Everybody has a book in them, or so it's said. But it's something else again getting it onto the page and to a place where it might be shared.

I have been writing since I was a young child. Always, my dream was to see my name on the spine of a book. Books gave me life, a dream to live by. Through their portals I could escape so easily into other worlds. Books also saved my life ... yes, really!

This is the story of my books and my journey as an author, including a very personal view of my journey through Life. I hope it will inspire and give hope to writers and readers young and old.

Getting published can be a waiting game. It's hard .. and getting harder. But then sometimes it can happen in an unexpected way and suddenly, we truly are living our dream. And we realise that it isn't after all the winning that is important, but the journey that is ours along the way.

I would love to hear from anyone who connects with what is written here. A signed copy of any of my books is available. You have only to write and ask:

Tuesday 29 March 2011

TRUTH can be stranger than FICTION

At present I am embracing writing in all its diversity, all its forms ... I have a thriller I am working on, a biography, and ideas for so much more. I also enjoy writing poetry.

Every author has his or her own way. I like to write a bit every day. If I'm not in the mood, then I still linger over words, and the following day chase them up into some kind of order. And I'm not someone who plans a novel with a beginning, middle and an end before they start. I like to have a title page which, to me, means that a new book is now on the go for real. And rather than making notes about how it might develop, I'm right in there from the first page, being carried along by the story, well up for the roller coaster ride of spills and thrills. Of course there is research. It's important to be accurate with events, even if a book is fiction. And yes, there are times when I'm stuck, waiting for the right mood, or the right vibrations to grab me and take me on. But it's all right there, bubbling away inside me, and I'm never happier than when I have a book on the go.

On average, I write a book a year, but during 2010 I wrote two which strangely were published the same month. It was if I was making up for the previous breakdown year of 2009 when everything came to a grinding halt. 

Writing is like air ... I need to feel it pulsing through my veins in order to feel alive. And oh, the joy when it all comes together, filling the virgin page, slowly creating the book ... another book which was always just there inside me, waiting for the right time. Now there is Tony, my partner, who joins me in every venture. Writing is no longer a lone occupation. He also becomes very involved in the book, excited by its plots, its characters ... even to the extent that we have conversations in character which I am able to use. And he's so good at coming up with the kind of twists I never even dreamed of, very on the edge. People would get a strange idea indeed if they were to listen in to our conversations and the manner in which we jump so easily from true life into the pages of the current book, mimicing the characters, moving on the plot, until we have to dash home to get it down on paper .. or the keyboard.

I am so pleased now that I taught myself to speed type during a particularly bad year in 1979 when I was agoraphobic. With arthritis in my hands how easily they slip over the keyboard on a good day. I can wipe a keyboard of letters in a few weeks of typing .. much to the annoyance of Tony who needs to see the letters to type onto the screen!

Only through writing, it seems, have I been able to take control of my life.

And when I look back on my writings to date now published, they form stepping stones, markers in time, memorials to past events, ways in which I have overcome the odds ... and survived:

1. A Crying Game: The Diary of a Battered Wife, published by Mainstream, 1984
2. Behind Closed Doors: Advice for Families with Violence in the Home, Thorsons, 1988
3. Home is Where the Hurt Is: Surviving Sexual Abuse, Thorsons, 1989
4. Nina & Vic: A World War II Love Story, Woodfield, 2004
5. Secrets of the Grimoire, Nightingale, 2008
6. Brothers: A First World War Story of Courage & Commitment, Farthings, 2010

Monday 28 March 2011

BROTHERS: A First World War Story of Courage & Commitment

Published by Farthings, November 2010

ISBN: 978 1 4461 6614 7

A signed copy is available £7.99 + £2.80 pp

To be submitted into the COSTA AWARDS 2011.

History makes us who and what we are. And through research, we can come up with surprising answers.

Genealogy fascinates me. When I'm not writing, and even when I am, I don't just want to find out about people in my past, I want to know them, to uncover their stories, because it makes sense of who I am today.

A good few years ago now, I began researching my parents ancestry and have now gone back to the late fifteenth century. I discovered way way back my father's family had fought in the Crusades. A Harrington invented the Penny Farthing. Sir John Harrington, godson to Queen Elizabeth 1, invented the first flush toilet. My mother's great grandfather on her mother's side was a Dane. He grew up in a small fishing village with his parents in Drago, Denmark. Hans Christian Anderson was around Copenhagen at the same time, and I can't help wondering if he ever went to listen to his stories being told. Johanne Kromann, my great great grandfather, learned to speak several languages and in time, became a Linguist, travelling on ships, translating for passengers before settling to marry his sweetheart Sarah, in Bow, London. There, he became a dealer in nautical instruments. He was found murdered in India Docks around the time of Jack the Ripper at the same age I am now. For two years, his identity of the body they found in the water with severe knife wounds was not known. I can't imagine what his wife and children went through when he didn't return home. They were forced to move in with relatives. While his son, Joseph, eventually went to work in shipping, on the docks, and married Mary living a few doors down in the same street.

The more I found out the more I wanted to put their life together as a story. And so it was that slowly, I began to pull together different threads, discovering to my surprise that, far from having a few bits and pieces, I had a wealth of history to draw from, and actual writings and documents of the time.

In September 2008 I went on one of Ledger's Pilgrimage Tours where I visited personally the graves of William and Arthur, my two great uncles, who were killed during the First Great War. It had a profound effect. The guide took such an interest as I was the only one with two graves to visit and the fact that I was thinking of writing a book, that he agreed with the coach driver to take me into France as well as Belgium. I stood where each of them had died. I followed their route. I walked in a trench through woods, trying to imagine the scene, to feel as they had felt, with blasting and confusion and darkness and the shouted order: 'Over the top!' ringing in their ears. And the words of a poem came to me as I sat on the bed one evening, words which summed up so elequently what it had all been about and the utter futility of war in all its forms. They were the words I spoke over their graves. Ledger later published them in their promotional magazine.

This book, just like the poem, came from another place, another time. It was as if I were living the war with them. I didn't eat or sleep properly until it was done. I put my life on hold. And when it was done I didn't want for it to be over, because I felt so close to them. I didn't want to let them go.

I was the instrument through which they wrote this book. It became their voice. They needed people today to know what it was like. Because it mattered. History matters. It teaches us so much.

And things have happened since which cannot be explained.

I came together with Tony almost one year ago. He turned my life around. He gave me suddenly a future to look forward to, and in every moment that we share, there is a memory of something beautiful and almost profound. He gives me freedom to grow, and the inspiration to write, and is always there, supporting, encouraging, loving me just the way I am. When this book came out in September last year the publishers said they would put it forward for the Costa Award 2011 it touched them so deeply. Then we met a woman in a cafe who turned out to be a Medium and who said she could see a man standing behind me, a man who was insistent, urgently pulling a poppy up and down in his breast pocket, wanting me to know. She had no way of knowing anything about my writings or my book. But she described his dress, his uniform. And then later, Tony, my partner, smelled smoke, tobacco smoke, in the room where we sat. He says it was there suddenly, and lingered, before it was gone.

I have had such happenings before in my life. I believe. I know they are close, and in the spirit world, watching over us.


Published by Nightingale,
imprint of Pegasus Elliott MacKenzie, 2008

ISBN: 978 1 903491 77 5

A signed copy is available £7.99 + £2.80 pp

I always wanted to write children's stories, to bring out that child within. And this was my first ... and last ... forage into this field. The book never really had a chance. Because my long term partner left me just as it was published and I had a severe breakdown.

Sometimes when you write a book, you can read and re-read the book, and then, after it's published, you know you should completely have revamped it. Different publishers have different ideas of how they want it to be. And you adjust the writing accordingly. In the end, this book was re-hashed too many times. I also realised that the second in the Trilogy was so much stronger, it had so much more oomph. Now the second has taken over from the first. Entitled: LEGEND I have a young reader, Lissy, who is giving me so much feedback which I appreciate. And just like my first reader, Luke, she has been able to choose the name of a main character in this second book: Eli-Beth. Thank you Luke ... and Lissy. I value you both.

Imagine ... being asked to create a kingdom from nothing ... what would it be like? What kind of land might it be? What manner of people would it hold? And how would you safeguard all that you have, all you love and own?

The Trilogy is about such a Kingdom, a perfect Kingdom, fashioned by a young boy. His wizard parents searched the planet for the right place, the right time, and for decades it was a happy place. The story follows the family down through the generations, culminating in a fight between good and evil ... somehow there is always the shadow of evil however much we don't want it to be. And there is the poison sitting just beneath the surface waiting to erupt, to erode all the things which were whole, and perfect and pure.

POISONED EARTH, the third and final in this series, runs like a ship's log, and is completely underground, filled with horror and adventure, seeking out the poison which has manifested itself into The Darke Syde, a creature with no beginning and no end, founded on everything that is negative ... even people's feelings such as greed and jealousy and hate are drawn into its shadow.

Many many years ago, I made a contract with myself that out of every negative would come a positive, and the worse the negative the better that positive had to be. The Trilogy is therefore about empowerment. It draws on my own feelings of depression.and breakdown and dis-association and uses them in a positive way, creating a parallel storyline where ultimately good overcomes bad, and people find a way to work and live together in harmony, in peace.

All three books are based in North Yorkshire ... making use of local legend.

Included in this website is a sample of the artwork I did as an Exhibition to go with the book. A launch didn't really happen because of my breakdown, but I did manage 'Journey Through Brokenness .. Celebration of Life!', an Exhibition held in Scarborough in August 2009. I am including other art work on this website also.

The books draw on my own life experience and in a strange way are autobiographical. After all, it's best to write about what you know well! Until the age of nine I lived in Caterham, Surrey, and all I knew about the world was there. It was a safe haven, a harbour filled with love. They were my heady, happy days. We didn't have much money. We didn't have television or a fridge or that many toys, and we definitely didn't have computers. Technology was still a long way away. At least in my world. And yet we were rich in so many different ways. But from nine years old, suddenly, we crossed the boundary of that world into another, and life was never the same. My father became a minister of religion. It changed my identity to being a minister's daughter. I was expected to be all these things expected of me, and to know the Bible ... not swearing, not smoking, a good little girl. I was naive, innocent, vulnerable, and it shattered my illuion of what the world was like outside. Suddenly evil penetrated. I didn't know how to respond. No-one was there for me. And in a very real way it meant delving deep, underneath the surface, to uncover secrets of the past, and the poison that in truth had always been a part of my world since its beginning.

NINA & VIC: A World War II Love Story

Published by Woodfield, November 27 2004

ISBN: 1 903953 69 3

A signed copy is available, price £10.99 + £2.80 pp

 This book marks the first written in my maiden name, Janine Harrington.

It is is my mother's story and was ten years in the making. My mother died in 1996 so never saw the writings we did together reach fruition. She too was a writer, as was my father. And this book was finally published on the 60th anniversary of Vic's passing.

I am now Secretary of the worldwide RAF 100 Group Association, and Editor of 'Confound & Destroy', the Association magazine. We meet each year at Norfolk where 100 Group was based during the war, and pay tribute to those who didn't return. And it's a strange feeling to be standing right beside his friends and colleagues, now all over eighty years old, when Vic and Canadian pilot Jack, will forever remain young.

Publication of the book gave me the opportunity to do an exhibition as part of the BBC2 War Experience week, hosted by Scarborough library, and to talk about the story and the writing of it. It has touched so many people's lives. I have been contacted by people it mentions, people Vic wrote about in his letters to my mother, which in turn, has given information to relatives wanting to know more about them. And someone recently wrote the following as a review:

'A funny, romantic and sad true story of the love between a WAAF and an Airman in World War II told through her diaries and the letters they sent to one another. Nina, the WAAF, who's two brothers had gone off to war. Nina and her mother being bombed out of there home in Liverpool. Nina joined the WAAF in 1943. Fell in love with Vic, a Navigator flying Mosquitos, at a Christmas party on their base that year. The letters that passed between them tell of a love very rarely seen. They convey so much love and hope in a way that people have now forgotten. It was a love that had a tragic ending on the night of the 26th/27th November 1944. It's the story of an unworn wedding dress lying at the back of a wardrobe for over 50 years. It's the story of the search for Vic's last resting place with his pilot Jack, a Canadian. The story of a promise kept.

The letters are a lost art in themselves in the way they express the love between two people and should be shown in all schools as an example of the art of letter writing.'

Getting Published

I took a pause between publications because life got in the way. It can do that sometimes. I had to concentrate for a good few years on surviving. I had neither the time nor the inclination to write. Inspiration went out the window. Sad really, as LIFELINE had taken off in a huge way nationally. It was self-supporting. People were donating. We could have gone for a Lottery grant. And we were on the eve of hosting a national conference including a wide range of top professionals who were giving their time free to run a series of workshops covering different aspects of abuse. I had to give up my baby which I had nurtured in the back room of my home in its infancy ... and I grieved it so, together with a host of different people with whom I had daily contact. I'd run a 24/7 help line from home. I'd become a school counsellor, a consultant, we took referrals from Childline. I was working in prisons, running abuser, victim and survivor groups, running teaching workshops. And still today I wonder what happened, what was the outcome for those who were suicidal, depressed, in danger, abused.

Once you stop writing it's like starting over.

The dynamics have changed. The publishing world has moved on. And you can be left behind. You have to catch up, research, appraise the market place before you can go on. Right now, today, the publishing world is in a state of flux. Libraries are closing around the country. And e-Books are taking over. Whole publishing companies are turning away from the idea of paper books and focusing for the future on e-Books, making everything electronic. Which in turn has an impact on how they publish, how they market, how the author gets her royalties, Public Lending Rights payments from libraries, and everyone else gets their cut.

And you will find that you have changed as a writer.

The words somehow come out different.

My first book, A Crying Game, was published two and a half years after it was written. We'd moved and a reporter from The Times came to interview my then husband, basically wanting to know what it meant to be introducing computers to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.  He found out I was a writer, then into articles, mainly centred around abuse. But when he discovered I had completed a book and what that book was about, he gave me his publishers, suggesting I liase with them for the future ... and so my first was born ... thank you, George Rosie!

Entering a new field of writing after a break takes courage. It is something different. It happened because one day my mother ran out of words to save my life. And in desperation she shared a secret she had carried for years ... the secret of her wartime romance with a RAF Officer who never came home. For the first time in 50 years she took out the shoebox and shared their hundreds of letters. And I began to research, to track his final fateful journey on a secret operation, flying Mosquito DK292 of 192 Squadron, RAF No 100 Group. 100 Group was part of Bomber Command, a secret group through WWII, hand picked, who flew above the bombers identifying and jamming radar. They also flew in agents, and dropped parcels off to the Resistance. Their work is still under a 100 year rule.

Saturday 26 March 2011

HOME IS WHERE THE HURT IS: Surving Sexual Abuse

Published in 1989 by Thorsons (now HarperCollins)

ISBN: 0 7225 1631 2

Available from Amazon

This is the second book commissioned by Thorsons and ends the series of books on abuse written in the name of Janine Turner.

Through previous years I had had therapy with one of the top psychologists in the country, coming to terms with an abusive past, trying to understand it, and this book is dedicated to him. He helped write it. Together we uncovered the demons and put the beasties to rest.

My first book about abuse was written using memories and diarised events as far as I remembered. Through therapy, looking back and re-experiencing the trauma as an adult instead of a child, it was like a film unfolding, with the very first scenes of abuse coming out last.

In childhood, I was sexually abused by a specialist at the hospital treating me for a 'club' foot. In teenagedom, I was sexually abused by a music teacher, and this remains an ongoing case with the police, waiting for other victims to come forward. I was raped at 16 years old and became a battered girlfriend ... battered wife ... by then it was all I believed I was worth. Ten years on, I entered what I believed to be my happy ever after, and had the beautiful baby girl I was told I could never have due to internal injuries from abuse. Ten years further on, I knew that mental and emotional abuse is so much worse than physical and again I was fighting to break free.

This book uses personal experience, my own and others, as a way of offering an understanding to those who want to support, to listen, to care for those who are hurting today. It includes a directory of agencies both in this country and abroad, given that I was, at the time of publication, working with a number of different countries including Malta where I went on to live with my daughter for a while. It also has pointers of self-help, things which helped me and in turn might help others, and I have included some early art work to use where there are no words to describe what is going on inside. Finally it gives a voice to abusers in the belief that, in order to understand the problem as a whole, we have to target the problem at source. Who are they? Why do they do the things they do? How do they feel? Why can't they see the pain they cause? What is the key to unlock their sensitive side? Is there a way of living together or does it always mean separation and breaking apart?

I worked with men in prison. I worked with paedophiles in a maximum security prison. I discovered answers that may surprise you. Only by listening and understanding can we ever have the chance to move forward and find the kind of answers we need to create more effective child protection programmes for the future.

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: Advice for Families with Violence in the Home

Published 1988 by Thorsons (now HarperCollins)

ISBN: 0 7225 1567 7

Available through Amazon

I was commissioned to write this and the next book by Thorsons publishing company as a means of widening the abuse experience and to offer an advice book for all those trying to break free. There are so many repercussions, so many difficulties given the number of agencies you need to get involved with. It's little wonder that many battered wives either stay with what they know, even if it does mean getting hurt, or else go back because of the lack of response to their need from the outside world. Living as a battered wife can be very insular, very alone. It is difficult to tread outside the boundaries and start to speak about your experience. It isn't everyone's Norm. Not everyone is going to listen or care. And always there is this belief that if you haven't turned your back at the first sign of trouble, at the first slap or kick or insult, then you are somehow enjoying it. Everyone has an opinion. It's easy to have an opinion if you haven't lived in violence and abuse. Only those with experience really know.

This book is an enabler.

It adopts a positive approach, offering a directory of helpful agencies, where to go, what to say, what will happen, what to expect after. It follows through a whole range of different people's experiences through from living in pain to freedom and taking back control.

Chapters in this book include coverage of problems associated with:
  • living with violence
  • preparing to leave
  • children affected by violence
  • coping with incest & sexual interference
  • violence that may be associated with divorce
  • middle class violence
  • violent husbands - and wives
  • living alone
  • how to deal with debt

A CRYING GAME: The Diary of a Battered Wife

Published in February 1984 by Mainstream

ISBN: 0 906391 49 0 (hardback)

Available through Amazon

The book tells the harrowing story of what it means to be a battered woman. It is my own shared experience. I wrote it as I began a new life in Scotland with my second husband, having just given birth to a beautiful little golden haired girl, the child I was told I could never have.

I was allegedly the first woman in the UK to come out and say what living with an abuser really meant and the book was all I remembered at the time. Memories turned my hair white. I had post traumatic stress, panic attacks, nightmares, and very little self esteem. I still believed that everything which had happened was somehow my fault, that I was to blame. And that if only I could get it right, be a good wife, everything would be fine. I knew nothing about 'The Battered Wife Syndrome' and the mindset adopted by those who become vicitms which means we live in a trap of our own making ... afraid to leave, afraid to stay.

The book was a purging of the past. I still thought I was alone in my experience. I had never heard of the concept of a battered woman/wife. I was so unprepared for the fall-out.

I was given a long list of media engagements by the publisher which took me from Aberdeen to London and then back again to do a book programme on Radio 4. Through the weeks which followed publication, I continued to be spotlit on radio, in newspapers and on TV. I appeared on the sofa at Breakfast TVAM. I was involved in discussion programmes, the first with Mavis Nicholson on Afternoon Plus, including a psychologist from Muswell Hill, Glynn Seaborn Jones.

On returning home, hundreds of letters came in the post from this country and abroad, from people identifying with my experience. Young and old, men and women and older children. And because of a phrase I used on TV in expressing the need of people living in violence for support and understanding, a lifeline even while they were still living in danger; newspapers took up the cry that I was starting a nationwide organisation.

And so LIFELINE was born ... LIFELINE which became a national registered charity, working with families in abuse as well as abusers in and out of prison.

I took part in national conferences and provided teaching workshops for Probation, NACRO, NCH, Police, MIND, and other services involved at any stage. I had a PhD in Life. It mattered suddenly that I knew what it felt like and understood the experience and more than anything, that I could talk about it and share my feelings. And where there were no words to express the pain, the confusion, the self-doubt, I used colour and drawings to describe what was going on inside.

I continued as Director of LIFELINE and an Abuse Consultant/Trainer until April 1990, when my second marriage came to an abrupt end and I needed to protect my daughter and focus once more on breaking free.


 Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.

I can remember so much more, I can understand so much better. I have therefore recently written a revised book including my life in A Crying Game but updating it according to the experiences which followed. I have also included a self-help section for any woman living in abuse today.

This new book will be available shortly as an e-Book. Watch this space!