‘Housewife Writes Bestseller – A Tale of Life & Luck’
One Thursday in July, 1989, beneath the headline, Obsession That Became A Bestseller, the Daily Mail featured a photo of a young woman looking like a lottery winner. The Sun’s piece was cheekier: Mum Makes A Million, appeared beside the boobs on Page Three.
Ann Victoria Roberts hadn’t posed naked and hadn’t won a fortune. She’d written a novel that prompted a bidding war for publishing rights across the world. In the eyes of the press, the fact that Ann was not a career woman, but simply a wife and mother, was newsworthy.
In this memoir, the author reflects on the joys, the travels and the heartaches of her life as a sea-captain’s wife – and the decade of coincidences and lucky strikes that led to the writing of two big historical novels, Louisa Elliott and Liam’s Story. Amidst the fanfares and famous names, and the journey that took her from York to Australia and back, Ann reveals the work behind the success, and the truth behind her characters.
As readers, we browse in bookshops, spot a favourite author or intriguing title, and take it home. Rarely do we consider the path that book must have taken from the author’s pen to a bookshop shelf. And yet the story behind it is often stranger than the fiction it contains…
This books is a real gem, or rather gems because it’s not just the account of Ann Victoria Roberts, our housewife, becoming an author, but it also the story about the novels that she wrote! There’s so much happening within the pages.
Ann was inspired to write her books after discovering the diary of a relative, Liam, who died in the First World War. The author’s subsequent success is a testament to both him and to her own resoluteness and perseverance. It’s so poignant that this young man, one of the tragic generation that were cut down by international conflict, lives on in the writing that he inspired with his humbled diary.
‘Luck’ is mentioned in the book’s subtitle, but other than there being a modicum of ‘right time, right place’ and a smattering of happy coincidences the author’s success is mainly due to her hard work, careful research and lovely writing style. She’s a natural storyteller with a warm, inviting tone. She knows what details to include, and what to leave out. She creates settings and personalities succinctly yet also vividly.
The element of life is certainly there in terms of Ann’s experiences and the family life background to this huge undertaking. It’s lovely to glimpse beyond the written page to find out about the very human side of a bestselling author.
There’s another aspect to the book: it also acts as a writing guide, although not explicitly. Ann’s careful cataloguing of the steps she went through, the decisions she made, the actions she took most definitely to be taken on board by all aspiring authors. The main lesson is that there are no short cuts, that the effort has to be put in to gain the rewards. Ms Roberts wasn’t looking for acclaim and wealth from the book, just the sense of achievement, and this is encouraging to writers. We all know that the success stories such as this are few and far between, but they do happen. And even if it doesn’t in our case – I haven’t quite given up hoping though! – the act of creating a memoir or novel is highly fulfilling and worth undertaking in its own right.
I was glued to this wonderful, enlightening, inspiring book. Absolutely one to read.
About the author
A lover of history, art, and the sea, Ann Victoria Roberts was simply a Yorkshire wife and mother when her success hit national headlines in 1989. Her first historical novels, Louisa Elliott and Liam’s Story, had just sold for what was then a record sum for a first-time author. Inspired by a diary written by a young Australian soldier during WW1, she began researching his family background in York, which led to a novel based on the relationships of a previous era.
As the wife of a sea-captain, Ann’s writing was often interrupted by voyages with her husband and children – she even received news of Louisa Elliott’s acceptance while on the bridge of an oil tanker entering port!
Her fifth novel, The Master’s Tale, based on the life of Captain Smith of the Titanic, was inspired by little-known facts behind the disaster, and praised for its authenticity. A keen reader and researcher, Ann enjoys painting pictures with words and regards good historical fiction as a pleasurable way to discover how life was lived in the past. Her seventh book, Housewife Writes Bestseller – a Tale of Life & Luck, is a memoir of crazy days, huge upheavals, and the strange events that led to her success. Ann is now a grandmother, and lives in Southampton UK with her semi-retired Master Mariner husband.