Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Beryl Kingston and I’ve been a published writer since 1980 with 23 published novels to my name. My sales passed the million mark on book 13.
How did you get your current job?
I fell into being published almost by accident. When I was a child, my mother beat me and told me I was ‘rotten to the core’, should never have been born and would never amount to anything. Naturally I believed her – as children do. So although I wrote all sorts of things from the time I was seven I destroyed them all. It wasn’t until I was 49 that I ever kept anything I’d written, apart from the diaries I’d kept during the war, which were well hidden.
At that time I was giving talks to various NCT groups about how to cope with period pain and after one rather hilarious session in Leeds the secretary of the group asked me if I would write a leaflet detailing all the things I’d been talking about. ‘It was such fun but you went at 120 mph and we can’t remember half of it.’ I wrote the leaflet which turned out to be a book and, greatly daring, sent it to Good Housekeeping magazine because friends at the NCT thought they would be interested. They passed it to their ‘publishing arm’ which was Ebury Press and they published it. Easy-peasy. So easy in fact that I started writing a novel, just to see if I could do it. After that the whole thing got out of hand. Ebury took my book to the Frankfurt Book Fair, where it was seen by another publisher who was also an agent and made an offer for the paperback rights. Then he asked if I’d written anything else and when told I had a novel on the go, asked for a contact address or a phone number, rang me and asked me if he could see it. I was very loath to let it go because I thought that would be the end of the dream. But I did and he rang again at the end of the day and said something so extraordinary that it still makes my head spin to think of it. ‘I’ve read the first three chapters. It’s going to be a best seller. May I be your agent?’ And to cut this long story short, he was, and it was. His name is Darley Anderson and he’s now a famous agent. That book established us both.
What does an average day look like?
My average day is rather dull, I’m afraid. I get up at about five in the summer and seven in the winter and write all morning. Afternoons are for chores of various kinds, unless I have family visiting. But if I’m in the middle of something I’ll finish it in the afternoon. I eat in the evening and don’t write after six o’clock otherwise I find it hard to sleep.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Probably the best thing about writing is being able to create another world, where virtue is rewarded, which it so rarely is in real life. But there are other good things too, meeting up with other writers at writers’ events, or with my readers when I give a talk. And of course earning good money has meant I could buy a very comfortable house and some good clothes and travel the world when I felt like it and those are very definitely ‘good things’.
Are there any downsides?
What did you want to be as a child?
I had three ambitions when I was little, but kept quiet about them, naturally. One was to be a teacher, the second was to be a doctor, the third was to be a writer. Being a doctor was out because I couldn’t afford the five year training.
If you could do any other job, what would you choose?
I taught from 1952 to 1985 and enjoyed it very much apart from the chores, which were nonsensical, and took a ten year sabbatical while I brought up my three children, which I also enjoyed, very much. Now I’m 81 I doubt whether I could find another career or would even want to.