15 June 2015

The A to Z of Normal

Once upon a time, on a midsummer's day half a century or so ago, a gypsy touting her wares knocked at the door of a modest, semi-detached house, in a small city right in the heart of England. 

The woman who answered the door was a new mother, though there was no sign of her weeks-old baby daughter from the doorstep, so she was doubly surprised by the gypsy's sudden pronouncement that 'The baby will be a writer'.

While I'm sceptical about fortune-telling, I do believe that particular prophecy, because the new mother was my mother, and the baby was me.

Perhaps if the gypsy had scrutinised her crystal ball a little longer, she would also have predicted that today I'd publish my first novel, The A to Z of Normal. Yes, today's the day my 'baby' takes its first steps into the big, wide world.

My mother didn't share this prediction with me until I began journalism training at the age of 24. I'd been directionless since leaving university, but my (then) boyfriend had become a journalist and it seemed an interesting career - certainly more interesting than any of those offered on the 'milk round' when I was a student.

However, I only really came to think of myself as a 'writer' eight years later, when I moved into fiction writing - by which time, due to an unexpected turn of events, I was working as a secretary.

In fact, it was the same year that I was diagnosed with OCD and, as my passion for writing grew, so did my interest in mental health issues.

Like many a writer, in the years that followed I dreamed of completing a novel. The final impetus to make that dream a reality was learning that one of my closest friends was terminally ill with cancer. In the midst of my sadness, I couldn't help but wonder 'If that were me, what would I regret not doing?'
Photo: Peter Gettins Photography

The common advice to writers is 'write what you know'. Not only did it seem natural to draw on my experiences of OCD, but also important, in light of the stigma associated with mental health conditions. However, whilst I wanted to address this, and to raise awareness, I didn't want my novel to be some bleak tale of woe - that would have been no fun to write or read - and so I decided to inject humour, too.

The journey to write - and publish - The A to Z of Normal has, nevertheless, often been challenging, but I don't regret a minute of it, and I hope you'll now join me on that journey as a reader.

You can view an extract here, and advance reviews here...or just go right ahead and order it - details below.

Happy reading! - and I'd love to receive your comments, or for you to post a review.

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The A to Z of Normal is available worldwide on Amazon, as an ebook and paperback. It can also be ordered from all good bookshops and directly from the publishers, SilverWood Books.

Paperback: ISBN 978-1-78132-381-6 (UK £10.00, with free delivery)
Ebook: ISBN 978-1-78132-382-3 (UK £3.99)


Lindsay said...

What a lovely story. And once again, congratulations for making that dream happen. I know it wasn't as easy as you made it look!

Anonymous said...

Congrats Helen! Can't wait to read it!

Helen Barbour said...

Lindsay, thank you for your kind words - and all your editorial input to The A to Z of Normal!

Helen Barbour said...

ocdtal, thank you - and I'm delighted to say that it is now available in paperback in the US.

Emily Benet said...

Congratulations Helen! Well done! It's such a long journey and you made it happen. I wish I could be at your launch but I'm not in England. I'll get myself a copy and I look forward to reading it :) X

E S Moxon said...

I wish you all the best with your new 'baby'. As you'll know by now, holding that finished book is one of the best feelings in the world. Happy launch day! :) x

Helen Barbour said...

Emily, thank you for all your support. And do let me know if you're back in London visiting at any point.

Helen Barbour said...

Elaine, thanks for your kind words and support - it still all seems a little unreal, to be honest!