Minna Howard talks about looking for the “one” later in life in her novel, Second Chances.
I feel lucky that I had a childhood before the time of 24- 7 television, computers, iPads and all, because it gave me plenty of time to read and not be distracted by the wonders of the unlimited world of the internet.
There is nothing like being able to escape into another world in a book, a compact holder of secrets that doesn’t need a battery, a powerpoint or a signal to work. A good novel can pull you into an imaginary world holding on to you while you go about your daily work, playing on your emotions as if the characters were real people, part of your life making you live alongside them, as concerned for their welfare as you would be with people you know.
I also like to disappear into my own world by writing novels.
It is perhaps a strange procedure.
Non-writers on hearing I’m a novelist sometimes tell me stories of their lives or families ‘that would make a wonderful novel’. Perhaps it would but they have already told me the story or the theme doesn’t spark with me. Ideas come suddenly, often when I least expect them but I never really know how the story will turn out or who will appear in it until the end.
I like to write about families, the mixture of people linked together through birth, marriage, friendship and often, chance.
In ‘romantic’ novels a man and a woman, usually quite young, meet and through various dramas end up in each other’s arms and … then what?
The title of my latest book, Second Chances, is the theme I usually write about. Two (approximately) late thirty – mid forties people who have sometimes been through the mill once in the love stakes and are now, for whatever reason, alone again, or perhaps they long to find ‘the one’.
These characters usually come with various emotional baggage, sometimes children, and children in law, even grandchildren so instead of two unencumbered people falling in love and hoping to make a go of it there are various other people close to them who are part of the package in their new relationship.
I enjoy juggling with all these people and having tried various writing ‘techniques’ I have found it’s best way for me is to rely on my imagination and after I start with my main character, who is usually a woman on her own, maybe because she concentrated on her career, or she never found love or the love she found has soured or ended because she is widowed (as in my first book with Aria, Mothers and Daughters). She might not even want to settle with a new partner but she has reached – often through no fault of her own – a challenge in her life.
I start with a sentence and the name of my main character – having spent ages searching through a book of babies names until I find one I think fits her and then off I go and hope that other characters and events will appear from my imagination and engage with the main character.
In Second Chances, Sarah is dumped by Daniel, her husband who is going through a midlife crisis. Their children are about to leave for university and he sees this as an end to family life and goes off with a younger woman, leaving Sarah distraught.
Having been used to Daniel taking charge in the business side of their marriage, like buying their family home, she is proud of herself for managing to buy a small house for her and the children and settle in. Her relief is shattered when the man who lives next door and has been away throughout her move, knocks on the door and to say that the house was promised to him and she must move.
I use a computer every day, it makes the physical side of writing so much easier and the internet is a boundless source of research, you can visit anywhere anytime, know the culture, climate, whatever you want, and I couldn’t work without it. But I still love books best, that small package holding an imaginary world and imaginary people that tease your emotions.
Succumbing to a rather cliched midlife crisis, Dan Haywood swaps his family for an expensive red sports car and a younger woman. After 24 years of marriage, his wife Sarah is left to pick up the pieces.
Trying her best to re-style her life, comfort hurt children, make time for ‘helpful’ friends and maintain her burgeoning career as a dress designer, Sarah feels pulled in a hundred directions. And it doesn’t help that obstacles – mostly in the form of other middle-aged men – seem to conspire against her.
Proud of herself for moving house and starting to build an independent life, she is shocked when Robert Maynard, her rather dashing new next-door neighbour, insists that the house was promised to him. Now she is destined to be pulled into his life by events beyond her control.
After one failed marriage, will she be able to find happiness again? And do second chances really come to those who wait?
Minna Howard has had an exciting career in fashion journalism and now writes full time, whilst enjoying time with her grandsons and working as an occasional film and TV extra. She lives in London.