Theresa Talbot talks about how a childhood of listening to stories translated into her finally writing The Lost Children.
Hi I’m Theresa Talbot – I was born at a very young age in Glasgow and things developed from there. Strange as it may seem now, my first and only babysitter was a huge German Shepherd called Rusty. Rusty would guard my pram outside our flat in Finnieston, when it was deemed normal to leave your children outside unattended. This was the 60s when Finnieston was a densely populated working-class area in the west end of the city. Now it’s densely populated by Hipsters who roam wild among the trendy new cafes and bars selling organic food served on rustic bits of slate. I mean the Hipsters no harm, but had they been on the scene in the 60s I’m sure my ever resourceful Mother would have found them more gainful employment and roped them into watching my pram for a few hours, leaving Rusty Dog to run free in the local park.
Rusty belonged to my God-Mother Ruby who “lived-in-sin” with a Polish chap who ran a speakeasy downstairs from us. I was devastated when I discovered that Ruby wasn’t actually my Fairy Godmother – but eternally grateful that through her I was familiar with the term “living-in-sin” from a very young age and gorged myself on the possibilities of what that could possibly mean. I was eighteen before I knew what a speakeasy was, but that didn’t hold the same appeal.
I can’t remember when I decided I would like to become a writer, certainly not as a child, as to me being “a writer” was something posh people did. I never even considered it could be a job, and certainly not my job. I’ve always had a fertile imagination and loved to read and hear stories. It was so much part of my childhood. My Mum & Dad were Irish and told great ghost stories that I lapped up, my Grandfather too, he would always have a tale that was just that wee bit scarier than everyone else’s – and swore each word was true. At bedtime, I drove my entire family mental demanding story after story. My older siblings would beg to be let sleep as I pinched them awake demanding “just one more”.
Perhaps it was this background of fantasy and ghost stories that first inspired me to write. One I remember particularly well was my Dad telling me that if a priest dies on the altar saying Mass, then his ghost has to come back and finish the service. Bear in mind I was five years old when I first heard this – no wonder I had insomnia from an early age! But it was that actual tale that made me want to write my own ghost story. I thought it was super-scary.
Strangely enough, I never did write a ghost story. I sort of fell into journalism after a range of jobs as diverse as Library Assistant, Care Home Assistant and Medical Rep. But there was always something niggling at the back of my mind telling me to write. I’d toyed with a few writers groups, wrote short stories etc, but never really took myself seriously as a writer. Looking back now I think that was a lack of confidence.
But I never gave up! It wasn’t until the year 2000 that I considered actually sitting down and writing a book. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, no plan, no structure, I just started writing. In fact, it was that early ghost story of the priest dying on the altar that gave me my opening line and it blossomed from there.
At the time I was a broadcast journalist and was researching a story surrounding Glasgow’s Magdalene Institution which closed down in 1958. I thought it would make a great radio feature, but the more I looked into it the more absorbed I became. There was a bigger story to tell and I decided that turning it into a work of fiction would give me greater dramatic licence and more freedom.
That story eventually became The Lost Children and I’m thrilled to bits that Team Aria love it as much as I do.
I’m still a broadcast journalist, with the emphasis on broadcast rather than journalism. My day job is basically talking out loud on the wireless; BBC Radio Scotland rope me in a few times a week as a traffic & travel presenter & newsreader. I also presented the weekly gardening programme for a few years – but that’s given way to some programme where men hit balls with sticks.
Oh I’ve got so much more I want to tell you, but sadly we’ve run out of time!
First in a gripping new thriller series featuring investigative journalist Oonagh O’Neil.
TV journalist and media darling Oonagh O’Neil can sense a sinister coverup from the moment an elderly priest dies on the altar of his Glasgow church. Especially as his death comes as she is about to expose the shocking truth behind the closure of a Magdalene Institution. The Church has already tried to suppress what happened to decades of forgotten women. Is someone also covering their tracks?
DI Alec Davies is appointed to investigate the priest’s death. He and Oonagh go way back. But what secrets lie behind the derelict Institution’s doors? What sparked the infamous three-day riot that closed it? And what happened to the girls that survived the institution and vowed to stay friends forever?
From Ireland to Scotland. From life to death.
Theresa Talbot is a BBC broadcaster and freelance producer. A former radio news editor, she also hosted The Beechgrove Potting Shed on BBC Radio Scotland, but for many she will be most familiar as the voice of the station’s Traffic & Travel. She’s much in demand at book festivals, both as an author and as a chairperson.