I published my first novel in my 70s...
“Publishing your first fiction novel as a 72-year-old grandmother of three is quite a coup,” says Judy Breedon, now 80, a McCarthy Stone homeowner living at The Oaks, a Retirement Living development in Alsager.
Judy doesn’t let her age define her and is proof that it’s never too late to write a book.
She describes: “I think when you reach my age, people forget how to talk to you.
“They think I don’t know how to do simple things. I do forget things easily which is not good for writing a novel! Still, I get there eventually.
“I say to them ‘I’m a late-blooming author with a debut novel under my belt, and another on the way’ and you can just see their ears perk up. But why should this come as a surprise?”
Judy’s novel Rescue Flight, is set in worn-torn Bosnia. It follows the story of a Dr. Pamela Crichton as she becomes cut off from her colleagues with a number of children determined to save them. With no clear rescue plan she is helped by her family in England who put together an ambitious plan to help save them, but on enlisting a shadowy figure with a murky military past events quickly spiral out of control.
Judy comments: “War, hijacking, smuggling, blackmail, murder – I don’t know where I get my imagination from to be honest. It just comes to me. I like to combine some elements of fact with fiction but so when you’ve finished you can put it down and relax, knowing things like this never happen. Or do they?”
Judy’s book sold in a deal in 2013 after she submitted it to a publisher friend of the family, and which can still be purchased today on Amazon and Amazon Kindle.
Readers refer to her novel as a “real page turner” and a “good read with lots of twists and turns.”
Rescue Flight was Judy’s fifth book but she had never dreamed of having her work published before this for fear it wasn’t good enough. It was Judy’s late husband, Don, who persuaded her to ‘give it a go’ and from there she says “the rest is in the pages”.
Don sadly died in 2013 just as Judy signed her publishing deal. He had read a draft of the book before he passed but unfortunately never got to see the final result.
Judy comments: “Ever since I was a little girl of around 11 or 12, I remember standing up in class and having one of my poems read out. I felt so proud and from there I developed my love for writing. Don was always supportive of my passions and my two daughters were more excited than me when we got to see the front cover in all its glory.
“It was a difficult time as we were grieving the loss of (name), but I knew it was what he would have wanted so I carried on and even did a couple of books signings at my local Alsager library.
“He would have been so proud of me!”
She continues: “I’m quite a shy person really but writing makes me feel more confident, and I’ve definitely got more confident with age.”
Whilst not new to writing, Judy has proven it’s never too late to be a publishing success, and with good reason. She describes: “I feel like I couldn’t have written this type of novel at age 27 because I didn’t have enough life experience.”
By the time Judy wrote Rescue Flight she’d smashed through various glass ceilings and worked as a secretary to the Sales Director of an international employment agency. She’d run several of her own employment offices in Manchester and elsewhere, before becoming a mother to two beautiful daughters. After a career break to concentrate on her family, she later set up her own business in desktop publishing.
Judy comments: “For such a long time I put my children first, then my career. Writing was a hobby, and I probably had a vague thought about publishing something someday.
“But it wasn’t until I retired in 2010 that I suddenly had the time. I began to ask myself ‘what if I could do something more…?”
Another great pastime of Judy’s is travelling. She says “My most memorable holiday was a cruise with my sister and 38 other extended family members. We went whale watching as we passed through the inside passage from Vancouver to Alaska. It was something I will never forget.”
Not stopping there, Judy is now writing a sixth book, although still in its early stages, and has used the time during lockdown to focus on and improve her writing even more. The book is set in the Channel Islands – one of Judy’s favourite places to visit.She comments: “I used to go there as a child with my parents and we took our first daughter there when she was only six months old. I have been several times since with family and friends. It carries a very special place in my heart.”
“I’m totally immersed in each book as I write so it made sense to base it somewhere real and where I’d actually been. When it’s been through all the edits and is being prepared for publication, another idea hits me, and we’re off again”, she says.
Judy took the research element of her book especially seriously, visiting the underground hospital in Guernsey, taking notes and generally getting a feel of the place.
“The layout of the underground workings was fascinating and I found it inspiring and immensely gratifying,” says Judy.
Nevertheless, despite her colourful life and late-blooming success as a writer, Judy says that her greatest achievement was moving to the McCarthy Stone apartment in Alsager where she now lives, as this marked an important turning point for her.
She explains: “Putting the family home of 48 years on the market, and selling up, was a big decision for me. My girls had long flown the nest and they have their own homes and families to look after. But it was still hard to let go – the house held so many happy memories for me but it was too big– I was rattling around in it on my own.
“One day as I was starting to think about moving, a leaflet landed on my doorstep for McCarthy Stone. They were building in Alsager. I thought ‘great, just what I needed’.
“I followed the development from the early construction stage and was among the first to move in. Now that I am settled, I can see it was absolutely the right lifestyle choice for me. I adore my apartment and all the fears I had completely evaporated within days.
“The whole experience felt like pressing the re-set button. I had to be ruthless – de-clutter belongings I had held onto for far too long (the charity shops in Alsager did very well during those weeks!). I bought new furniture for the first time in a long time (what a good feeling that was!) It was a fresh start, a clean slate and without some of the worries I had before which were slowing me down. McCarthy Stone made the move as painless and hassle-free as possible and were always there to help and answer questions, no matter how trivial!”
She continues: “My days continue to be a flurry of church meetings as I am an active member of my local church leadership group, helping to organise get togethers and events as part of the Social Committee here at The Oaks, meals out and writing, of course – my new book but also poetry. And I try to spend as much time with my children and my three grandchildren as possible – they truly inspire me and I take an active interest in what they’re doing. One is studying biochemistry at university, while one is a trainee doctor and the youngest is still at school.”
Judy concludes: “I’ve led a rich, happy life. And here I am now at 80 working on book number six, and loving this new passion I’ve discovered. I’m having the time of my life. For the very first time, I am creating, producing something new with my talent and imagination. I’ve had some modest success and some pretty nifty reviews, but I’m not looking to become rich and famous any time soon.”