Carol's Writing Life


Carol has written since she was six or seven and was a reporter by the age of 19 when a story she wrote was accepted by Cardiff newspaper editor, Jack Wiggins, who offered her a job on the spot:

'It was my first job and although being a reporter is what I'd dreamed of, the work was tough to begin with. I'd been brought up with a strong sense of justice and had to learn that the 'real' world wasn't like that. But Jack Wiggins had a nose for foul play on his patch and one day he sent another reporter and me on a story which has stayed with me.

'The brief was to discover if relatives of the dozens of men who had died in a colliery disaster in the Valleys were being paid the compensation owed to them. He had a hunch they weren't being - and he was right. Not one family was receiving its due.

'A week later, when Ian Beales and I came back with the evidence, Jack ran the story with a headline - SHAME in huge bold letters - aimed at the Coal Board. Soon after, the money began to arrive. It was one of those rare occasions when you knew you'd been able to make a difference.

'Fleet Street then beckoned and I was working in national newspapers by the age of 21.

'It was a terrific time to be a journalist. It was pre-internet, when reporters were out and about meeting people and experiencing events at first hand. Soon I was working for the BBC, reporting for radio and television.

'But, still only in my twenties. I'd interviewed 100's of people by this time, been to just as many places, and my mind was on overload. Ideas were gathering and I needed to do something with them, so I stopped work and came home to write books.

'I had a lovely flatmate, Pete, who was working for the Beeb at the time and he cooked for us both while I settled to writing full time.

'Working from home had other benefits besides Pete's delicious meals. I had time to teach, which I love, and to take on other kinds of work.

'A phonecall came one day from the NUJ (National Union of Journalists) to say that large numbers of freelance writers were being forced to hand over the ownership of their work: their copyrights. Would I investigate? 

'A bit of digging soon showed what was going on. With the arrival of the internet, big companies were cashing in on the chance to sell 'content' world-wide. They were bundling up millions of pieces of writing, much of which they didn't own, and multi-selling them all over the world. 

'It goes without saying that none of the profit was going to the original writers.

'The increasing gap between rich and poor, between powerful interests and individual lives, has many strands and this is one of them.

'I've continued to be involved with writers' organisations, working for authors at a time when the onslaught on most writers' income and on our value to society is increasingly under threat.

'George Orwell describes in his slender volume Why I Write, how a sense of outrage and a 'natural hatred of authority' roused him to put pen to paper. My own sense of outrage keeps me warm some days. Doing nothing, keeping quiet, isn't an option.'


Read more about Carol’s early life and the influences which shaped her work...


 
The sea was a part of this landscape: the coast only a few miles away from the mining village where she was born in Carmarthenshire, West Wales. Walks by the beach and time spent with her grandfather, Harry, played a big part in forming her early writing life.

A coalminer invalided out of the mines with pneumoconiosis, (a fatal condition caused by inhaling coal dust), he was often at home, where his love of life, of music and the natural world, and his powerful sense of injustice were big influences on his young grand-daughter, as were his stories:

'We all loved Harry - and when he told us grandchildren about life underground I could picture it. I could see the people, and hear the sound of their voices.

OTHER CHARACTERS WERE JUST AS MEMORABLE

'My other home at the time was in East Africa, where our small family lived in another kind of mining community: diamonds.

'My mother worked for the mine's owner, John Williamson, one of the richest men in the world, and while she was in the office, a friend and I took off into the bush where one of our favourite past-times was walking among elephant.

'My two homes could hardly have been more different. In Wales, my grandparents lived in a council house in a village where it seemed to rain most of the time and there was little to do.

'In Tanzania, by contrast, the sun shone, there was plenty of space and us teenagers had a big open-air life.

'Years later, writing about these times in Crooked Angels, I saw how the process of writing was much like the mining work, for coal and diamonds, which had taken place around me.

'A friend who rang early one morning said: "You sound a long way off."

"I'm down the mines", I replied, "digging."'

Living in London, Carol visits Carmarthenshire regularly, staying in the house her parents left her brother, Chris, and herself. From here, she enjoys walking on the beach nearby and taking friends to enjoy the neighbouring Gower and Pembrokeshire Coasts.