Rita Wilkinson tells how she began her book as a little project on her computer and how throughout her lifetime she always wanted to write but until now, never had the confidence …
Rita Wilkinson Age 69 living in Darlington Co Durham.
Book name, publication date, who book is published by.
Three feet of Lightning, published June 2013 by Hayloft Publishing Ltd Kirby Stephen Cumbria.
What is the book about?
This is my first book and a heartwarming tale of the Longstaffe family who have farmed Herdwick sheep on the Cumbrian Fells for generations. The current Longstaffe family living at Felix Hill Farm overlooking the beautiful Lake Ullswater are Jack and his wife Margaret.
Margaret is in very poor health and due to the children’s schooling and hobbies taking them away from the farm an extra pair of hands is needed. When a terrible tragedy befalls the family it is not long after that Margaret loses her fight for life. Ted Thornton the new farm hand is accepted into this very close family like a son who becomes their rock during their times of grief.
Ted falls in love with the farmer’s daughter Muriel who is eleven years younger than him and fears he will lose his job if they were ever to suspect his feelings for their daughter. It’s after her mother passes away that Ted reveals his feelings to Muriel which she reciprocates and after much deliberation they find the courage to tell her Jack. Overjoyed the remaining family finally find happiness once again or have they? Several years later Muriel has a strange premonition and disaster again follows.
She finds the strength to cope while her beloved husband recuperates and after many months the farm returns to normal. The Cumbrian towns and places named in the book are genuine places and will take you on a wonderful journey through parts of the Cumbrian lake district. All of the characters are pure fiction.
What gave you the idea to write a book?
I started writing the book early in 2011 as I could see a lovely family story rising from this beautiful area in the North West of England.
How long did it take to write?
It took me just over a year to write even though I was retired I only spent a couple of hours in the evenings working on it. As it was my first attempt at writing for possible publication I was concerned that I had all the factual detail correct and therefore did have to do quite a lot of research on Herdwick farming, vets, schools, and hobbies etc. As there are several important dates mentioned in the book these had to be exact.
What did friends and family think?
My family were very surprised but very proud of my achievement.
How did you get published?
I went straight to a publisher. As the book is based in Cumbria I googled Cumbrian publishers and Hayloft came up. I contacted them in my final chapter and they asked me to send the manuscript as soon as I had completed the book. After reading it I met my publisher in Kirby Stephen and she was happy to publish my book for me. Under the circumstances I did not need to find a literary agent as the first publisher I sent my book to was happy to go ahead with it. In fact, the whole experience has turned out much easier than I could ever have dreamed of.
Any advice for other book writers?
Don’t ever say ‘I can’t’ I for the most part of my life had a desire to write a book but always said ‘I can’t’ After doing some family history research I became so addicted to my computer and felt I had to find something constructive to do on it. Hence I began writing. First a little bit of family history with family photos of people and places for my two daughters then I began the book.
At the age of 69 I suppose you would say I am elderly though I feel far from it as I am very active in both body and mind. Having seen my first novel published I am now writing my second which already exceeds my expectations. About three quarters of the way through it there are already over 10.000 more words than in Three feet of Lightning, so you can see how addictive it becomes. One of my proudest achievements as a result of my novel comes from HRH The Duchess of Cornwall. I gifted the book to her as I know Prince Charles is a great lover of Cumbria and its farming community and I now have a personally signed thank-you letter in my possession from the Duchess.
Have you had publicity for your book?
Book reviews have been in The Keswick Reminder Newspaper, The Darlington Northern Echo and The Lady Magazine. I have done three book signings and a book read both in Cumbria and in Darlington and have been asked to speak about my experience to some women’s groups.