The Western Daily press asked me to write an article about writing Now Is All There Is - on the theme of fulfilling your bucket list. Here it is:
So, what have you got on your bucket list?
You know – the things you want to do before you "kick the bucket"? Sky-diving? Swimming with dolphins? Seeing the Taj Mahal? Writing a novel?
We all have dreams, we all have things we wish we'd done, if only we'd got round to it. Well, fortunately I've been able to tick off one of mine – writing a novel. In fact, I'm on a roll now and I've just finished my second.
Children, jobs and RAF postings had somehow got in the way when I was younger; I knew I wanted to write – I dabbled – starting novels and then filing them away in the bottom of a drawer. It was only when my three children had left home that I had the time to think and I realised that I'd had a really good idea for book 20 years ago and now was the time to write it.
I enrolled on the Bath Spa creative writing MA course in October 2012, at the age of 59, and I had to come up with an idea that I was going to develop during the course. I presented my thoughts on my long-standing idea and they liked it, so now I had to come up with the goods.
Aphrodite's Child was the result of a year and half's hard graft. It's set in Cyprus in the Nineties and follows the life of an RAF officer's wife as she and her family embark on a posting to RAF Akrotiri.
Unlike my fellow students, I decided to self-publish and, realising I had a niche market of women who either had a military connection or a love of Cyprus, I used social media to promote my book to them. This worked really well and soon I found I was receiving messages from people all over the world who had read and enjoyed my book. The reviews started to build on Amazon, with an average of 4.5 stars, and word began to spread to the general public. After a few months, Aphrodite's Child was in Amazon's Top 100 Best Sellers list for women's contemporary fiction and romance and, inspired by this success, I decided to write a sequel.
Now Is All There Is was published on Amazon in November 2014. I was nervous about how it would be received. Rather like a singer-songwriter releasing their second album, hoping to live up to their fans' expectations, I too was worried that those people who had enjoyed the first book would be disappointed somehow by the sequel.
This hasn't been the case at all – I've had some fantastic feedback and it has already been in the Top 100 Best Sellers list for Romance.
So, the moral of this story is, if you have something you want to achieve before you die – do it now! It's never too late.
Goodreads Book Giveaway now over. 1038 people applied for the chance to win a copy. I sent three to USA and two to England!
The Cyprus Mail on Sunday did a big feature on me and the novel, Aphrodite's Child.
Here's the article:
By Alix Norman
‘The Goddess of Love changed everything…’
This is the tagline for the exciting new publication Aphrodite’s Child, debut novel of Sarah Catherine Knights. Set in Cyprus during the early 1990s, it’s a story which will, no doubt, fascinate readers worldwide, but has a particular relevance to anyone who knows the island well. Despite its fictional content, the book draws on the real-life experiences of its author during the years her husband was posted to RAF Akrotiri, her skilled description conjuring up the sights, smells, sounds and events that make our island so unique. With its intriguing plotline and believable characters, it’s a novel that’s bound to be a success – a piece of fiction that augurs well for an author who, now in her early 60s, has been a long time coming.
“Cyprus was a fabulous posting, especially back in the early 90s,” says Sarah, who – along with her now retired husband – still maintains a house in Pissouri. “The island is a wonderful setting for a novel and was a large part of my inspiration. And I thought that life in RAF Akrotiri in particular would be an interesting place to write about from a woman’s perspective. There are lots of books about men and military things – but there aren’t so many from the woman’s point of view: being uprooted and dumped into this microcosm that’s separate from the rest of the island can be a huge upheaval in anyone’s life.”
And this is the trial that Emily, the protagonist in Aphrodite’s Child, undergoes as, removed from family and friends in England, she adjusts to unfamiliar territory: “When her RAF husband is posted to Cyprus for three years, Emily Blackwell jumps at the opportunity to escape her cosy life in the Cotswolds,” says the precis. “Embracing everything the island has to offer, she reinvents herself only to find that this new life brings its own heartache and tragedy. In a modern take on the myth of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, Emily’s experiences on Cyprus change her, and she comes to question everything she thought she knew about herself and her former existence. But the choices she makes will affect not only her, but everyone she loves…”
“The book begins in 1991,” Sarah explains, “during the same time that we were posted to the island. I thought it would be particularly interesting to base my characters in a time when mobiles, email and Skype weren’t commonplace, and it was easy to feel quite cut off from home. It was a wonderful period,” she continues, “a fabulous posting if you like that kind of lifestyle. We were all in our early thirties and forties, but being in Cyprus made us younger somehow, and it’s this idea of being reborn that gave the whole book its focus and title.”
Drawing strongly from her island experiences, Sarah has made Cyprus a central theme in the book: “I wanted the people in the book to talk about the place almost as if it were a character itself: the omnipresent heat bearing down, the fabulous villages and the chaos of Limassol. And my love of photography helped a great deal in visualising the places and scenes: I wanted the reader to be able to envisage the colours, the smells, the sounds of the island.”
WESTERN DAILY PRESS ARTICLE IN WEST COUNTRY LIFE MAGAZINE 12/4/14
I'm sixty-one and I've just published my first book. I suppose it's always been in there.
It's rather like a very late pregnancy, an embryo of an idea lying inside, waiting to be given life. In fact, the more I think about it, the more this metaphor works. The book took months and months to mature and the final labour was hard work, especially as I self-published – more about that later.
I live in the beautiful and ancient town of Malmesbury and have done since 1985. We came here, like so many others, because my husband was in the Royal Air Force and was posted to Lyneham. We fell in love with the town and its towering abbey, bought a house here and now feel like locals. I spend hours walking through the surrounding fields with my black labrador Juno and never get bored with the view of the town as it spreads out haphazardly along the horizon. As I walk, I think about my next writing project.
I studied English literature at Birmingham University back in the Seventies and went on to teach English at secondary schools and English as a foreign language to adults, but it wasn't until my children left home that I realised I wanted to write English, rather than talk about it.
I stopped teaching and became a photographer, so my creativity had some release. I dabbled in writing over the years, but I never finished anything. I found myself getting to the end of someone else's book and thinking, "I could write that" – and wishing that I had.
I started Googling writing courses in 2012 and thought I'd do an Open University course. My husband said casually: "Why don't you do a creative writing MA?" and I thought, yes, why not?
One good thing about getting older is you think, what have I got to lose? So, I applied to Bath Spa University and to my surprise, I got in. They wanted to see an example of my work, so I dredged up three chapters of a novel I'd started years before and they liked the idea. Suddenly, I had to put my money where my mouth was and write the book.
Aphrodite's Child is the name of the novel I published a month ago, as an ebook and paperback, on Amazon. The inspiration behind it was the posting we had in 1991 to RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus. We got tenants for our house in Malmesbury and decamped to the Mediterranean island for three years. Now, this sounds like a pretty amazing thing to have to do, and indeed it was, but it had its problems. There were no computers or mobile phones then, so it seemed further away than it would do now – no Skype calls to families back home, no text messages or emails, so I felt quite isolated. Although we had a great time, there were people out there who had marriage break-ups, family problems and other issues.
We all said at the time what a great setting it would be for a novel or a film – permanent blue skies, men in uniform, water sports, barbecues, summer balls, cruises round Limassol Bay, vibrant colours, with the Red Arrows thrown in. So, I decided to use my experience of living on Cyprus and create a whole fictional band of characters to dramatise a plot.
The story is about an ordinary woman who is uprooted from everything familiar to her and follows her struggles to adapt to this new life. In a modern take on the myth of Aphrodite, the main character, Emily, is eventually "reborn" on the island – Cyprus influences the way she behaves and she has to face up to the new person who emerges there. She learns some unpalatable truths about herself and her relationship with her husband and she has to come to terms with both herself and her actions. The significance of the myth of Aphrodite came to me, rather like an epiphany. The Goddess of Love dominates Cyprus – the story goes that she was born as a fully-formed adult just down the coast from Akrotiri. She gave my story a focus and her symbolism became a key to the plot.
I mentioned self-publishing earlier – I wanted to embrace the revolution that's happening in the publishing world. I didn't think I would go down this route when I was doing the MA but, having attended a digital publishing conference in London, I decided to give it a try. Why not be in control? Why not make all the decisions about the book yourself? It hasn't been easy – in terms of giving birth, I would say it was a long labour, but now I've done it once I'll know what to do next time.
My advice to anyone who's always wanted to write a book and never got around to it is that now is the time – self-publishing has made it possible. Get some help with editing, formatting and designing your cover, as I did. Regard your book as your small business; you need to invest a bit to get it started. Make it as professional as you can.
This is my fourth career and I have no intention of retiring. I'm already working on the sequel to Aphrodite's Child and have a collection of short stories to publish. I visualise my novel as a film – maybe there's a fifth career beckoning.
So, if there's anyone out there reading this, thinking, "I could do that" – do it!
What have you got to lose?
Tetbury Life Magazine article about me and Aphrodite's Child