Saturday, September 30, 2017

Why on earth do writers write? Guest blogger Priscilla Masters

Born in Halifax (UK), the third of seven children adopted by an orthopaedic surgeon and his wife, a Classics graduate, Priscilla Masters has spent a lifetime nursing and started writing in the 1980s, securing her first publishing contract in 1994. She is the author of more than 30 crime novels, medical standalones, a series featuring DI Joanna Piercy and another set in the mediaeval town of Shrewsbury featuring coroner Martha Gunn. Her latest title is set in a secure psychiatric unit in Stoke on Trent and features forensic psychiatrist Claire Roget.

Now retired from nursing and recently widowed Priscilla Masters lives in the Staffordshire/Shropshire border. She has two sons and two grandsons.

Please visit her website:

I always feel embarrassed when this question is posed to me. No, I didn’t crawl out from my crib thinking, I’m going to be a writer. Neither did I spend my growing up days pondering the great novel I was one day going to pen.

So what triggered me?

It was a knee jerk reaction to a difficult question posed to me in the 1980s when I was a young mother of two very lively boys, whose husband came home for lunch every day. I had a large country house and garden to run with no home help and to top it all was running an antiques business. So who posed the question? A widowed aunt whose life, I suspect, had not lived up to her intellect and expectations.

The question? ‘What are you going to do with your life, Priscilla?’ (A sobering name which pulls me up short when used in full.)

I answered with what I considered to be the equivalent of a Stinger thrown in front of a stolen car. ‘Write a novel.’ No one ever challenges this lofty ambition. No one says, So where is it? Or Have you started or even When will it be finished? You can easily divert your response with secrecy and vague notions of keeping it all to yourself.

So how come the aunt followed up with, ‘So why haven’t you started?’

My response – admittedly a second knee jerk – ‘Because I can’t type.’

‘Pathetic,’ she said. Stung, as soon as she’d gone the very next day, I borrowed a manual typewriter and began to write. And write. I still haven’t stopped.

Write about what you know is the advice given. I was dealing with antiques so wrote about an antiques dealer. Better advice would have been, Write the sort of books you love reading. Which was and is crime fiction. The sole copy of the antiques manuscript was accidentally destroyed. The book was rewritten and finally published — but not until I’d had more than ten crime novels published.

So a word of advice.

Have ready answers in response to difficult questions.

Something better than, Write a novel.

Don’t write on a manual typewriter (Does anyone?) and fail to keep a copy. Yes, that’s exactly what I did!

Write about something you’re passionate (Yes I know it’s an overused word - apologies) about.

And finally enjoy the craft of moulding sentences, choosing words, giving your imagination free rein.

And good luck.


Marianne Wheelaghan said...

Good advice! Thanks :)

Sybil Johnson said...

Good advice. I write books that I'd like to read. Even if no one else likes them, at least I do!

Aline Templeton said...

Great post, Cilla! It's a question I sometimes ask myself, but I have accepted that if I want to be happy I don't have a choice.

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