True Confession

As a young teen I, along with my best friend, for some reason best known to ourselves, used to like to borrow Jilly Cooper books from the library across the road from our school.

Well, that’s what libraries are for aren’t they?

The thing is we didn’t do it the conventional way. We thought it much more fun to sneak in, nick a book without getting it stamped, read it and return it. I can’t honestly remember whose idea it was to do this but no doubt it was mine. We never ever kept a book, they were always returned in perfect condition, so it’s not exactly a crime is it? It felt naughty enough and gave a frisson of excitement getting past the reception desk and out again with no one spotting us. Far from on a par with robbing a bank but enough to make us feel a bit on the wild side. You can tell it was a long time ago…

I remembered this today when in the midst of clearing my old house I came across my riding hat. The riding hat reminded me of Jilly Cooper’s book Riders. We started with reading her books titled with women’s names, I can remember Imogen and that’s the only one that springs to mind but progressing to Riders some years later was quite an eye opener, the others were tame by comparison. Imogen funnily enough, happened to be a librarian, maybe that’s why it’s the only one I recall.

We took it turns to read the books out loud to each other in the common room, trying to guess what the characters would get up to next. They were a whole world away from our text book reads, dictated by the English teacher.

Surprisingly, it’s not Jilly’s racy imaginings that made me want to ride horses later on in life, that goes back to my childhood longing to be a cowboy.

Many years later I went to see Jilly Cooper give a talk at Jarrold’s in Norwich. I wanted to go and tell her the impact she had on me as a young teen but sadly I felt too shy. Besides, I still felt a bit guilty we hadn’t actually bought her books. I know now an author gets paid a little every time their book gets borrowed from a library but since we didn’t do our borrowing the official way, Jilly may not have been happy we deprived her of even that tiny income.

This week I revived my Linkedin account and out of the blue a complete stranger messaged me to say that even though it had been many years since she’d read my short story The Eight of Swords, and had read hundreds of books since, the story had stuck with her, she said it was wonderful and hilarious. I mention the last bit so you know that the story stuck with her for good reasons!

Her kind words made my day. All you want when you write something is for someone to enjoy it or/and identify. Writing is a very special connection and I am grateful to Jilly Cooper for her impact on me as a young teen, bringing back that lovely memory of fun teenage times, inspiring our imaginations and I’m thrilled that I impacted one of my readers that strongly too, in my own small way.

My new book of short stories is scheduled for launch on 14th February. A date you are not likely to forget! Look out for updates coming shortly.

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Please feel free to comment, ask questions and tell me what you are up to, wherever you are in the world, it’s a great time to connect.

Author: Petra Kidd

Norfolk UK is my home, I live in Norwich by the River Wensum where everyday there is something different to see and learn. I feel a big affinity with the river as I grew up in Cambridge, another great river city. My childhood and teens involved many walks along the Cam where we would watch 'The Bumps,' raft races and as we grew older we enjoyed adventures on our punting pub crawls. Growing up in a multi cultural university city definitely influenced my reading choices, I am a big fan of Japanese fiction, love French literature and enjoy Shakespeare. As a young teen I entertained myself with Jilly Cooper and Dick Francis and then became quite obsessed with Henri Charriere's Papillon. At school all I cared about was English, Art and French, in that exact order. When I finished with school I went to live and work in Greece for a wonderful year before returning to study English Literature and Sociology. At this point I read more classics like the Wyf of Bath, Wuthering Heights and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man plus poets such as Wilfred Owen. My first UK full time job was with Heffer's Paperbacks where I devoured several books at a time, excited by the fact I could borrow what I liked. Bizarrely for me I remember reading The Zurich Axioms, I have no interest in the stock markets but it had me gripped. I can't remember why I picked it up but I have never forgotten it. Heffers introduced me to so many authors, via their books and sometimes in person. It was here I learned about all the genres, it fascinated me that science fiction and horror were so popular, I tried reading it all. Aside from writing letters, it didn't really ever occur to me to write anything myself for many years as I worked my way through a variety of interesting and varied jobs. Then on a visit to the London Aquarium I became struck by an idea so powerful I sat down and wrote my first novel. It went nowhere as really I wrote it because I wanted to. I wrote another novel and again, didn't have the persistance or determination to take it further, I simply enjoyed the process of writing and my characters. Then years later another idea struck me and during a severe bout of Pleurisy where I couldn't do anything physical for months, I wrote the Eight of Swords and The Putsi. This time I published them as ebooks and they became pretty popular. When I fully recovered, I had to concentrate on my business and looking after my mother who has various health issues and the writing went adrift again for many years until 2020 when the Coronavirus pandemic hit the world. March 2020 I moved to my apartment alongside the Wensum to live alone for the first time ever. During the first lockdown I began to write a diary and then the idea for a new set of short stories came to me and in February 2021 they will be published. The Covid-19 Pandemic is not simply a scary virus, it is a historical time and here we are trying to live through it. To many it will feel like a punishment but to me as a writer, in some ways, it came as a gift. Please stay as safe and as well as you can. I hope to entertain you with my stories as we all try to get through this together, even though we are apart. Petra

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