Debut author Caroline England was introduced to “raw, human emotion” while working as a solicitor. “Whether dealing with crime, divorce or professional negligence, a solicitor is like a counsellor,” she says. It was this that inspired her novel Beneath the Skin – out tomorrow…
I live in a leafy Manchester suburb called Didsbury with my solicitor husband, my three daughters and three cats. We’ve just finished washing-up after dinner. I’m at the laptop, my husband is trying to work out how his new iPhone works and number one daughter is filing the million or so photographs she took on her travels to South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Daughter number two is at a friend’s birthday BBQ in our village and number three is at Leeds Festival, celebrating her GCSE results.
At eight years of age, I was sent to a boarding school, so having my family close is important to me. However, as this summer draws to a close, things are about to change. Number one daughter will be leaving home and starting a new job and life in London, number two will return to her studies at the University of Newcastle and my baby will begin life as a sixth-former. Those wise old owls who say time flies are absolutely right.
I’ve been writing for around ten years now. By profession I’m a solicitor and I began my first novel about the trials and tribulations of – surprisingly – a young female solicitor whilst sat at my desk (but don’t tell anyone!). When I left the law not long after, I secretly wrote rough first drafts of some novels, short stories and poetry, but I began to take it more seriously about five years ago when an editor read one of my short pieces and offered to publish a short story collection. The positive feedback I received gave me the confidence to come out of the writer’s closet, go back to the novels and polish them.
Although the young-solicitor-novel could be described as chicklit, my writing is generally much darker than that. I’m captivated by people, human frailty, the effect of childhood on adult lives, self worth, identity, things we keep hidden, interpretations of truth, secrets and lies. But I also explore friendship, loyalty and love. I think the label ‘domestic noir’ beautifully sums it up.
I had been made a partner before having my first child so I felt under pressure to return fairly early to work
As a trainee solicitor I worked mainly in criminal law, representing burglars, car thieves and even one or two murderers. After that I practiced divorce and matrimonial work, then went on to do professional indemnity, representing professionals such as solicitors and surveyors who’d made a mistake – or not – as the case might be.
All these experiences have influenced my writing. Whether dealing with crime, divorce or professional negligence, a solicitor is like a counsellor, you’re seeing people naked, effectively; raw, human emotion. When I left the law, I became a volunteer mediator, which again was fascinating. This time I heard not one, but two or more points of view, two or more versions of truth, which is very much what story telling is about.
I had been made a partner before having my first child so I felt under pressure to return fairly early to work, but at least I had the courage to insist on a four day working week. By the time number three came along, I was brave enough to request a job share with a colleague, so I went down to two days. After that I was happy to abandon the law completely to be a full time mum.
Save for the holidays, I’m pretty much home alone during the day, so I wave number three goodbye, make a huge mug of Yorkshire tea and settle myself at the laptop in our small study. Depending on what I’m working on, I’ll write/edit/amend all morning, take a break for lunch, then work again until number three returns from school with her news bulletin. Then it’s a case of opening the fridge and hoping there’ll be something suitable for a Ready Steady Cook dinner.
When everyone is at home, it is pretty hard to get any writing done. Turns out it’s not only young children who demand your attention! Lifts here and there, food, laundry, shopping and chatter. But I like that; I like being needed, I love being a mum, I’m thrilled to be one of the gang. And of course it’s much easier to be physically there for your family when you work for yourself. As many people know, being there for poorly kids, doctor’s appointments, school consultations, ballet lessons, swimming etc can be very challenging when you work away from home.
Now I’ve been bitten by the novel writing bug, I don’t want to do anything else. I’m so thrilled to have my debut novel, Beneath the Skin, published by Avon HarperCollins on 5 October this year. Book two is already in production, with a release date of next May. My goal is to carry on as long as Avon will have me.