, but others… well, you just feel like you want to simply sit down and never leave. They feed your soul somehow, in ways you can’t describe. Yes, it’s exactly that; vibrational energies that influence our behaviours and feelings. Teapot Cottage, where these stories are based, is a place that soothes the soul and psyche.
I’ve only just dared to self-publish the first book No Small Change at sixty-three! I’m nervous and scared but excited and proud too. I have finally found the courage to really use my voice. I dithered for a couple of years because as I’ve got older, I’ve lost a lot of confidence in myself and there is still that great big gremlin sitting on my shoulder, whispering in my ear do you really think your stories are any good? This wasn’t helped by three rejections from agents. I told myself that Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull (one of the best books ever written I think) was rejected more than 30 times before someone took a punt on it. However, I knew I couldn’t face 10 times the number of rejections so I went down the self-publishing route.
Finding my voice was a long time coming. Would anyone really want to hear what I had to offer? I must have asked myself that question a thousand times! In an age where youth is prized, and ageing women somehow become less ‘valuable’ and visible in society, I felt it was time to speak out, on behalf of all of us ageing ‘grumpy, lumpy old frumps’ (as much of the world seems to see us) to remind that world – or as much of it as my little book will reach – that we are relevant, beautiful plus our experience and wisdom is worth something. We do not deserve to be written off as invisible and irrelevant. Oh, far from it!
I’m a psychologist, by trade. I’m also a Pet Bereavement Counsellor, Sleep Disorder Treatment Specialist and Vibrational Healer. I use the power of earth-produced frequencies to help restore a person’s natural balance. This triggers the brain and body to do what they are supposed to do – self-heal from a wide variety of ailments and injuries without the help of synthetic drugs. I’ve seen results and these ancient practices work. They are as valid today as they have ever been, throughout the centuries.
I thought why not write a book about that, and put it at the centre of the battles men and women face as the ageing process grabs hold of them and starts tossing them around. Since there are already so many serious self-help books out there around age, I decide to try and pick something that could help and make it light-hearted.
I made a start and boy did I end up having some fun and frustration with my main protagonist, the menopausally-deranged Adie Bostock! I had a very clear plot and plan for her but as many writers find out – somewhere along the way their characters develop of their own accord. They morph into entirely different little beasts and go charging off in entirely different directions. There were times, in this process, where I felt like I’d lost control of Adie completely, and was running to catch up with her, as she pinged around doing things and making decisions I hadn’t foreseen when we both started out together.
This is the undiluted joy of writing. Sometimes, I was so enmeshed with Adie and her charming new friends I would literally forget to eat. I’d start writing at nine in the morning and the next time I lifted my head it would be ten past three, and my dog would be cross-legged behind the back door! Adie captured me completely, and I grew to love her as she so spectacularly unfolded in front of me. She went from being a concept in my head to a firm friend in it.
My other main protagonist, Mark Raven, is also fifty-something, widowed, becoming ever-more aware of his own advancing ‘decrepitude’ and fearful of taking another chance on love. He is delightful, in fact as his character developed, I started liking him more and more. I think I’m a little bit in love with him now, if I’m honest. He is from Lancashire (like I am, originally) and his down-to-earth take on life is a combination of various different members of my extended family, and other people I’ve known. His eye-wateringly broad accent comes courtesy of my grandmother Annie who I struggled to understand most of the time! Mark is often hilarious (just like my grandma was), but I hope I have conveyed his very real struggles in coming to terms with loss and ageing as well.
I have a full and rich life, personally and professionally. All of my career and life experience put me in a great place to write about what I know, and I am literally bursting at the seams with snippets of information I can use to bring my characters to life.
And that’s the thing. Writing what you know is the key to making it work. As the saying goes writing what you know unleashes the flow. Starting from a place of knowledge makes the characters more authentic.
I’m editing book two at the moment and I’ve just added a scene where one of the characters is sitting in a restaurant while a furious Italian chef starts swearing at the top of his voice and upends an entire two-layer plate cart before hurling more plates at a customer who is trying to run away. That actually happened last week while I was having dinner with my husband at a restaurant in Genoa! We were up to our ankles in smashed crockery, but all we could do was laugh, as the chef did himself, just minutes later.
Nothing is off-limits. Hilarious things happen and they end up as light relief in books that deal with serious topics because we can’t be serious all the time. I think we have to be able to laugh at life. I’m actually laughing with delight and disbelief at how one book has somehow morphed into seven! Did I see that coming? Hell no! All it came down to was that once I’d started, I wasn’t sure how to stop – so I didn’t!
I also think that maybe I wasn’t supposed to write these books before now. I wasn’t ready to do it for the right reasons. A lot of authors write for the income. I have written to use my voice on behalf of various fictional underdogs that represent real people with real struggles. For me, it’s not about making money, it’s about being validated and hoping to make a small but positive difference in an increasingly difficult world. If the books don’t sell, I haven’t lost anything except for the cost of publishing. But if they do, and I get reviews that suggest people have enjoyed them, that’s my goal achieved. As Mark Raven would say:Aye, lass, that’ll do.
You can buy No Small Change here – https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=annie+cook+no+small+change&ref=nb_sb_noss
No Small Change Excerpt
The trouble with sat-navs, Adie fumed, is that they all-too-often lied. This one, the wretched stupid thing, was doing exactly that right now. It was lying through its teeth, or at least it would be if it actually had any teeth.
Somehow, through no mistake of her own – unless you counted blind obedience to a monotone-talking box attached with spit and a prayer to her windscreen as a ‘mistake’ – she’d managed to end up half a mile down an impossibly narrow, pothole-pitted dirt track. It looked like a road as far as the sat-nav was concerned, but it seemed to be leading precisely nowhere. As annoying and embarrassing as it was to have to admit it, Adrienne Elizabeth Bostock, menopausal mess and newly disowned wife and mother (not to mention pilloried social pariah) really did seem to have got herself well and truly lost.
With her teeth clenched and her mouth compressed in a grim line, Adie stopped the car and contemplated the massive, spiky, paint-gouging brambles that flanked the ever-tightening track before her. It had dwindled to little more than the width of a cycle trail already. How much further could she realistically go? And, of course, there was nowhere to turn around. So that meant reversing. Around stupid blind bends and bushes. All the way back to the stupid main road. Adie glanced at her watch, tried to ignore yet another surging, suffocating hot flush, and gritted her teeth even harder.
With a frustrated sigh, and swearing like a slaughterhouse worker under her breath, she graunched the gear stick into reverse and started inching backwards. And God alone knows how long this is going to take!
Adie had a simple but important goal; to get to her first-ever house-sitting job at a place called Teapot Cottage in a town called Torley before the owners left for the other side of the world. She forced down her rising panic and wracked her brains to figure out where she’d gone wrong with the satnav’s directions, but drew a blank. Instead, she took a couple of deep breaths and tried to hold on tightly to the inner voice of reason – the one that told her nobody would die if she was an hour or two late. In fact, the voice of reason insisted, if she was an hour or two late, nobody might notice what time she turned up at all, except maybe the dog, who was no doubt desperate to be fed, and poo’d-n-wee’d-n-walked, before what was left of the daylight finally faded.
She checked her watch again. It was twenty to four. She promised herself that if she hadn’t made sense of the directions in another twenty minutes, and assuming she had mobile phone reception in this God-forsaken place, she’d simply call her hosts, admit defeat, and ask for guidance.
She didn’t think that would upset them greatly. They’d seemed very relaxed overall, about the house-sitting arrangement. They’d happily given precise instructions on where to find the key to their cottage and, by default, access to all their worldly goods, in case they had already absconded to the other side of the world by the time she arrived. But Adie thought it would’ve been nice if she could have made an entrance while they were still around. They could then perhaps bimble off to Australia for Christmas with a bit of peace of mind, having left everything they held dear – quite bizarrely, in her opinion – in the hands of someone they’d actually managed to meet.
The house-sit had all seemed perfectly doable and reasonable earlier in the week, when the plans were being made over the phone. But now, thanks to her apparent inability to find the place, even with the help of technology, she was beginning to wonder if she’d made a disastrous decision in plunging headlong into an arrangement she was only halfway confident she could even pull off.
It doesn’t say much about my capabilities, does it, if I can’t even find the bloody house?
Adie was a very reluctant free agent, this Christmas. Since the family home had been put up for sale, her now ex-husband Bryan had gone off in whatever direction he’d decided on (Adie tried to tell herself she didn’t give a monkey’s), and all three of her children were doing their own thing too. Not a single one of them was even vaguely interested her plans, or including her in theirs. As much as she hated the idea, and had done everything she could to avoid it, she’d ended up facing Christmas alone.
Her first-born daughter Ruth, who was barely speaking to her anyway, was in Italy with her gorgeous Italian wife, the well-known dress designer Gina Giordano, and their little daughter Chiara. They normally did the big Italian family Christmas every second year, but various events, that included a recent pandemic, had derailed their plans more than once. Nobody could argue that it was well and truly time for Gina to go and reconnect with her people, and take her wife and daughter with her. Adie hadn’t wanted to infuriate Ruth and Gina, or a noisy bunch of excitable Italian in-laws, by asking them to change their arrangements for her, so she didn’t. After all, she was hardly in a position to ask for favours, especially over something as important as that. Knowing what the answer would have been, she’d decided that suffering in silence was infinitely preferable to being sworn at in Italian by the truly terrifying Gina.
If Ruth herself had suggested that they stick around to enable her abandoned, menopausally deranged mother to feel like someone cared enough to see her through her first Christmas alone, it would have been a different matter. But nothing was said, and Adie understood completely because plans are plans and her unfortunate position of ‘persona non grata’ within her family was, after all, her own stupid fault. But the timing really couldn’t have been any worse.
Adie’s younger daughter Teresa was also away, backpacking around the Sunshine Coast of Australia with a group of good friends she’d known since her school days. The date of their return home was open-ended. Teresa appeared to be in no rush to give up her freedom and join the workforce yet.
It was all fair enough, Adie knew. Ruth, Gina and Chiara needed time with their extended family, and Teresa deserved a chance to let her hair down before getting down to the business of deciding on her first career move. Adie’s now settled but once wayward (and some might have said morally bankrupt) son Matty was a little closer to home, in Epsom, having his first family Christmas with his new wife and even newer baby, but his plans hadn’t included her either.
“You do understand, don’t you, Mum? We’re just wanting to ‘nest’ this year on our own, for our first-ever Christmas in the new house. Why don’t we think about getting together for a family do next year, when Teresa, Ruth and Gina will all be here? We could even invite Dad, if things have settled down?”
Over my dead body, Adie had seethed at the time, as she’d struggled not to choke on her raspberry gin and tonic. Even now, the very thought of Bryan’s condescending presence inflicting an indelible memory-stain across any future family Christmas made her furious; so much so that she jammed her foot on the accelerator, shot abruptly backwards much faster than intended, and promptly smacked into a tree.