Brown Owl’s Guide To Life
Does growing up mean growing out of your dreams? And is it ever too late to change your life? My third novel, Brown Owl’s Guide to Life, is about fresh starts and taking chances – and the power of friendship…
I always longed to be a Brownie… the uniform, the camp-fire songs and, most of all, the badges seemed to be the perfect way of spending the time. But when I was eight, I lived with my family in Holland where the Brownies weren’t the in thing at all. By the time we moved back to England I was ten – too old to become a Pixie or a Sprite.
Of course, I got over my disappointment eventually, and even became a volunteer at a Brownie Pack – and all the romance stayed with me into adulthood.
Fast forward…ahem… a couple of decades and I was looking for a theme for my third book. I kept talking to friends about people we knew who were in their late twenties and thirties and changing careers, travelling the world, setting up their own businesses. People who were following their dreams.
But we also talked about friends who had dreams they were too scared to follow, who seemed trapped in lives that made them unhappy. What would make the difference?
One night, driving home from a friend’s house, the two thoughts came together: as little girls growing up in the 1970s and 80s, we were encouraged to believe that everything was possible. We could smash the glass ceiling, have families and express ourselves. At school we were no longer in a needlework and domestic science ghetto; even the Brownies offered outdoor adventures alongside lending a hand. We were told we could be astronauts, explorers, even Prime Minister, if we wanted.
Yet few of us do ‘have it all’. Most of us realise there probably aren’t enough hours in the day to become Superwoman, Supermum and Supersexy. But that doesn’t mean we can’t revisit our childhood dreams – could they hold the key to what would really make us happy?
I’ve been very lucky: as a child I loved writing, yet I didn’t believe I’d ever be an author. Somehow about five years ago I began to see that maybe it was possible. And hard work plus good fortune has made my dream a reality.
I wanted to write about other women who’ve reconnected with their dreams. And I knew somehow that the quirks and nostalgia of childhood held the key to the book.
I immediately ordered lots of old Brownie annuals from eBay, and also found a wonderful reprint of the original Girl Guide handbook from 1912, which is full of practical information, and gems like ‘Girls can even be brave enough to shoot tigers, if they can keep cool’ (NB: don’t try that one at home). I read the books from cover to cover and began to form a story about a group of bright, sparky Pixies who grew up to be women who were all stuck in a rut. Could going back to their girlhood hold the key to happiness?