Am so pleased to meet you!
Lee Ronald, Writer
I’m writing this at the desk in my Yorkshire writing room, which overlooks a street of railway workers’ cottages built in the 1880s, the sky overhead like an upturned blue cup, and a teapot at my elbow. If you would like to partake of a cuppa in a glazed pottery mug (purchased on a birthday trip to St Ives) and a gingerbread biscuit in the shape of a star (made this morning and with the perfect sort of just-baked crunch), I’ll tell you a little about myself and how I came to be here.
Well, I’ve always written. I think that I came into the world holding a dictionary in one hand and a pen in the other. All my first memories and the most indelible ones, involve words.
There was learning to read and feeling a bit precocious as I speeded along, standing at my teacher’s desk my finger following the adventures of Janet and John; there were the pile of books by my bedside that just got taller and taller and a bit frustrating (an early version of the ‘will I ever be able to catch up and read all the books in the world’ conundrum); and the playtimes that I gave up at primary school to stay indoors instead and work on my ‘little books’. It’s true, that really happened. I was never happier than when I was staring at a blank page and pulling ideas and images out of the ether. Where those fantasms came from, I had no idea (and still don’t), but they were there and pulling them down was like reaching for a tin of peas in a shop. Suddenly they were in my grasp and it was up to me to do what I would with them.
I was born and grew up in West London, spending a lot of time with my grandmother in her flat with exhaustive views of Shepherds Bush and Notting Hill Gate – long before it was gentrified. I would lay on the carpet with a notebook and write for hours, I was only about five or six, but there was no other way I wanted to spend my day. As I grew up I continued writing and dreaming of books, secreting novels (Beryl Bainbridge and Edna O Brien were favourites) on my lap under school desks and escaping the boredom of German grammar (language, but not the sort I was interested in) and geography (that focused on map reading and sediment).
After I left school,
I did all sorts of 1980s things that involved massive great hulking world processors and notebooks with instructions on to how to use ‘Word Perfect’. I lived in the Thames Valley and the Cotswolds and travelled a bit. Boxes of photographs remind me of that time: Poplars along the River Rance in Brittany, Greek beaches coated in white sand, and the Great Wall of China unfurling magestically into the middle distance.
I got highjacked by life and didn’t write very much. Then when I was about 28, I separated from a long term love, relocated and decided to do something that had been nagging my soul for decades: I got a place at Oxford Brookes University to study English. Actually, I studied English and the History of Art, both of which still feed into my writing, and very happy it made me.
This love of learning and writing and libraries, being paid to do this (I had scholarships so was doubly lucky) continued for years as I became Dr Lee, the academic, the stacks of unread books growing taller and my vocabulary maybe wider. It was a wonderful period of my life, one where I also found myself living in Yorkshire where I did my MA and PhD at the University of Leeds and the University of York, respectively. Here I learned to write every day, whether it was an essay, some research notes or a scribble in a margin. From there, I diversified a bit, working as an academic book editor and a proofreader for about thirteen years, immersing myself in semi colons and reference systems. By this time I had had a few things published in magazines and even earned a little money this way, which seemed ‘acceptable’, but as I grew older it was clear: I had to focus on my own words and build my own worlds. Please be aware of the word ‘acceptable’.
So, during a rather memorable winter, one of the coldest on record, I started writing my first book. I love winter and snow. It was apparently snowing when I was born and snow has always signalled rebirth to me. It was a good time to write. That book took me years to finish, as other things happened (houses and people and dogs and illness), but eventually I did finish it and I knew I had to continue down this path. One strewn with paper and notebooks and train tickets to research libraries and most of all, ideas. I love the sense of an impending idea, its almost like a storm brewing, everything tenses but in the most wonderful way. I am currently tussling with other ideas and other books, for this is the life I have chosen in the last year and it couldn’t feel more apt. Its a bit of a cliche about mining your past (especially your childhood) for the person you really are, for finding the career you should really pursue. But for many of us creatives, this is a good move. The world often conspires to veer us off track, to convince us that creativity (be it writing or painting or making gardens) is less than and unlikely to pay the bills. This may be the case, but it is definitely the case that we all have a calling and that calling maybe, just maybe, a creative one.
At this point in time, I’m in my fifties and working on various creative projects. I’ve found that I love to write women’s fiction, something hopefully well-written, something that you can curl up with, escape into. Creating worlds, like White River in my first book, is inestimably satisfying to me. At the same time, because apparently I like being a busy bee creatively, I also run a cross stitch business with beautiful charts and projects. You can find out more about it here: www.queenofmyneedle.com. Writing is like a main artery in my life, but there are branches off and stitching and gardening are those for me.
Well, I hope the tea was good, the biscuits tasty and you now know a little more about me. Please feel free to take a look around my site. I see it like a lovely sanctuary where you are free to stay awhile, rootling in the library or strolling in the garden; there are plenty of comfy chairs for reading. For now, I will leave you in peace to browse.
PS There are a lot of sheep in Yorkshire!