5th March is World Book Day and naturally I want to talk about the author who inspired me to write. My mother and my grandmother both loved Daphne du Maurier.
Grandma’s favourite Daphne du Maurier novel was Jamaica Inn. One year, heading west in our six-berth caravan for our family holiday in Cornwall, we called in at Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor. Back then it was a proper old Inn, not the popular tourist themed attraction it has now become. Me and my little sister Pauline were too little to go inside – this was before children were allowed in pubs. I remember we sat outside in my dad’s Zodiac with a bottle of Fanta and a bag of crisps.
Soon after this, Mum introduced me to the book Rebecca. I’d started out reading Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, then progressed to Noel Streatfield and Agatha Christie, but Rebecca was the novel that made me want to become an author. I journeyed with the narrator throughout the story – not even realising back then that she had no name because I was her and together we shared all those embarrassing and self-conscious moments.
After reading Rebecca I made up my mind that I would write a book. Each summer I’d equip myself with a new notebook and pen. I remember long sunny days laying on the grass inside my red and yellow tent while I composed my masterpieces – they never amounted to very much I’m afraid.
But Daphne continued to haunt me throughout my life. So much so that, when I was completing my MA in Creative Writing, I put her at the heart of my dissertation – see my Imagined Dialogue on the Daphne Du Maurier website.
It was while researching Daphne that I read books written by her grandfather. George du Maurier (incidentally his birthday was 6th March) used the concept of ‘dreaming true’ in his novel, Peter Ibbetson and I’m sure Daphne was influenced by this when she wrote about Dick’s time travel in her own novel, The House on the Strand, another of my favourites. I don’t think she’ll mind that I’ve adapted this method myself to communicate with her.