Hallo. I am Sally Patricia Gardner, welcome to my web site. Thank you to those of you who are reading this page because you have read one of my novels and have asked to know more about me. I hope you will enjoy the video interview below.
If you just chanced across me – then please follow the links to my three published novels, preceded with a brief description of how I came to write them.
And watch this space for my fourth novel, Finding Cordelia, due to be published on eBook late summer, 2013.
Painting by Numbers
I suppose that I always knew that my dad was dead. Well, he certainly wasn’t around. Everyone lowered their voices and looked away from me if the subject of fathers came up. When I asked Mum, as I did quite a lot, where he was, she said:
“He’s up in heaven, watching over you, Juliet.” Then she added, “And he’ll be very cross if you are naughty.”
I didn’t find this either enlightening or encouraging, so I spent quite a lot of time writing him little notes with pictures of flowers round the border. I thought that the flowers might have a kind of celestial association. And they were the only thing that I could draw that was even remotely recognisable. I asked my dad to leave heaven, and come back and live with us. So I could have a dad like everyone else. A proper one who couldn’t see when I sneaked my books into the toilet to read, or deliberately made myself late for school and, when I got there lied, that Mum had been ill.
I kept the notes until there was a high wind. Then I tore them into little pieces and threw them out of my bedroom window. I was convinced they flew straight up to heaven and that my dad would read them and come home.
Soon after, my Gran took me to see Bambi. All the other kids in our street had seen it. They said it was smashing, so I was really excited. First of all it was funny and nice and we laughed a lot, and Gran bought me an ice cream when the usherette came round.
Then Bambi’s mother was shot. Dead. Bambi didn’t understand what had happened at first. Neither did I. I thought she’d come back, you see. I didn’t understand that dying was forever. Not until Bambi’s mother died.
But then I knew that my dad wasn’t going to come back either. So I’d better get on with my life without him.
Painting by Numbers is the story of a lie that resonates down three generations. Though the lie is told from the best of motives, it eventually leads to incest and murder. The story is told by four voices, from their differing viewpoints, and covers seventy years, from the nineteen thirties to the present day. The book tackles many issues including the struggle of single parents both financially and emotionally to bring up their children. It also remembers the pain and persecution of being gay in the last century, the AIDs plague, the sexual revolution and many of the prejudices and standards of that time that seem bizarre to us now. But deep in the heart of this novel is the observation that many outwardly close families find it almost impossible to communicate their real feelings to each other.
Painting By Numbers
The Sweetest Empire
She had always been frightened of horses, so that made it all the more ironic. But deep down she knew that her very fear had to be part of the sacrifice if it was going to mean anything at all. This time she was not going to fail.
It was a mellow, warm June day. Odd to be thinking so carefully about what to wear. As if it had ever mattered. Though as she chose a scarlet hat and gloves, the colour her one nod to both the gaiety and the defiance she was feeling, her mind flew back to that other red hat, so long ago. If she closed her eyes tightly she could still see her mother’s delighted expression as she tried it on in front of the large, gilt-framed mirror over the dining-room fireplace and the look of pride on her father’s face…
I guess we all write from our own experience – what other template do we have? The Sweetest Empire arose directly from an incident that happened to me some years ago. Newly married, I was earning more money than my husband, and we had decided to purchase some much needed furniture (a bed, actually!) for our tiny flat on hire purchase (the never-never, as it was known then). We had identified the one we wanted in a large and well known furniture store and I went along one morning with enough cash for the deposit. The manager of the shop was charming but adamant. I could not make the purchase without my husband’s permission in writing.
I have never forgotten the rage and humiliation that I felt. When I asked what would happen if I was not married, he smilingly told me that any man’s signature would do, just not a woman’s. I had grown up in an almost totally female world, no father, no brothers, no uncles, no grandfathers. Consequently, until that moment. I had no idea that I was a second class citizen. I was definitely a bra-burner from that moment on. I welcomed the women’s movement with open arms and hope I played a small part in getting such injustices redressed.
I am incapable of plotting my novels. The characters come into my head and I follow their stories. Later I check that I have got my facts right. Mary presented herself to me as a clever Victorian girl in a society that did not think this was a good female attribute. Her story eventually gave way to that of her daughter, Elizabeth, a doctor and a suffragette, and suddenly I was writing another novel. Somewhat belatedly, I realised what I was writing about.
I hope the book, which finishes in the 1960’s, gives an accurate picture of the struggle for female emancipation. Told through the lives of six connected women, it is very dear to my heart. Since publishing it as an eBook, I have been thrilled both with the number of downloads and the feedback I have received. The phrase 'I had no idea' has come up repeatedly, with the recognition of what the fight for equality cost many women. My heroines are fictional, but they had many real life counterparts.
The book is dedicated to all of them, with love and gratitude.
The Sweetest Empire
Lillian’s Story- One Woman’s Journey through the 20th Century
The young clergyman climbs down from the pulpit to stand between the two coffins. Looking down, he places a hand on each. A silence envelops the packed church, but there is no shuffling of feet, no sense of unease.
“Dearly beloved brethren,” he begins. Then he throws back his head and treats his congregation to a wide smile. “How unusually apt that phrase is today. Surrounded as I am by family, theirs and mine. I have such a strong feeling that Lillian is going to be very cross with me if I get this wrong.”
He pauses as a ripple of laughter runs round the church.
“So I shall try very hard to get it right. Not only for her, but for all of us here who loved them both. We have shed our tears already. We know how much we shall miss them. But these are lives to be celebrated, and I intend to try.
“Where to start? Was Lillian an extraordinary woman born into ordinary times, or an ordinary woman born in extraordinary times? Both, I suspect. The very first time I met her she tore me off a strip for daring to suggest that working wives were a new phenomenon. I was suitably chastised, but also aware that she had enlarged my understanding of the world she grew up in.
“No, that’s wrong. Not the world she grew up in. That was even further back. Lillian was a Victorian. That’s a difficult concept for those of us who knew and loved her. Born at the turn of the century. Almost literally. In January, 1900.
“Born into a very different world…”
I am an 'accidental' novelist, as my first novel grew from a request to write an article for a local magazine, and no-one was more surprised at that than me. Lillian’s Story, One Women's Journey through the 20th Century, was originally inspired by a story told me by my mother-in-law. As a child in Suffolk early in the last century, she remembered, every October, being covered in goose-grease for warmth and then sewn into her liberty bodice. This was not cut off until the following April. I began to think about how the world had changed in the last century, and starting with Lillian’s birth in January, 1900, I began to write. I came up for air six months and about 100,000 words later and realised that I had written a novel.
I was lucky enough to have it published in hardback and in a Large Print edition and it sold well and was bought by libraries all over the world. Prunella Scales offered to read it on audio book, and other such luminaries as Tom Baker and Dora Bryan loved the story and were kind enough to say so. In fact, Dora came to my two book signings and below are some of the photos taken then. I have received so many letters and emails from others who have read and enjoyed it. What more can a writer, even an accidental one, ask for? I never expected to write another novel, but as you have seen, I have now written two more.
Lillian’s Story- One Woman’s Journey through the 20th Century
And that’s almost it.. If you enjoy the books, please let me know, I’ll be delighted to hear from you on firstname.lastname@example.org If you don’t enjoy them- well, give a girl a break and keep quiet!
I can’t go without mentioning the two wonderful men in my life, my husband Ro (Roland Gardner) and my son, Alexander, who have not only supported my writing career but nursed me through several years of horrendous ill health which was eventually diagnosed as Lyme Disease. There are no adequate words to describe the love I feel for them both.
And I am often asked about the cover of Painting By Numbers. It is a very treasured photograph, the only one I have of myself with my father and mother.
Finally, some photos of the rescued animals that live with Ro and me –I know the dogs are in the film, but they are SO pushy, they wanted stills as well. In order, the dogs, Blue, Bengie (no, I don’t know what he is eating, but something forbidden, I expect) and Maisie trying to come in through the cat door. For the cats, Jasper is representing Bella, Matty, Dodie, Marcus and Billy as he is the only one who will sit still to have his picture taken. He’s a bit of a poseur, really.
And that’s it really. Thank you for looking at my web site.
Ro: So this is the end?
Sally: Yes, but there’s no need to stab me with that teaspoon – I was going anyway!
Just one thing, Shorelink Community Writers!