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Monday, 9 October 2017

'Fate' accompli?

When my second daughter was sixteen, a gypsy told her she was going to marry a Yorkshireman. I laughed. Not because I had anything against Yorkshire, (or its men) but  she was still so young and, anyway, who could  predict such a thing?  What's more she would work in a big factory surrounded by lots of people - including her future husband.

That was more than twenty years ago, yet the gypsy's words were as clear as ever as her father and I embarked on our latest trip to York. This beautiful city is famous the world over but I wonder how many of its people appreciate how lucky they are to live there?  Or believe that my gypsy friend really knew what she was talking about? (Daughter Two,  a happily married mum,  is now a microbiologist in the city.)

Yes, the predictions came true. Yet I've always believed in the 'Sliding Doors' theory that we can, if we really want to, influence our own destiny. Otherwise, why are we here?  As a writer it is easy to be self-critical, to compare yourself unfavourably to those who are more prolific than you, or more successful, especially in these days of non-stop social media. So I've tried to live by the mantra: if you think you can, you can, and if you think you can't, you probably can't.

One of the things I promised myself earlier this year was to concentrate on what I really want to do (write novels) and spend less time interacting with those I believe make my goal achievable (everyone else.) So, after writing this  blog almost every week for the last seven years, I have decided to cut it down to once a month.  I have taken a break from my facebook account, leaving only my author page active. I still log on to twitter, but just for a few minutes each day, so that I can keep in touch with what's gong on around me.

Do I feel happier?  No, I feel quite bereft. I've taken away the crutches, hobbled out of my comfort zone and started to rely on myself again. But isn't that how it all started?

From cub reporter to freelance journalist, from mother to grandmother to novelist, I've tried to make things happen.  That's my story, anyway.  You don't have to believe it. Novelists, so I've heard, are good at making things up.

York Minster - the world at its feet?

Monday, 25 September 2017

Who's got The Power now?

'She is as pretty as a picture and powerful as a rocket launcher, and anything she touches begins to hum and buzz and send out sparks within half an hour...'

Journalist Anna Marshall writing about Fleet Street editor Phyllis Digby Morton in the 1950s

'Like needle-pricks of light from her spine to her collarbone, from her throat to her elbows, wrists, to the pads of her fingers. She's glittering inside.'

Naomi Alderman in her current bestseller The Power

I've always believed that history repeats itself and never more so than this week. Just as I finish reading Naomi Alderman's dystopian novel about powerful women of the future,  the Mail on Sunday's You magazine sheds light on a powerful woman of the past. Here's to powerful women.

Sunday, 6 August 2017


'THE' is a very short  word - one we use  a myriad times every day. So why has it  been causing excitement in the world of fiction?

Just in case you hadn't noticed, this three- letter word heads some of the most successful book titles of 2017. Of the top paperback fiction bestsellers listed in Saturday's Times newspaper six out of the ten  titles follow the trend. Just look at the list:

At number one, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead is followed by Jane Harper's The Dry. At five is The Power by Naomi Alderman, at six The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena followed by John Grisham's The Whistler at number seven. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, (now a television series) is number eight and Michelle Frances' The Girlfriend comes in at number nine.

So while many experts still believe that you should choose a book by its cover, these days it seems to be the title that's pulling in the readers. And the more a new-release resembles the title of a current best seller, the more  likely it is to attract the reader's attention.

If you watched The Little House on the Prairie as a child, you won't be surprised to know that 'house' is now an in-word for book titles. One of the most popular  is The House on the Hill (I found several different novels with this same title on Amazon) along with Kate Morton's The House at Riverton. Finally, the word 'girl' is also very prevalent as in the bestsellers Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. A throwback, maybe, to Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

Book titles, despite common belief, are not subject to copyright which explains why we sometimes come across two authors publishing different novels with the same title at the same time. Take, for example,Julie Cohen and Jane Green, both successful authors with recent novels entitled Falling.

But is success just about sales? It's not unknown for a Booker Prize winner to have far fewer sales than many commercial  fiction authors today, though not in the case of  prolific writer Julian Barnes whose 2011 novel The Sense of an Ending had me riveted from start to finish. Clearly he was ahead of the trend.

I wonder what the title of the next number one bestseller might be? The Daughter of The Girl in the House on the Hill above the Hidden Railway Train?

You never know. It might just catch on

The Sense of an Ending

Monday, 17 July 2017

Doctors wanted to switch off our daughter's life support - but somehow she survived. What's next for Charlie Gard?

The doctor's prognosis was grave:We may have to switch off your daughter's life support. 
     'No,' I shouted, leaping to my feet as  as the horror of those words hit home. 'You make her sound like a washing machine.'

     Twenty-five-year-old Amy had contracted E.coli 0157 - a deadly form of  food poisoning  - and her vital organs were  shutting down. She'd had an epileptic fit, her lungs were filling with water, her kidneys had failed and her contaminated blood was being regularly replaced.

     Fifteen years later, as the world waits to hear the fate of little Charlie Gard, I can still recall that heart-stopping moment when the doctor seemed to give up on our daughter's life.  I'm not proud of my reaction, for which I later apologised, but it's the reason why I agree with Charlie's anguished parents at a time when  doctors believe their child should be allowed to 'die with dignity.'

     These days it's easier for me to be impartial. While Great Ormond Street Hospital are being fiercely criticised for their role in the baby's future, I find myself thinking that the doctors 'are only doing their job.' But I also believe that all professionals, however experienced in their chosen field, can sometimes be wrong.

     Even if Amy did survive, her father and I were told, she would be 'a vegetable' with no quality of life at all. But then a miracle happened. She regained consciousness, her lungs improved and eventually she was taken off the ventilator.  Unable to walk or talk, however, she had to learn these skills all over again.

     I can't even begin to imagine how ill baby Charlie really is, or what the future holds for a child with  this type of mitochondrial disease. Maybe it would have been better if the child had died soon after birth thereby releasing the parents from the unimaginable dilemma they face now.

      All I know is that the skill of the NHS doctors saved Amy's life. Today she is happily married and holds down a demanding job.  Surely Charlie, and his heartbroken parents, deserve the same chance?

Amy featured in Woman magazine soon after her miraculous recovery.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Win a signed copy of Baggy Pants and Bootees

Would you like to win a signed paperback copy of Baggy Pants and Bootees?   Then why not go over to my facebook page  Marilyn Chapman Author , like the page and tell me who you would like the book for: you,  a friend, or maybe a  family member who needs cheering up?

Go on - it could make someone's day!

Baggy Pants and Bootees at  Plackitt and Booth Booksellers, Lytham, Lancashire
where my debut novel was launched in 2014
The book was very lucky to be in such esteemed company....

NB - The competition ends at midnight on Tuesday July 4 - good luck!

Saturday, 24 June 2017

The Spirit that Saved a Nation

JUST HOURS after  a young woman lost her home and possessions in London's Grenfell Tower tragedy, she arrived at the emergency help centre to see if someone could find her a new skirt. Why?
Because she needed to get to her job as a checkout assistant in the local supermarket. My first reaction was  disbelief.  Not only is it a great example of  the British 'stiff upper lip,' but also a sign of  immense  courage in the face of  tragedy.

It reminds me of what my Guernsey grandparents used to call the 'War Spirit.' When I was a young child, they told me how an indestructible  spirit helped the islanders endure five long years of German Occupation. And defiant they were - right to the end. Similarly, it seems, the people of London, whatever their colour or creed, have supported each other on a scale not seen for a long time in this country.

After years as a newspaper journalist I wake up these days in fear of the front page news. Perhaps it's time all of us stood together? Let the majority hold hands against the cruel minority and say  We Will Not Be Moved.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Portugese Prime Minister left Holding the Baby

As a former journalist  I relish unusual stories in newspapers and this one in The Times  takes some beating. When the Portugese government granted civil servants and teachers a day off to celebrate the Pope's visit recently, journalist Joao Miguel Taveres was very  unhappy.  Both he and his wife had to work on the day of the visit, so he asked the prime minister to 'babysit' his own four children.

 In an open letter  in Publico newspaper the right-wing columnist said: Taking into consideration the sympathy with which your Excellency granted public officials a day off so they could appreciate the circulation of the Popemobile, I am presented with a problem.  My children attend public schools. I will have to work while my children will not take classes.'

The journalist whose wife,  a doctor,  was on call on that day added: The solution seems to me that while I work, you take care of the kids.'

Shortly afterwards Mr Taveres received a message from the prime minister agreeing to look after his two sons and two daughters, aged between four and thirteen.  The prime minister watched television with the children at  his official residence, the Sao Bento Palace, before giving them lunch and a tour of the palace.

After lunch he had to hand them back to their father as, - you guessed it - he needed to welcome the Pope!

Tuesday, 9 May 2017


In 1940 my father, Harold Brown, was evacuated from Guernsey Grammar School to Oldham Hulme Grammar School in Lancashire, England, at the age of fourteen. When he arrived back on the island in 1945 he was just nineteen years old and married to my mother. His brother, David, died of meningitis and never came home.

In memory of my uncle, David Richard Brown
The Guernsey boy who never came home

Sunday, 30 April 2017


Occupying Love, inspired by the Guernsey Underground News Service, as featured in the Guernsey Press

The Guernsey Resistance movement, established in 1940, has finally been rewarded with a blue plaque this week in a special ceremony on the island. And no-one is more delighted than the families of the original members, two of whom paid with their lives.

The Guernsey Underground News Service, whose acronym GUNS seems almost reckless now, typifies the strength of spirit of islanders who survived five long years of Occupation by the German Army.

The underground newspaper was the brainchild of Charles Machon, who worked as a linotype operator at the old Guernsey Star (later merged with the Guernsey Press.) He believed that gleaning good  news from illegal radios or hand-made  crystal sets would boost the morale those who had become prisoners on their own island. And he was right.

Unveiled by the Bailiff Sir Richard Collas the plaque was placed outside the Star's old offices in the town's Bordage. 'Lots of memories are so traumatic for people that they are never able to tell their stories,' he said.

As a Guernsey girl now living in Britain, I am thrilled to see members of the resistance given a lasting memorial after so many years.  My own father was evacuated from Guernsey to Oldham in 1940 and later worked as a reporter on the Star.

The story of the island's resistance movement was the inspiration for my novel Occupying Love, featured last year in the Guernsey Press and available on e-book  here. The fictional Guernsey Independent News Association (GINA) is not based on real people but a tribute to everyone who lived, and died, through that time.

Liberation Day will be celebrated on the island on May 9, 2017